In focus

Advocating for a Franco-Ontarian university

The Regroupement étudiant franco-ontarien (RÉFO) is created in Sudbury in 2009. It seeks to give a political voice to the thousands of Francophone students attending the province’s 11 bilingual or French-language post-secondary institutions, including La Cité collégiale, the University of Ottawa and Saint Paul University in Ottawa. While the need is less glaring here than elsewhere in the province, the linguistic imbalance at the University of Ottawa, for example, results in its share of frustration among Francophone students.

RÉFO quickly becomes established on the Franco-Ontarian political scene. It advocates in matters of academic governance, tuition, mental health and inclusion of young people in the labour market. RÉFO also takes an active part in the debate on the designation of the federal capital as an officially bilingual city. But the cause it champions most fiercely since its founding is the creation of a French-language university in Ontario, a case on which it becomes an undisputed leader, alongside the Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne and the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario. In the wake of the États généraux sur le postsecondaire en Ontario français (Estates general on postsecondary education in French Ontario), which it organizes in 2013-2014, RÉFO officially asks the provincial government to create a French-language university. The organization’s tenacity bears fruit in 2017, when Queen’s Park votes for the creation of a new French-language university in the Greater Toronto Area.