Speaker: Ms. May
Time: 14/04/2021 23:03:22
Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Madam Speaker, it is an honour to join in on this debate this evening. I want to thank my colleagues in the New Democratic Party for bringing this forward as an emergency debate. I completely agree, this is an emergency. I am speaking to members from the traditional territories W_SÁNEC First Nations and raise my hands to them.
[Member spoke in SENĆOŦEN]
It is important tonight that we remember we are talking about a university that offers programs for anglophones, francophones and in indigenous languages.
I want to start at a broader level of post-secondary education in Canada in general in crisis and then focus in on Laurentian. I hope to be able to offer some useful suggestions.
Back in 2005, the last book was written by Jane Jacobs, one of Canada’s great minds. Dark Age Ahead was the title of her last book. She spoke of the threats to five major pillars of civilization and culture, and she said they were all under assault. The pillars were family, community, science, proper taxation and education.
Specifically, she spoke about post-secondary education. She said it was under assault because it was becoming a transaction. We were trading in education for the purposes of broadening our minds and exploring what we could be internally, finding out talents. We were trading education for something she described as certification. We pay our money and we get our ticket, so that young people were increasingly consumers, as Jane Jacobs explained, of a decreasingly impoverished intellectual experience with larger and larger classroom sized, and less and less contact between students and their professors.
It led to more insecurity around the finances of universities. We have seen a real trend where universities have to be beholden to large corporate enterprises, large corporations, some foreign, some Canadian, with chairs and this and that.
When I was teaching at Dalhousie University, it was very hard to see that the professors working on the threats to marine mammals from seismic testing would get far when Shell gave a lot of money to the university to run a chair in offshore oil and gas development. The money also tended to flow in ways that meant that the research that was produced by universities became proprietary. The information that was gleaned from academic pursuits had suddenly become the property of the corporations funding the universities. These trends are dangerous.
We have also had an increasingly large bureaucracy in universities often focused on fund raising. There are these trends toward raising money and what do wealthy people want? They want to give money so that the building is in their name. We do not see tenure track positions created with a big plaque on the name of the professor that says the wealthy person who gave them money so that professor has a tenure track position. The trends are not good and these apply right across Canada.
As I mentioned in an earlier question to the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, the federal government provides billions of dollars in federal and provincial transfers to provinces for universities and post-secondary, but we not track where those dollars actually go. The trend lines are not good and, as I said, Jane Jacobs pointed this all out in 2005.
We see some of those poorly paid workers in Canada or the exploited group of recent PhDs who do not ever really get a tenure track position, but teach part-time and are sessional lecturers. We see increasingly reduced opportunities for students, and increased tuition and increased student debt. I suggest that the whole pile of financial mistakes and failure to support post-secondary education adequately is a national crisis.
I want to turn now to Laurentian University which is tonight’s focus. Laurentian is in Sudbury, a wonderful community, and I have been very honoured to have given lectures at Laurentian University over the years. The community of Sudbury went from being described as a moonscape to being a green and sustainable place. Laurentian University and the research done there in places like the Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit are part of that story, so too is what has been happening with a francophone education and indigenous education.