Federal money for post-secondary minority language education announced Wednesday was welcome news for Campus Saint-Jean.
The French Canadian Association of Alberta (ACFA) says Campus Saint-Jean has been chronically under-funded for years, which has led to classes being cut and teachers being laid off.
“We’re scraping by,” ACFA president Sheila Risbud said. “It’s really time to do something before the situation is too grave.”
She said Campus Saint-Jean is the only francophone post-secondary school west of Manitoba and the federal announcement provides some hope.
“We are really pleased that this federal funding has been secured,” Risbud said.
“We have been working as an association and as a community really hard to secure the future of Campus Saint-Jean.
“Our feeling right now is we’ve got some federal dollars on the table, and I think the federal government has been cognizant of the fact that the province that Alberta is going through a harder time economically so they made the funding very accessible.
“We are hopeful the province will step up and take this money that Ottawa has put on the table and secure the future of Campus Saint-Jean.”
Ottawa promised to spend more than $121 million to support post-secondary schools with minority languages.
“This investment is critical in supporting learning in two official languages throughout a student’s school career, which is so important in building the bilingual Canada of tomorrow and ensuring the vitality of official-language minority communities,” said Mélanie Joly, federal minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.
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However, in order to get the federal funds, the province has to chip in money too.
For Campus Saint-Jean, the province and the federal government would split the cost 50-50. The investment is a one-time offer for three years. For this school year, Ottawa would cover 95 per cent of the costs and the province would cover five per cent. The following year, it would be 75 per cent from Ottawa and the third year it would go back to 50-50.
The ACFA hopes the Alberta government will see the opportunity.
“This is a huge win for us in terms of securing this funding so we’re really hopeful the Alberta government will come on board,” Risbud said.
“We’ve got some federal dollars on the table and it’s been made very easy.
“Usually there is matching obligations for that federal funding but the matching obligations have been reduced significantly.
“Back to Alberta getting its fair share, here is an example of Alberta getting its fair share so let’s go get it.”
In a statement, Alberta’s office of Advanced Education said the provincial government is “highly committed” to the francophone community and to francophone education.
“Alberta Advanced Education will closely review any funding program offered by the government of Canada and make a decision in the best interest of Albertans,” ministry spokesperson Taylor Hides said.