Open Letter: Defending the Hometown University We Built Together

The following open letter was released by USW Local 6500 in support of Laurentian University students, faculty and staff:

United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 6500 members in Sudbury are proud of our longstanding relationship with Laurentian University. It is a partnership based on collaboration, shared goals and a recognition of Laurentian’s essential role not only in higher education, but also in the economic, social and cultural development of our community and all of northeastern Ontario.

Over more than six decades, generations of Steelworkers and their children – like so many others in our community – have benefited from the opportunity to earn a quality university education in our hometown.

In return, the United Steelworkers union has championed and directly supported the university, and more specifically its promise of serving the interests of working people in Sudbury and across the North. Local 6500 members have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Laurentian initiatives including student scholarships and the groundbreaking research at the university’s Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health.

Most of all, our union has always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Laurentian’s students, faculty and staff in a seemingly never-ending struggle for a level of public funding that is essential to ensuring quality education and equal opportunity for the people of Sudbury and the North.

Sadly, the crisis now unfolding at Laurentian makes it clear that successive governments have failed miserably in fulfilling this responsibility. Ontario, the wealthiest province in Canada, has for years been the worst jurisdiction in the country in terms of per-student university funding. This has led to the highest tuition fees in Canada.

It’s no secret that the double-whammy of sub-standard funding and high tuition fees has the greatest impact on smaller and northern universities – and on Laurentian in particular, given its unique tri-cultural mandate to serve the North’s anglophone, francophone and Indigenous communities.

The reality is that chronic underfunding set Laurentian on the road to crisis, and this government’s spectacular failure of oversight allowed the crisis to unfold. Yet Doug Ford’s Conservative government is attempting to deceive the people of Sudbury and the North, by denying its primary role and responsibility in the crisis.

Instead, this government appears content with allowing Laurentian’s insolvency proceedings to continue and let the chips fall where they may, with threats already being made of massive cuts to programs and jobs that will inflict long-lasting harm on our community.

We cannot allow this to happen.

As the Laurentian University Faculty Association has pointed out, the university is not an unsustainable operation. Laurentian’s fiscal challenges can be addressed if the provincial government decides to be the leader it should be in terms of education funding, while also demanding effective, accountable and transparent administration and governance at the university.

Along with the many other community partners that helped build our hometown university over the last 61 years, we demand that the Ontario government immediately intervene to stop the insolvency proceedings at Laurentian.

Steelworkers Local 6500 supports the campaign by Laurentian’s students, faculty and staff and calls on the province, as well as the federal government – given the university’s tri-cultural mandate – to act now to ensure appropriate funding levels that will protect and strengthen Laurentian’s vital role in our community.

Nick Larochelle
United Steelworkers Local 6500


For further information:

Nick Larochelle, USW Local 6500 President, 705-675-3381, ext. 232, nlarochelle@uswsudbury.ca
Shannon Devine, USW Communications, 416-894-7118 (cell), sdevine@usw.ca

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Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Shannon Devine
416-544-5946 or

Communications Department - Québec
Clairandrée Cauchy

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United Steelworkers
234 Eglinton Ave. E., 8th Floor
Toronto, ON M4P 1K7