Laurentian to release 3 million documents to Ontario that may shed light on university’s insolvency, MPP says


Following intense government scrutiny and public backlash, Laurentian is releasing over three million documents that could help shed light on the Sudbury, Ont., university’s insolvency, according to an MPP from the region.

Laurentian University is releasing an estimated three million documents to the Ontario government’s standing committee on public affairs, says MPP France Gélinas. The school has been operating under insolvency for over a year. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Following intense government scrutiny and public backlash, Laurentian is releasing over three million documents that could help shed light on the Sudbury, Ont., university’s insolvency.

Jeff Bangs, interim chair of the school’s board of governors, appeared before the standing committee on public accounts on Wednesday, France Gélinas, Sudbury member of provincial parliament, told CBC News.

Although details of Bangs’s presentation aren’t yet public, Gélinas said the school is showing a dramatic “change in tone” at making the records public for the first time. Those documents could include financial statements and emails between banks and senior administrators at Laurentian.

“It’s a complete shift of behaviour,” Gélinas said. “The board of governors of Laurentian understands our goal —  that we want to shed a light as to what happened, give people answers, so we make sure it never happens again and we can start to rebuild confidence.”

The school declared insolvency on Feb. 1, 2021, and applied for protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), which has allowed it to operate while dealing with its financial problems.

As part of the CCAA proceedings, Laurentian cut more than 30 programs and over 100 faculty and staff members were terminated in April 2021, actions that put it under intense criticism by students and staff.

Since then, information about the school’s finances has been scant, despite Ontario’s auditor general asking for access to documents between 2010 and 2020, a time of rapid construction and several high-profile public donations to the school.

Gélinas says Laurentian University is showing a dramatic ‘change of tone’ in its willingness to release millions of records that may shed light on the school’s insolvency. (Legislative Assembly of Ontario)

That request was turned down by an Ontario Supreme Court judge in January.

In December, 11 members of the board resigned, including chair Claude Lacroix, a prominent lawyer in Sudbury.

The same day, the province announced a bailout — $35 million to refinance the university’s existing debtor-in-possession (DIP) loan, which first was made available when it went into creditor protection.

‘A window of optimism’

Despite previous hurdles to get information from the school, Gélinas said she’s impressed by the interim chair’s willingness to stand before the committee and commit to getting the documents into their hands. 

“This has given me a window of optimism that I haven’t had ever in this file.”

The documents were being delivered to the committee, Gélinas said, with over 17,000 expected to have arrived Wednesday morning. More are expected to arrive in the coming days.

“We’re getting really, really close to having everything we need to be able to do our work and answer the questions that everybody in Sudbury wants answers to.”

Gélinas estimated the public will have a written report in the coming weeks, “two months at the max.”

There are pockets of empty offices on the Laurentian University campus where laid-off professors used to work, including here in the R.D. Parker Building. (Erik White/CBC)

Laurentian cutting number of board members

Laurentian said it is drafting legislation to reduce the number of board of governors members to 16, from 25 in previous years, noting in a statement that the size “would seem reasonable and appropriate relative to the size of the university itself.”  

“Laurentian is committed to this accelerated process of board renewal and we are confident that continued support from the province will contribute significantly to the university’s emergence in 2022 as a fully restructured and financially sustainable university.”

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