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Laurentian University gets judge's approval to continue restructuring

Insolvent Laurentian University has cleared a critical obstacle to move forward on its plan for eventual financial stability after a judge on Sunday agreed to the terms of a stay that would protect the university from its creditors until Aug. 31.

Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of Ontario Superior Court has agreed to allow the university to cut ties with three federated universities, which will qualify Laurentian for a $10-million loan that will allow it to operate while it looks at further ways to reduce its debt.

While Laurentian moves forward, it comes at the expense of Laurentian's federated partners: University of Sudbury, Thorneloe and Huntington.

In his decision Sunday, Morawetz said he will give reasons for overruling the court challenges from Thorneloe and the University of Sudbury when they can be translated into French as well. Huntington had not opposed the termination of its agreement in court.

The three religiously-affiliated schools, unable to access public funding on their own, came together in the 1960's to create Laurentian University, which has now grown into a much larger entity.

Agreements now in question

Each federated partner struck their own agreement with Laurentian in order to retain their significant programming that included francophone cultural programming and the first Indigenous Studies program in Canada, but they didn't confer degrees of their own.

Those agreements, and now faculty and programming, are in question without the framework agreements with Laurentian that allowed them to operate.

The largest university in northern Ontario was declared insolvent February 1st and became the first post secondary institution in Canada to enter restructuring under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act legislation, normally reserved for the private sector.

Since that time, unprecedented steps have been taken to reduce its debt load including cutting dozens of programs, more than 100 faculty members, and dozens of staff and managers, including the Vice President of Administration.

New labour agreements were signed with the faculty and staff unions including rollbacks in salary. Those in key leadership positions also saw a percentage of their salary rolled back.

Those steps were taken in an effort to meet restructuring goals by April 30.

Laurentian went to court seeking approval of all the elements of its restructuring plan, including the dissolution of ties with the federated partners.

In an April 29 hearing, Laurentian's lawyer, D.J. Miller told Morawetz that if the agreements were not dissolved, Laurentian would fail. As a result, she argued, the federated universities would also fail.

Miller said Laurentian needs to retain the $7.7 million in grants and funding that would normally be disbursed to the federated partners to reassure its lender going forward and qualify for another $10 million loan to keep it operating until the end of August.

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source https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/federated-universities-insolvent-ccaa-sudbury-court-1.6011300?cmp=rss

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