The Happy Camper: Ontario Colleges Cut Massive Environmental Academic Programs

Students on an outdoor trip with Frost with Fleming College in Ontario

It seems the future of environmental education and protection could be doomed in Ontario.

On April 24th, Sir Sandford Fleming College announced the suspension of 29 programs, with a good majority of them in the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences.

That means no Conservation and Environmental Law Enforcement, Ecological Restoration, Ecosystem Management Technology, Environmental Technician/Technology, Fish and Wildlife Technology, Urban Forestry Technician, Waste Resource Management—and that’s just the beginning.

I have been working at this campus as a part-time instructor for 34 years, teaching Ecosystem Skills and Environmental Issues. The campus is an amazing place to work. Specialty environmental programs have distinguished the Frost Campus on both national and international stages. I can personally state that all my colleagues and students have always been dedicated towards making a change to our environment. So, when I went to the campus the day after the announcement, it was like walking into a funeral parlour. There may be some programs still in existence, but the morale of the people who will continue to teach them is completely done!

Kevin Callan

The future of environmental protection in the province of Ontario, and beyond, looks bleak to say the least.

The college announced that the decision to suspend so many academic programs was attributed to significant cuts in the number of international students permitted by the federal government and the discontinuation of private partnerships. Administrators have also stated to the staff and students that some programs have low projected domestic enrolment, others have zero projected domestic enrolment, and other programs are no longer financially sustainable with enrolment levels that do not cover the cost of delivery.

Some staff disagree. Enrolment was up, even during Covid. Administrators also stated that a good majority of programs that still exist are related to resource extraction and development, not environmental protection.

Student from Fleming College in Ontario on a backpacking trip

I’m just hypothesizing here but I think something is afoul. With the programs being ‘suspended’ and not cancelled, could it be a tactic for post-secondary school administration to force the Ontario government—Doug Ford—to give them more money, and also persuade the federal Government to drop the cap on international students? Ford made cuts to colleges and universities, and the international Students became a cash cow for post-secondary institutions. Could it be that they are using the instructors, and especially the students, as pawns?

Whatever the real reasons behind these massive cuts in environmental programs are, it’s going to affect the students desire to educate themselves about environmental protection. After all, what’s the sense if industry is winning over the environment.

My students’ faces said it all when I walked into my class after the announcement. It was like everything I taught them during the entire semester was a waste of time.

The future is bleak indeed.

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One thought on “The Happy Camper: Ontario Colleges Cut Massive Environmental Academic Programs

  1. Is this a further example of the provincial government’s [et al] long term assault on and decimation of environmental oversight and protection in this once great province? “Shovels in the ground” and damn all else.