The Franco-Ontarian scholar newspaper “Essentially the most censored in Canada” celebrates its ninetieth anniversary

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OTTAWA The rotunda is the oldest student newspaper outside of Quebec, if not one of the oldest in Canada. Against all odds, the organization, a pillar of the Francophonie of the University of Ottawa and the province of Ontario, is celebrating its 90th anniversary.

“When you see how a student newspaper works, it’s really extraordinary The rotunda ten years until its 100th anniversary,” emphasizes Michel Prévost, former chief archivist at the University of Ottawa.

Its context in minority Francophonie, as well as the changing nature of student newspapers in general, are among the reasons that have made its survival surprising, he notes.

Since its inception in 1932 by the French Debating Society of the University of Ottawa, The rotunda notably played the role of speaker of French fact. “Their role remains and is undoubtedly more important than it was in 1932,” said Mr. Prévost, referring to the declining presence of Francophones on campus.

Canada’s most censored newspaper

1956, The rotunda is named the most censored newspaper in Canada during sessions of the Canadian University Press. From that moment on, the students will demand more autonomy over the published content, which will then be strictly monitored by the Oblate Administration of the University, continues Mr. Prévost.

“Tensions reached their climax in October 1958 when the three members of the management of The rotunda be dismissed from their posts for publishing a report that greatly displeases the administration,” he explains in one of his reports as archivist.

“In 1964 The rotundaAt the beginning of the school year he had prepared a special edition. The students had written four pages denouncing Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Quebec. The Oblate Fathers had refused to publish these pages as an affront to the Queen. It did not respect the monarchy,” says Mr Prévost.

A detail from La Rotonde. Photo credit: Emmanuelle Gingras

The content of the newspaper will evolve significantly after 1965. Focusing less on the university’s administrative and teaching staff, the editorial board now focuses on Quebec nationalism, the status of women, homosexuality, the environment, university fees, AIDS and cultural events on campus and in the capital region, and the athletic achievements of the college teams.

At the same time, we noticed an increase in articles and editorials protesting bilingualism and Franco-Ontarian rights, coinciding with a reversal of the Francophone minority status at the university.

“Entering the 21st century will bind the destinies of The rotunda to that of the now defunct Student Union (SFUO), as written in their latest editorial. In 2018, the newspaper exposed SFUO’s fraud allegations and investigation into its toxic environment. This will begin to dissolve, making way for the new University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU).

All the years of reporting The rotunda, which sometimes borders on an attack on integrity, as Mr Prévost points out, have more than once prompted concrete changes within the university administration itself. All these “rebellious pens” in close cooperation with the student newspaper give it a respectable reputation to this day.

And today ?

In an editorial marking the newspaper’s 90th anniversary, the editors ran an editorial exposing the University of Ottawa’s “abuse” and “mutism” and acknowledging its role as a whistleblower as well as a vector of enrichment. and exchanges between students to understand their surroundings.

Co-editor Johan Savoy explains the factual interest of the newspaper in his view of the paper today: “The university doesn’t just do bad things, you have to acknowledge that,” he concedes.

However, Mr Savoy confirms that he is still designing The rotunda as a “speaker” of Francophonie. “Francophone institutions on campus are disappearing,” he explains, which the newspaper follows closely.

Given the recent announcements of a possible closure of the Montreal student newspaper the offense from McGill University, we can fear the same fate The rotunda ? “Everything depends on syndicate funding. At the moment we are not threatened. We’ve seen it been hot at McGill, but we’re not in that configuration: our institution doesn’t rely on a vote every five years,” he nuances.

Marie-Ève ​​​​​​Duguay and Johan Savoy, co-editors. Photo credit: Emmanuelle Gingras. ONFR+ editing

Still, the co-editor worries that “it’s getting less and less easy,” especially since moving to an all-virtual formula in 2019. “We already have fewer readers now than we did when we were on paper. People don’t always know we exist on campus. We have less visibility,” he judges.

It is with all my heart that MM Prévost and Savoy want The rotunda reaches the milestone of the centenary. “It is an asset to the University of Ottawa and certainly one of its most visible elements,” concludes the former Chief Archivist.

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