Backlash grows over Ford's move to grant Charles McVety's religious college university status

Condemnation grew Thursday over an Ontario government bill that would give new powers to a religious college run by a social conservative ally of Premier Doug Ford.

Government legislation would empower Canada Christian College to award arts and science degrees

Wynne: McVety is 'the most publicly and vocally homophobic man in Ontario'

3 years ago
Duration 1:45
Kathleen Wynne criticizes the Ford government for a bill that would give Charles McVety's Canada Christian College the power to grant degrees in arts and science.

Condemnation grew Thursday over an Ontario government bill that would give new powers to a religious college run by a social conservative ally of Premier Doug Ford. 

The legislation would transform Canada Christian College into a university and allow it to grant bachelor of science and arts degrees. 

The college's president is Charles McVety, a political supporter of Ford and a vocal opponent of changes to Ontario's sex education curriculum made by Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government. 

While Ford said on Wednesday that McVety "went through the process" for the changes, CBC News has learned that the independent board that makes recommendations for new degree programs has not completed its review of the proposals. 

Ford shifted his language on Thursday and said the college "is going to go through the process and we'll see what happens." He did not explain why the government put the new university status and degree-granting powers into a bill before that process is complete.

In question period Thursday, Wynne demanded an explanation from the minister of colleges and universities. 

Watch Wynne's remarks at Queen's Park:

"Why this government would extend the mandate of the most publicly and vocally homophobic man in Ontario?" Wynne said in the legislature.

"Why, in the name of all that is decent, would this minister validate the hateful, vicious, racist and homophobic rhetoric of Charles McVety by extending the reach of his Canada Christian College?"

McVety himself has not responded to CBC's requests for comment. 

Canada Christian College currently has the legal authority to grant degrees only in such fields as theology, religious education and Christian counselling.

The college has applied to Ontario's Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board to change its name to Canada University and School of Graduate Theological Studies and to create new degree programs.

The independent board, which makes recommendations to the minister of colleges and universities, is still reviewing the proposals.  

"All private post-secondary institutions in Ontario require a thorough and rigourous organizational review in order to change names and expand degree-granting authority," said David Piccini, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of colleges and universities, Ross Romano, who was not in the legislature Thursday. 

"We'll look forward for the review," said Piccini.   

Opposition united in blasting bill

It wasn't just the Liberals criticizing the government's bill.

"This is the most blatant example of political back-scratching in Ford's tenure," said Green Party leader MIke Schreiner in a statement. "In no way should a college that has promoted Islamophobia and denied evolution be put on the same playing field as legitimate universities." 

New Democrat NDP Catherine Fife called the move "an attempt to do a favour for a political ally." 

An umbrella group representing university faculty has also complained to Romano.   

"We are alarmed that your government is intending to discreetly pass legislation that would allow the Canada Christian College to call itself a "university" and award degrees," says the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) in a letter

"The Ontario government should not grant accreditation and degree-granting privileges to institutions that do not meet the anti-discriminatory and anti-hate speech principles outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code," says the OCUFA letter. 

Canada Christian College's code of conduct requires all staff, faculty and students to "refrain from practices that are Biblically condemned," including what the college calls "sexual sins" including "premarital sex, adultery, all types of fornication and related behaviour." 

McVety was a prominent opponent in the early 2000s of the legalization of same-sex marriage. "Married members of the community agree to maintain the sanctity of marriage," says the college's code of conduct.