Canada Christian College, a school run by a social conservative ally of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, has been denied university status by an independent provincial board after a months-long review process.
The Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB), which makes recommendations to the minister of colleges and universities, rejected the application put forth by the religious college run by Charles McVety, a social conservative with critical views on Islam, same-sex marriage, the province's sex-education curriculum and teaching the theory of evolution
"PEQAB has recommended that the institution not be granted expanded degree granting authority or a name change at this time," said a spokesperson for Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano in a statement obtained Friday by CBC News.
"The Minister has reviewed and accepts their recommendation.
The province first faced a backlash last fall against the application, which was part of Bill 213 — a piece of COVID-19 recovery legislation that appeared to transform the private religious college into a university before an independent review of the school's applications was complete. The bill became law in December.
"The Government has consistently said that it supports the independent, expert and non-partisan review of the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board and that it would only proclaim Schedule 2 of Bill 213 based on the review of the Board," the statement continues.
Beyond the backlash over the political connection between the college president and Ford, the move prompted an outpouring of criticism in the wake of McVety's controversial views.
Decision a 'massive relief,' NDP says
MPP Laura Mae Lindo, Ontario NDP critic for anti-racism and citizenship and immigration, called the review board's decision a "massive relief."
In a news release issued Friday evening, she described the government's inclusion of the application in the bill as a "rigged scheme" that never should have gone as far as it did.
Lindo, the former equity and diversity director at Wilfrid Laurier University, demanded "a guarantee it won't go ahead, ever."
"Ford was returning a favour to a friend, and Ontarians would have paid the price. Legitimizing hate and discrimination has seriously dangerous consequences for people," she said.
The NDP had released a statement earlier Friday before the news of the rejection calling on the Ford government to "pull the plug" on what it called the premier's plan to grant his friend and ally more power.
"Ford is playing with fire. Legitimizing hate and discrimination has seriously harmful consequences for people, and this whole mess could seriously damage the stellar reputation of Ontario's universities," said Lindo.
Terence Kernaghan, NDP critic for LGBTQ+ issues, had called the situation "incredibly hurtful for people, and dangerous."
No expanded degree granting, must keep same name
All private colleges, private universities and community colleges in Ontario have to go through the PEQAB process if they want to create new degree programs, unless the province grants the school that right through legislation.
Canada Christian College has the legal authority to grant degrees only in such fields as theology, religious education and Christian counselling. Its application was for permission to offer bachelor of science and arts degrees.
It also sought permission to change its name to Canada University and School of Graduate Theological Studies, which was also denied.
Romano, the minister of colleges and universities, maintains that all institutions continue to have the right to apply for expanded degree granting authority in Ontario.
"The Ministry is committed to ensuring that this is done fairly based on expert advice and is in the best interest of Ontario and Ontario students," the statement from the ministry says.