Ontarians have opposed the Ford government’s legislation to give Canada Christian College university status and the ability to offer Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees due to college president Charles McVety’s cozy relationship with Premier Doug Ford and the college’s questionable financial practices that saw it loan some $860,000 to the McVety family.
These improprieties put to question the government’s plan for Canada Christian College. In addition, as a scholar who has dedicated his career to the study of religion and multiculturalism in Canada, I see four reasons for why Canada Christian College should not be called a university.
To give it university status and to call its diplomas BAs and BSc seriously harms its students and would represent a real threat to the values of multiculturalism and human rights in Ontario.
- Unqualified instructors. Calling Canada Christian College a “university” would mislead students about the quality of education and the value of the degrees it provides. Clearly embarrassed by the lack of qualifications of its instructors, Canada Christian College recently removed the hyperlinks from their “Faculty” page. Before their removal, I visited each of the faculty pages and noted that only a handful of instructors have graduate degrees from recognized universities. Some of those who listed “graduate degrees” got them from the college itself. For example President McVety, is listed as a “Professor of Systematic Theology”, yet he only has a BA and an MA, both from Canada Christian College, when his father ran the college. Michael Reardon, the Academic Dean and “Professor of Biblical Languages and Religious Thought” is, in fact, a doctoral candidate at a theological college at the University of Toronto.
- Harmful and inadequate curriculum. As Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo, I have been involved in numerous university program reviews. I can state without qualification that the curriculum at Canada Christian College would not meet the minimum standards at any Ontario university. Moreover, a number of courses violate Canadian values and promote Christian chauvinism. For example, the courses on the world’s religions alarmingly teach people to convert Hindus, Muslims and others—both here in Ontario and elsewhere—to Christianity. The Counselling courses rely on Christian beliefs and practices instead of evidence-based therapy. For example, one course on Spiritual Warfare teaches counsellors to look for demons who may be influencing patients. These counselling courses have real potential for harm as they deliberately ignore evidence-based therapy.
- Violation of Ontario’s Values. The college is seriously out of touch with the values of Ontarians. For example, Canada Christian College requires students and instructors to abide by a Code of Conduct that violates protected grounds of the Ontario Human Rights Code by discriminating against LGBTQ+ students and instructors. Lacking any guarantee of academic freedom, the college also violates the values of unfettered research and free speech, which are essential tenets of real universities in Ontario and beyond.
- Canada Christian College’s president, Charles McVety, has publicly made Islamophobic, homophobic, and transphobic statements. For example, he has spread conspiracy theories about Islam, claiming that it has a “mandate for a hostile takeover” of the West. His views are so extreme that even fellow conservative evangelical Christians have censured him, for example, by removing his television show from the Crossroads Television System in 2010.
Granting Canada Christian College university status and the ability to offer BA and BSc degrees sends Ontarians exactly the wrong message about education, religious diversity, and multiculturalism. It says that this government does not care about lying to students about the value of the education they are receiving. It says that this government is fine with a curriculum that is inadequate, harmful, and that ignores science. It announces this government’s agreement with Canada Christian College’s rejection of multiculturalism and religious tolerance. Finally, it tells the people of Ontario, and beyond, that it is perfectly acceptable to publicly promote extremist views that target minority populations.
This is not a message that the Government of Ontario should send.
David Seljak is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at St. Jerome’s University, which is federated with the University of Waterloo. He serves as Chair of the University of Waterloo’s Department of Religious Studies.