Christian schools received $20M from infrastructure fund

religious schools getting tax payer funds



The Harper government has awarded over $20 million of its infrastructure funding to Christian colleges and universities since the launch of the Knowledge Infrastructure Program in 2009.

Some of the schools receiving federal infrastructure funds prohibit things like homosexual relationships, based on the educational institution’s moral code or religious teachings.

A new analysis by Radio-Canada finds that out of the $2 billion allocated in the Harper government’s 2009 Economic Action Plan to support infrastructure improvements at universities and colleges, $20 million went to 13 Christian schools, including:

  • $6 million for Crandall University of Moncton, N.B.
  • nearly $3 million for Ancaster, Ont.-based Redeemer University College.
  • $2.6 million for Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C..

In total, the Knowledge Infrastructure Program has funded some 500 projects at 241 colleges and universities.

The 13 Christian schools include religious seminaries as well as colleges and universities offering educational programs in non-religious subjects. They represent a range of Christian faiths, from Evangelical to Baptist to Mennonite.

But the funding awarded to Christian institutions has sparked concern because these institutions may require staff or students to adhere to a moral code.

This type of code may ban, for example, homosexual relationships, because they are considered contrary to the teachings of the Bible.

Funding ‘gives legitimacy’

“The federal government should not subsidize institutions that have discriminatory practices,” said Robert Johnson, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

While the amount of funding may be small, “it is still very symbolic, because it gives legitimacy to these colleges and these institutions,” Johnson says. “And it is especially surprising in a context where the postsecondary system – universities, public colleges in Canada – are underfunded.”

Christian Higher Education Canada, a group that works to expand and improve Christian higher education in Canada, argues that religious institutions have rights in Canada’s pluralistic society.

Even if they have moral codes, argues the group’s CEO Justin Cooper, the colleges and universities still comply with the requirements of human rights legislation.

In an article in Faith Today magazine in 2010, Cooper called the funding for his institution, Redeemer University College, “a historic change, and nothing short of amazing.”

At Redeemer, the infrastructure funding was for increasing research and energy sustainability initiatives across campus, the article said. At other schools, the funding is improving science labs and information technology.

The same article quoted Harry Fernhout, the president of King’s University College in Edmonton, as saying that receiving federal infrastructure money would help increase his school’s public profile so that people realize “we do real research in real labs.”

Requirement to balance rights?

Angela Cameron, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, agrees that private religious institutions have the right to advance their own religious teachings.

However, when a private institution receives public funds, this leads to new obligations to balance religious rights with the rights of individual gays and lesbians, she says.

Over a thousand students from eight Canadian law schools signed letters protesting Trinity Western University’s proposal to open a law school, claiming last month that the university’s policies discriminate against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community.

A written statement from the office of Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for science and technology, says that all accredited colleges and universities were eligible to apply for the Knowledge Infrastructure Program.

The government did not provide a specific explanation for the decision to fund private religious schools.

Private colleges and universities often aren’t included in public rankings or studies of post-secondary institutions, and aren’t eligible for provincial government funding – except in Alberta and Manitoba, where private religious schools are eligible for some capital funding, although at a lower level than public institutions.

Toronto terror plot: Suspects were religious men, according to colleagues, neighbours

so what else is new?




Raed Jaser’s neighbour remembers the Qur’an.

Small with a green cover, it was left in his mailbox one day last fall, unannounced and unexplained, a few months after he and his family moved to Cherokee Blvd., near Finch Ave. and Hwy. 404.

The man, who asked not to be identified to protect his family, said he put the Qur’an back on his neighbour’s car.

He never learned his neighbour’s name until more than a dozen RCMP officers arrived unannounced at his home on Monday around 3 p.m. — the same time as a scheduled news conference.

The Mounties showed him a photo of the man next door, the same man whose Qur’an he had returned.

That man, now believed to be Jaser, 35, of Toronto, is suspected, along with Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, of hatching a terror plot to derail a VIA Rail train. Their arrests Monday by the RCMP put an end to the alleged scheme.

“I was OK, but now it’s scary because I saw the news,” the neighbour said over the phone while officers questioned his family in his home about anything they’d noticed.


He recalled how several months after the appearance of the Qur’an a woman believed to be living next door with his neighbour came to the door with books and a fruit basket for his son, who had been sick.

On Monday, police said neither Jaser nor Esseghaier is a Canadian citizen, but they would not elaborate on the men’s nationality.

According to sources, however, Jaser is Palestinian and immigrated here from the United Arab Emirates, and Esseghaier was a Tunisian national who appears to have been living in Quebec for the past four years. Esseghaier’s devout adherence to Islam reportedly set apart him from colleagues at a high-tech research facility.

He arrived in Sherbrooke, Que. from Tunis in late 2008 and rented a small apartment next to a laundromat for about six months. He then moved to Montreal, a city he often visited while studying at the Université de Sherbrooke, according to a former landlord.

In 2010, Esseghaier began working toward his doctorate at one of the province’s jewels of advanced research, the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS), located just south of Montreal.

A spokesperson for the Institute said authorities did not forewarn them of his arrest, but confirmed that Esseghaier was indeed the student picked up by the RCMP’s anti-terror squad.

A former colleague at the Institute said she was stunned when she got a text message Monday afternoon informing her of the terror bust.

“I’m in shock, seriously. It’s just a big surprise,” said the woman, who no longer works at INRS.

The colleague, who asked that her name not be published, said Esseghaier was one of many international students who study at the Institute. She also remembered him making use of its prayer room.

“He was, from what I understand, very strict in following his beliefs,” the woman said.

Esseghaier’s profile on the business networking site LinkedIn makes no secret of his devotion to Islam. In place of a personal photo, there is a white-on-black image of Arabic script proclaiming: “There is no God but Allah.”

One of Esseghaier’s classmates told Radio-Canada that he had increasingly been sharing his “troubling” hardline religious views with friends. He said he considered the Tunisian national to be “dangerous.”

He spoke last year at conferences in Cancun and Montreal on his research in the field of biosensors had him speaking at conferences last year. As well, he spoke at the TechConnect World Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. last June, just two months before police said he came onto their radar as a suspected terrorism plotter.

Police did not say if his entry into the United States — and the extra screening he would have been subjected to — caught the attention of anti-terrorism authorities on either side of the border. They also said little about how Esseghaier and Jaser allegedly came to be connected.

An imam at the Islamic Society of Willowdale in Scarborough said Jaser regularly attended the mosque on Victoria Park. Ave. for over two years.

“He is a quiet person who always greeted everyone and was pleasant when he was here,” the imam said, adding members were shocked by news of the alleged terror plot. “He didn’t show any signs leading up to this that he was anything like this.”

There was a large RCMP presence Monday at an industrial plaza in North York. According to an automatic email signature, an “R. Jaser” is a customer service representative at a moving company located in the plaza.