MPs and members of New Brunswick’s queer community are demanding answers after a private religious university that prohibits homosexual activity among employees was awarded $6 million in the federal government’s 2013 action plan.
Though gay students are allowed to attend Crandall, faculty and staff must adhere to a code of moral standards that states they must “be sexually pure, refraining from such activities as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and the use of pornographic materials.”
Each statement is followed by a Bible verse. Crandall’s moral code was, until recently, published on its website.
During question period on March 25, openly gay NDP MP Randall Garrison demanded the Conservative government explain the funding and asked if the government is aware of Crandall’s discriminatory hiring practices.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson skirted Garrison’s question and instead attempted to deflect attention by speaking about Bill C-32, which would amend the Civil Marriage Act to make sure all same-sex marriages performed in Canada between non-residents would be valid.
“Why does the honourable member not get up on his feet and get this bill passed so that it would benefit everyone?” Nicholson said, attempting to place blame on the NDP for C-32’s apparent stall.
Garrison, as well as NDP House leader Nathan Cullen asked again, only to be answered with responses pertaining to C-32.
“I think the idea of public money going to a private university that discriminates is the problem,” Garrison says. “The Conservatives either didn’t do their homework, didn’t know about it or else they knew about it and decided to ignore it — and that’s worse.”
Crandall is getting special treatment as a private institution while other public institutions have to apply and compete for capital funding, Garrison says.
“When you accept Canadian taxpayers’ money like Crandall University does, you have an ethical obligation to respect the rights of all Canadians,” says openly gay NDP MP Dany Morin. “You don’t get to pick and choose.”
Crystal Wheaton, marketing and communications manager at Crandall, did not respond to Xtra’s request for comment.
Sébastien Bezeau, president of Moncton gay rights organization River of Pride (ROP), says ROP plans to meet with Crandall representatives in the near future to engage in “an open discussion.”
“We don’t have an issue with our tax dollars funding certain private institutions, but we do have an issue when that money goes to private institutions that openly discriminate against a certain fraction of the community,” Bezeau says.
Crandall is located in Conservative MP Robert Goguen’s riding of Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe.
Goguen voted against Garrison’s federal trans bill, C-279, and although Garrison says there is no connection between Crandall receiving funding and his bill, Bezeau says it speaks to a larger message of homophobia at the hands of Goguen and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Usually there is a separation between the state and the church, but with this Conservative government, they don’t see the difference,” Bezeau says. “They combine both together. We can see that with our public tax dollars going directly to an institution who openly discriminates against the LGBT community. It’s a broader movement.”
Goguen’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the 2013 budget, Crandall plans to use the funds to double enrollment by building several additions onto the school. Bezeau says the money should go to one of New Brunswick’s public universities.
“The fact that the Conservative government is taking pride in investing in Crandall University, we have an issue with that,” Bezeau says. “We have the University of Moncton, which is public, we have UNB, we have Mount Allison. There’s plenty of publicly funded universities in New Brunswick. We don’t have to fund a private religious institution such as Crandall.”
Earlier this year, New Brunswick activists circulated a petition encouraging the federal government to cease funding Crandall.
This is not the first time Crandall has been awarded funding at the federal or provincial level. In 2009, the school received $6 million federally and $6 million from New Brunswick’s Liberal Premier Shawn Graham.
Since 2010, Crandall has received $150,000 from the city of Moncton for capital expenses. But a representative with Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc’s office confirms Crandall withdrew its application for municipal funding earlier this year.