Algonquin’s campus in Saudi Arabia has been under heavy criticism this last month, bringing negative media attention to the college.
Adding to the controversy, the Saudi government held a mass execution of 47 people on Jan. 2 for charges of terrorism, including top Shia leader Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, who was organizing anti-government protests.
The execution of the Shia leader has raised tension between Saudi Arabia and rival Iran, causing the region to become even more turbulent. Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Yemen is also in the midst of a civil war and the Saudis are becoming more entangled with it every day. The news has upped the ante in the ongoing controversy over the college’s involvement in Saudi Arabia
Algonquin professor Jack Wilson has been a vocal critic of the Jazan campus since its opening and has repeatedly called for the college to cut ties with its campus in Saudi Arabia.
“I see this going very badly,” he said. “The reputation and the image of the college has been affected. I think some people are questioning whether we actually stand for the values that we claim we stand for.”
Wilson claims that we are in a venture in a country that does not respect human rights plus Yemen is next door having a civil war, the Saudis are indiscriminately bombing Yemenis, and the Canadian and U.S. governments have given travel warnings for the area that Jazan is in.
When asked about the recent execution Wilson said, “I think a lot of people are deeply concerned that we are still having a Canadian presence in Jazan; we were concerned before the mass executions last week but the executions of so many people for merely exercising their democratic right to protest shows again the Saudis are not in line with Canadian values.”
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has also waded into the fray, asking for answers from the provincial government as to why they are trying to make money off of foreign ventures with the government of Saudi Arabia. OPSEU is “deeply concerned” because Ontario tax payer money is funding a campus that is losing money and is located in a nation that has committed many human rights violations, said Warren Smokey Thomas, President of the OPSEU.