The Algonquin [College] facility opened in Saudi Arabia way back in 2013, and Niagara College followed the next year – when Wynne was already Premier – but somehow it took Wynne three years to notice because this week she released a statement condemning both Algonquin and Niagara for operating the men-only schools. The Ottawa Citizen ran front page stories when those schools opened up years ago, there was plenty of public debate, and even glowing statements of support from members of the Wynne government which praised the venture in international education. Not sure how Wynne – herself a former Minister of Education – missed that boat.
Regardless of how hollow and pandering her sudden interest in the matter really is, Wynne’s condemnation of Niagara College for spreading education because she doesn’t like the way their educational system works is misguided and even hypocritical.
Yes, the Saudi Arabian government should absolutely be educating women, and by not doing so, they are rightfully inviting condemnation from the United Nations human rights committee, who has urged the country to reform its outdated educational policies. But you know who else received a stern lashing from the United Nations human rights committee about outdated education practices? Ontario. Back in 1999, the very same United Nations human rights committee deemed Ontario’s funding of a separate Catholic school board to be a discriminatory violation of equal opportunity education practices.
Saudi Arabia doesn't just have some major problems in its education system. Saudi Arabia has, to put it mildly, some major societal problems, too. These problems are engendered by the particularly rigid form of totalitarian sharia law to which it hews, with all the wackiness and horror that that entails. (Morality police? For sure. Draconian punishments--floggings, amputations of limbs, slicing off noggins--for violating Islamic law? You betcha. Women under the thumb of their male relatives, deprived of agency and basic freedoms which we here in Ontario tend to take for granted? Well, duh!)So yes, Saudi Arabia has some major problems in its education system, but so do we, so who are we to start preaching to them and shutting down our educational institutions until they comply with our civil rights demands. Give even a cursory glance at our own country’s history, and you’ll quickly notice we don’t exactly have a sturdy moral leg to stand on.
Anyone who tries to draw a direct line between what takes place in Saudi Arabia and what goes on here doesn't know whereof he (or she) speaks, and needs to go back to school.