OPSEU president calls on Algonquin College to quit Saudi Arabia

TORONTO, Jan. 5, 2016 /CNW/ - OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has again questioned Algonquin College's presence in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the kingdom's execution of 47 prisoners on January 2, including a cleric who led protests against government human rights violations.

"Last March 12, I wrote Premier Wynne for answers on why Algonquin College was using scarce taxpayer dollars to establish a campus for the wealthy in Saudi Arabia," said Thomas. "The Premier chose not to respond.

"This time, Kathleen Wynne can't hide behind a wall of silence. The mass execution itself cries out for an unequivocal response. At least one man was executed for peacefully protesting Saudi Arabia's contempt for basic human rights.

"The people of Ontario will not tolerate their provincial government's doing business with a notorious violator of human rights."

Jack Wilson, Vice-President of OPSEU Local 415 and a professor at Algonquin, said the college's presence in Saudi Arabia was completely unacceptable, but he also called out the government for its role. "Chronic underfunding is driving colleges to find other funding sources. They face significant pressures from increasing enrolment and a rapidly evolving economy, but the government basically ignores them."

Thomas said Ontario's colleges should not be faced with a sink-or-swim scenario. "They're a major driver of the economy. They offer the specialized skills that today's employers seek, and encourage new investment in the province.

"Algonquin College needs to get out of Saudi Arabia, and the Liberals need to give colleges the means to do their job: providing the education that will bring jobs and prosperity to the province."

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

For further information: Jack Wilson, 613-727-4723, ext. 7716

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