John Abbott defends Suzuki visit
John Abbott College has found itself in the news recently, but not in a good way. The Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue CEGEP has been the subject of national media speculation and allegations regarding a speaking visit last October by noted environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki.
The event, which was attended by 1,600 students while more than 13,000 high school students watched via live webcast, was recently questioned - in print and on television - by Ezra Levant, a Sun News broadcaster, author and political activist. The story was then picked up by local media, including CJAD talk radio. Levant claimed Suzuki requested an all-female bodyguard contingent comprised of student’s from John Abbott’s renowned Police Tech program. Citing emails and documents obtained through access to information, Levant named many John Abbott administrators who seemingly arranged to meet Dr. Suzuki’s alleged requests.
Levant also took issue with the cost of the event, which came to more than $40,000, and included Dr. Suzuki’s speaker’s fee, his airline ticket, hotel bill and other incidentals. Though Levant claimed Dr. Suzuki’s fee covered just the daytime speech, Suzuki spent an entire day at the Sainte-Anne-deBellevue college giving a one hour-plus speech during the day that was followed by a lengthy question and answer period. He met with reporters in the afternoon, then attended and gave a key-note speech in the evening when the college officially inaugurated its new state-of-the-art science and technology building. Reporters observing his movements throughout the campus witnessed Dr. Suzuki surrounded mostly by school administrators.
Though officials at the college are not speaking publicly about the allegations, John Abbott did release a statement, titled Straight Talk...The Real Story, that addresses the claims. It reads as follows: “In an editorial broadcast on January 28, 2013, some untrue allegations concerning John Abbott College were made. It would seem that the College now finds itself amidst a long standing disagreement between parties that are not related to our school, our students or our focus on learning.
To set the record straight regarding Dr. David Suzuki’s visit to our campus October 24, both male and female students escorted him throughout a full day and evening of activities in order to facilitate his movements throughout our campus. Those students, all of whom were chosen for their professionalism, were part of our Police Technology program.
There was no rider in Dr. Suzuki’s contract specifying the gender or dress code of those assisting him throughout the day. The negative comments and innuendos made are demeaning to those students and to the College and are the result of the misinterpretation of emails exchanged between colleagues.
With regard to Dr. Suzuki’s fee, it was in line with his full day participation in what was a very important event for our College where 1,600 students attended the morning presentation and more than 13,000 Lester B. Pearson School Board students followed the live webcast. In an unprecedented move, the campus essentially became one big classroom on that morning as teachers were encouraged to participate in the morning lecture and incorporate the event in their classes. Following the day’s commitments, Dr. Suzuki was the keynote speaker at an evening honouring benefactors who are responsible for several million dollars in donations to the College.
The College is committed to providing our students with an expansive view of society to assist them on their path to becoming critical thinkers. It is a shame that along the way, they are also witnesses to the falsification of information considered to be acceptable practice by news professionals.”
Dr. David Suzuki’s visit to John Abbott College last October is now the subject of negative allegations.