The Dieppe community college now blames a misinterpretation of college policy for its decision to cancel a public meeting about extramural health care because it might hear voices critical of the provincial government.
College president Liane Roy sent a statement in French to news media Tuesday, stressing that school policy does allow meetings to discuss government policies but not meetings that are politically partisan.
Her comments came after the Coalition for Seniors’ and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights and the Association Francophone des Aînés du Nouveau-Brunswick were told they couldn’t hold a meeting to address concerns about the Liberal government’s decision to privatize the management of extramural nursing and Tele-Care services.
The groups had booked space on campus, but on Monday morning got an email from a college administrator saying their reservation was cancelled because the college could not allow activities on its premises that were against government policy or had any demonstrations.
In her statement Roy said the college was not subject to any political pressure to cancel the rental.
Roy apologized to the organizers of the meeting for the recent turn of events, adding that the college wants to be an open institution that hosts community organizations on its premises.
Apology comes too late
But Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors’ and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, said it was a little late for an apology.
“They knew what the meeting was about,” she said. “They should have thought of this when they said we could have the space.”
The meeting in Dieppe has already been rescheduled for Nov. 20 at the Wingate Hotel, she said.
Geoff Martin, a political science professor at Mount Allison University, said Monday the college is is obligated to give community groups space because it is a public institution.
Exceptions should be rare
Only in the most extreme circumstances, such as restricting hate speech, should it be refusing space to anyone, he said.
In her statement, Roy quoted the rental policy that she said was misinterpreted.
“The CCNB recognizes the right of everyone to express their opinion in a spirit of tolerance and respect for others,” the policy said.
“However, it requires that all citizens as well as all public and private organizations that rent a space commit themselves to respect the principles of secularism and neutrality in ideological, political or religious matters. “