Everyone is welcome at Red Deer College, including former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr, the school's president says.
Khadr revealed to The Canadian Press over the weekend that he has been accepted into the four-year nursing program at RDC. Classes begin next week.
Joel Ward, RDC President and CEO, says all he can say regarding Khadr’s application is that anyone accepted into the program must meet strict qualifications and standards, which he has done.
“Every student who applies is selected on their merit, their past history, academic credentials and other things, so he would’ve had the same opportunity as any student applying to that,” he says. “This is a competitive program, so to get in, you have to be an exceptional student and have an exceptional application.”
To qualify for the nursing program at RDC, prospective students must obtain a 65 per cent average with no mark below 50 per cent in ELA 30-1, Math 30-1 or 30-2, Biology 30 and Chemistry 30 or Science 30, as well as an additional fifth subject if 19 or younger.
In March, The Canadian Press reported that Khadr had completed high school, with honours, upon his release on bail and was taking courses with the hopes of being accepted into nursing school in the fall.
Ward says he worries about a lot of things, but Khadr facing intense scrutiny once he arrives on campus isn't one of them.
“We will not tolerate any bullying, harassment or disrespect of any kind to any student. We believe the nature of the type of institution we are is representative of the type of community we are -- one about inclusiveness and diversity -- and we expect him to be like any other student we have here,” Ward says.
Ward notes he hasn’t heard directly from donors, but says RDC is always monitoring the feelings of the community. He says lots of people have strong opinions, and there’s nothing they can really do about that.
Asked if he’ll meet with Khadr, Ward was non-committal.
“I don’t meet with students generally. My door’s always open, but it’s not mine or anyone else’s intent to treat him any differently than we would treat any student,” he says.
Ward’s message to members of the public skeptical about Khadr’s enrollment at Red Deer College is that Khadr is welcome and supported.
“At our college, we believe every student has an opportunity to succeed and we’re invested and committed to that,” Ward says. “We’re not political -- we’re simply about respect, tolerance and diversity and we expect and treat every student exactly the same. With 8,000 students, there are 8,000 stories.”
Editor's note: Our story has been updated to include mention that Khadr completed high school with honours upon his release from prison.
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