St. F.X. prof condemns university for awarding honorary degrees to billionaires

A professor is criticizing St. Francis Xavier University for awarding honorary degrees to two controversial billionaires who made donations to the school's Brian Mulroney Institute of Government.

Peter McInnis, chair of the school's history department, says there appears to be a quid pro quo arrangement whereby some large contributors to the Nova Scotia university are rewarded with honorary doctorates

He says there should be greater scrutiny of the possible strings attached to donations and how honorary degrees are conferred, especially to people with questionable business affairs or with little or no connection to the university.

Victor Dahdaleh and Wafic Said received honorary degrees from the Antigonish, N.S., university within months of major donations to the Mulroney Institute.

An investigation by the Toronto Star and CBC/Radio-Canada said the two men gave a combined a combined $5.5 million, and both operated corporations in tax-free offshore jurisdictions.

Dahdaleh was charged but acquitted in Britain on bribery and corruption charges in 2012, while Said is a colourful and well-connected former arms broker.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who fundraised $100 million for his alma mater from private and public sources, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Kent MacDonald, St. F.X. president and vice-chancellor, says in an emailed statement that the granting of honorary degrees follows a rigorous and well-defined process.

He says Said has supported the development of academic programming and capital infrastructure at St. F.X. while Dahdaleh has increased access for underrepresented students including Indigenous Canadian and African Nova Scotian students.