Conestoga College will battle it out in the courtroom with Sault College

By Justine Fraser

Conestoga College and its president, John Tibbits, will be heading to the courtroom because a lawsuit was filed against them on April 11 from Sault College, which is claiming that Tibbits not only made offensive remarks about its president, David Orazietti, but also about Sault College.

In the lawsuit, obtained by CityNews Kitchener, Sault College said Tibbits’ derogatory statements were meant to convey a message that Sault College and Orazietti are “deceptive, fraudulent and unreliable.”

Sault College is claiming that Tibbits is personally liable for defamation and Conestoga College is liable because the statements made by Tibbits were to allegedly benefit Conestoga College.

Sault College is seeking $200,000 in damages, legal fees plus HST and a formal written apology that would dissuade Conestoga College’s president from making more offensive remarks.

On Feb. 14, 2024, during a press conference, Tibbits responded to inquiries from reporters regarding the policy decision made by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for the federal government of Canada that put a temporary, two-year cap on new student visas for international students — which is when Tibbits made offensive comments about Sault College and their president.

Prior to that, Orazietti had discussed the policy decision during a “Inside the Village” podcast, hosted by Village Media Inc. where he acknowledged a statement that the policy decision was made to address “bad actors” and went on to point out that Conestoga College’s student population has grown by about 20,000 students a year, which Orazietti said results in community concerns and increased demand for housing.

Tibbits made allegedly numerous derogatory remarks, which is why Conestoga College is now in the hot seat.

In a statement to CityNews Kitchener, Sault College said they had to take this step as a last resort given the seriousness of the public comments made by Tibbits that day.

“We have been more than reasonable in our request for a direct apology for his personal attacks and misinformation about our college and our operations. However, to date, the Conestoga College Board of Governors is either unwilling or unable to hold Mr. Tibbits accountable,” a statement from Sault College reads.

In response, Conestoga College released a statement to CityNews 570 that said it is aware of the lawsuit filed but can’t comment as the matter is before the courts.

“Conestoga is unable to provide further comment or information at this time. Our focus remains on providing high-quality education and fostering a positive learning environment for our students, staff and faculty,” the statement says.

Tibbits and the Conestoga College Board of Governors did release a message on Feb. 15 apologizing for remarks made. Almost two weeks later, the Chair of the Board of Governors for Sault College issued a letter to the Chair of the Board of Governors for Conestoga College giving them formal notice that the message released was not acceptable and lacked clarity.

The lawsuit was filed in Sault Ste. Marie and both parties will appear before the Superior Court of Justice. Sault College is asking for the trial to take place in their hometown.

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