at u of t's st. michael's college, you can enrich your soul by working toward a certificate in youth ministry studies, chaplaincy or catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Or, if you've chosen to modernize, you can school yourself in the good works of the market with the certificate in corporate social responsibility. Problem is, the latter is funded by Quebec-based Imperial Tobacco through a $150,000 donation made two years ago. And last week Garfield Mahood of the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Dr. Joanna Cohen of U of T medical sciences and Dr. Laurent Leduc, the corporate responsibility program's creator, among others, held a press conference to demand the college do the ethical thing and return the cash."I had a problem with the university's unilateral decision to accept money from Imperial," Leduc told me, his main reason being "a conflict between the stated purpose and values of the program and those of Imperial."
The purpose of the former is to educate corporate leaders in how to address (or appear to address) the concerns of the public; the purpose of the latter is, apparently, to make as much money as possible regardless of how many people die. Why, then, is St. Mike's asking them for a light?
"They wanted to be attached to this particular program," offers Mahood of the certificate course, which runs in three-day sessions. "The tobacco industry is in trouble." He cites a $246-billion out-of-court settlement with the U.S. Attorney General stemming from a court case alleging fraud, concealment and negligence. When Mahood tells people the university is taking tobacco money to fund a program in business ethics, they think he's joking -- or wish he were. "Do the test yourself. People will laugh." The bid to return the funny money is not going over well with the folks at St. Mike's, who apparently can't see the humour.
"I can't see why on earth we would (give it back)," says Mimi Marrocco, director of St. Mike's continuing education division. "We've used the donation for the development of other programs, including this one. It's not attached to any one program."
But some sniffing around (minding any second-hand smoke) turns up contradictions. The college maintains that the gift was received from a graduate who wanted to help out his old college and happened to be the president of Imperial Tobacco. However, Imperial rep Christina Dona tells me it was the college that came to them.
"We never approach anyone about donations," she says. "We are always solicited," implying that Imperial had no special interest in a specific association with the ethics program.
But the publicity material that touted the program to 5,000 corporate execs was done with the wherewithal of the Conference Board of Canada, in which Imperial has major influence. At the time, Conference Board director James Bullock was also a director of Imasco, Imperial Tobacco's holding company. (British American Tobacco has since dissolved Imasco and taken Imperial private.) U of T's then prez Robert Prichard shared that same distinction.
Equally compelling is Leduc's allegation that an assignment he designed for one of the program sessions on the ethical implications of British American Tobacco's donation to a similar program at England's Nottingham University was cut.
Marrocco insists this isn't true and that class discussions on the idea of corporate donations were included in the most recent three-day session. As an example of just how objective the college is being, she says they also discussed the issue of casinos making donations to hospitals "where you can talk about addictions to gambling."
I didn't have time to check with any hospitals to see if their concern for slots jockeys now outweighs their concern for lung cancer patients, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and guess that most physicians would agree with Mahood's characterization of tobacco money as "blood money."
Nothing gets out blood stains quite like ethical relativism. "We are no different from other legal companies in this country," says Dona. I point out that if I buy a shoe and put it on, it won't leave tar and cyanide on my foot, and that makes the tobacco industry a bit different to some.
"In terms of what our product is? Well, then, 70 per cent of the price of a carton of cigarettes currently goes to tax," Dona shoots back, audibly defensive. "The tax dollars collected on the sale of our product are also spent on public programs. Is that, too, not considered blood money?" To be honest, I think most would consider it penance.
Marrocco tells me that the only stipulation imposed by U of T on donor sources is "that the concern be a legitimate business under Canadian law." In other words, University of Toronto, a reverred venue for the pursuit of knowledge, can now proudly number itself among the hired junk scientists who for years have attempted to create the illusion that there is controversy about the lethal effects of cigarettes. Through this shrewd donation, Imperial has forced a respected academic institution to defend itself in such a way that it also defends the tobacco industry. U of T, you've just been schooled in corporate ethics.