Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Manitoba schools say Ottawa’s international student cap missing the mark | CBC News

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Some Manitoba schools say they’re disappointed about the federal government’s decision to slash the number of international students entering the province by 10 per cent.

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced Friday the number of international study permits each province will get in 2024 as Canada moves forward with a national cap of international students announced in late January.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a release it’s expecting to approve 291,914 permits nationwide — 28 per cent fewer than the 404,668 issued in 2023. Manitoba is projected to see numbers drop from 10,155 last year to 9,140.

Mark Frison, president and CEO of Assiniboine Community College, said he’s happy the government has released the information, but feels that Manitoba may have been unfairly targeted.

“It’s unfortunate that this situation got to the point where the Government of Canada felt it necessary to use a blunt instrument across the entire country,” he said. 

“Certainly, the challenges that we see and saw in places like Ontario have been complicated and I know really required the Government of Canada to intervene. But things were working very well here.”

Mark Frison, president of Assiniboine Community College, said the federal government is using a ‘blunt instrument’ to deal with a problem that mostly revolves around Ontario. (Submitted by Assiniboine Community College)

The federal government is projecting study permits issued in Ontario will drop a whopping 41 per cent under the cap — far more than other provinces. But Frison said the government should have exclusively focused their efforts there.

Elsewhere in Canada, the projected rates range from an 18 per cent drop in B.C. to 10 per cent increases in Saskatchewan, Quebec and Alberta.

While the federal government sets the cap, it’s up to the province to determine the number of students each designated institution in their jurisdiction will receive.

The federal government has largely blamed the private sector for a spike in the number of international students, though data obtained by CBC News shows public institutions account for the largest share of the growth.

Frison said his school is still waiting on the Manitoba government to finalize its distribution plan, but believes they’re “certainly trying to prioritize public institutions.”

“They’ve … given us some permits in order to keep things going so that we’re prepared in the fall,” he said. “[With] this latest announcement …there’ll be an opportunity for them to look at how they finalize those allocations.”

Rationale for cap doesn’t apply to language schools, school president says

But some private institutions say they’re poised to lose all their international students because of the cap.

Gary Gervais has been running the Heartland International English School for more than two decades.

The school said it welcomes about 500 students every year, about 30 per cent of which are in Canada with student permits.

Gervais said the province has decided not to allocate any attestation letters to his institution, which are needed for the permits. That means Heartland will lose about 30 per cent of its students.

A man standing in front of a building with his arms crossed.
Gary Gervais says his school is poised to lose about 30 per cent of its students. (Submitted by Gary Gervais)

“The federal government’s rationale that [international students are] impacting housing and the labour force  really doesn’t apply to language programs,” he said.

“Many of our students stay in home-stays and don’t create stress on housing and also, they’re not allowed to work. So it doesn’t create any labour issues.”

Most return to their country once they finish their studies, Gervais said.

He said his school has already gotten rid of two positions, and he’s expecting to make more cuts in order to make up for lost revenue.

“It’s been about a four-year process to get back to our pre-COVID numbers,” Gervais said.

“We just finished paying off our CEBA loan on the Jan. 17 deadline. And on Jan. 26, the federal immigration minister announced the cap.… I joked with my staff that we had about two business days between crises.”

Languages Canada, an organization representing companies in the language education sector, said in an email two other members in Manitoba — Robertson College and Winnipeg Global Education College — are also not getting any letters of attestations.

Gervais  said he would like the provincial government to reconsider, and grant attestation letters to language schools, something he said other jurisdictions are still doing.

He said that, ultimately, language schools should receive a similar exemption to primary and secondary schools, which aren’t impacted by the cap.

“International students are valued members of Manitoba’s post-secondary institutions, and the cap imposed by the federal government has been challenging for all involved,” a spokesperson for the provincial government said in an emailed statement, adding that the province is advocating for an increased allotment.

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