The letter dated July 29 was sent by deputy minister of Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Laurie LeBlanc, to Ontario’s designated learning institutions.
“We will continue the discussion of the impacts of Covid-19 on international students”
It outlines how the federal government is currently “considering” amendments to restrictions on cross-border traffic that “would allow international students to return to Canadian postsecondary education campuses beginning in September 2020”.
According to the letter, IRCC is trying to assess whether postsecondary institutions are ready to accept international students and meet a draft list of federal guidelines for their safe return – if the government decides to let international students back into the country.
“In order for Ontario to provide confirmation to IRCC on your postsecondary institutions’ readiness to accept international students, I ask that you review the attached draft federal guidelines and confirm your institution’s ability to meet the guidelines for September 2020 by end of day July 30, 2020,” the letter reads.
“Your responses by July 30 will support the ministry in confirming to the federal government that you are able to meet the requirements laid out in the attached guidelines and are fully capable and ready to welcome international students to your campuses come September.”
We will continue the discussion of the impacts of Covid-19 on international students as part of our ongoing consultations,” the letter signed by LeBlanc added.
A six-page list of draft guidelines outlining the obligations of designated learning institutions around supporting students who come into the country was also included.
It explained that institutions will have to help students understand and manage current health restrictions and guidance, which includes helping them develop their quarantine plans ahead of their arrival in Canada, assisting them with hotels, homestay, custodian or other accommodations.
Institutions would also be expected to provide transportation from the airport or initial point of arrival in the local community to their place of quarantine.
The institutions were given just one day to assess whether they could comply with these new guidelines – although they were invited to confirm to the ministry as soon as possible if they were unable to meet the July 30 deadline.
“We are advocating a blended approach to reopening Ontario’s career colleges”
At the end of July, CIC News obtained a letter signed by Canada’s immigration minister Marco Mendicino, and health minister, Patty Hajdu with the purpose of engaging in dialogue with provincial and territorial governments, as well as institutions, about ways to safely welcome more international students to Canada over the fall semester.
Institutions are currently working out how they will make the necessary arrangements to safely welcome students back in such a short time frame.
“Our priority as the province moves to resume classes is, and always will be, the safety and well-being of our students and staff,” Christopher Conway, CEO of Career Colleges Ontario, told The PIE.
“While policies and guidelines are essential to protect the wellbeing of individuals on campus, we must recognise that online learning is essential in the current environment.
“We are advocating a blended approach to reopening Ontario’s career colleges upon the approval of government and health authorities,” he added.
Conway said that the blended delivery model incorporates a combination of online and in-person training to uphold the quality standards and delivery of college programs while minimising the risk of an outbreak.
“Having this model in place earlier would have allowed the sector to respond even quicker to the pandemic,” he added.
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Canada has sought to remind international students that they are welcome in the country, although in practice, this has been difficult to achieve.
Earlier this year, Canada announced that international students would be exempt from a travel ban as long as they had a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit prior to March 18.
However, the Canadian government has since updated these rules so that international students were unable to travel to the country unless they had a non-optional reason to do so.
“Our priority… is, and always will be, the safety and well-being of our students”
Canada’s decision to only admit those who had a ‘non-discretionary or non-optional’ purpose for travel resulted in a backlash from Indian students in particular, who have faced confusion around flights and entry into the country.
A campaign which calls on the Canadian government to open its doors to all international students including those who were approved for a study permit after March 18 has so far received more than 5,400 signatures.