Since 2012, international students on a valid study permit and residing in Manitoba for more than six months could access free healthcare for themselves, their spouse and their dependants.
“International students are not cash cows”
In a move that the provincial government hopes will save CA$3.1m, after September 1 international students will have to turn to private health insurance and pay an estimated CA$2,400- $3,600 per year on top of their fees, CBC reports.
Some fear the move will drive international students away from Manitoba– and draw them to other provinces where healthcare is free.
“One of the main reasons why international students go to Manitoba is because of the health plan,” international student commissioner for the Canadian Federation of Students Mary Asekome told CBC.
In a statement, interim chairperson of CFS-Manitoba Dele Ojewole called the move “horrific” and called on the government to consider the harmful impact it will have on international students in the province.
“At a time where provinces are moving to cover international students under public health care, this regressive government chooses to set the clock back and take it away,” he said.
International students already pay 3-4 times the tuition fees paid by Canadian students, a statement by CFS-Manitoba said, and contribute approximately CA$220m to the economy of the province, the statement reads.
“International students are not cash cows,” Ojewole said in the statement.
Colleges and universities in the provinces working on a system to offer private health insurance system for their international students, CBC reports.
“University of Manitoba staff are exploring new options to support international students, including working with other post-secondary institutions in the province to obtain private health-care insurance coverage,” reads a statement on the university’s website.
Other provinces, such as British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, allow international students to access free health care services.
Earlier this year, healthcare surcharge in the UK was doubled for non-EU citizens, including international students.
Click here to see which provinces the 495,000 students who were studying in Canada last year chose.