According to CBC, a number of other universities across Nova Scotia – including Saint Mary’s University and Cape Breton University – require arriving international students to quarantine in locations approved by their institutions, as per rules stipulated by the province.
“We recognise that many students feel that the government’s and Dalhousie’s approach is unfair”
Institutions in Canada must be approved by the federal government as a Designated Learning Institution to continue attracting international students during the pandemic, which requires them to provide a Covid-19 readiness plan and follow stringent quarantine measures.
One third-year student at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, Ziad Lawen, accused the university of “discrimination based on nationality”, according to media reports, as domestic students arriving from international locations have not been asked to quarantine at designated locations.
While government requirements do not prohibit international students from quarantining in private accommodation, institutions must have their plans to follow oversight requirements approved by Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, a spokesperson told CBC.
A previous survey of international students revealed that 77% indicated they would be willing to quarantine if it meant they would be able to start on-campus learning sooner.
In a letter to students dated January 7, vice-provost student affairs (Acting) Verity Turpin and director of Student Experience Cynthia Murphy at Dalhousie said they had met with government partners to address students’ concerns.
“We recognise that many students feel that the government’s and Dalhousie’s approach is unfair,” they wrote.
They highlighted that the institution has committed up to $400,000 to pay 50% of the quarantine costs for new international students and those returning for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
For students facing the financial burden and who need support for quaratine costs, Dalhousie has also set aside an additional $100,000 in financial aid.
However, the institution emphasised that failure to meet government requirements could “risk losing the ability to welcome international students to Dalhousie in the future”.
“While every university must meet the same criteria, we do have some flexibility in how we meet the requirements. When addressing the requirement for university-approved accommodations and oversight, most universities are using on-campus housing or hotels, and, in very few cases, private residences.”
Acadia is one institution reported to have a plan allowing off-campus international students to self-isolate in their apartments, with daily check-ins.
“But the requirements for monitoring compliance with quarantine protocols apply to private residence as well,” Turpin and Murphy continued.
Dalhousie resorted to using hotels “due to the number of students, our location and need to provide the required supervision”, they added, and “on-campus housing was unfortunately not an option”.
“Providing the necessary supervision to hundreds of international students throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality and the province was not possible,” they said.
“A university with very few international students living off campus in a rural community in one or two locations may be in a position to offer the appropriate supervision being requested by the government. But this would depend on the university’s unique situation.”
Canada is not the only country where students have raised concerns of quarantine costs. International students have also opposed fees associated to quarantine in Taiwan.