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Canadian language schools want travel exemptions for students

Canadian language schools
International students landing in Canada must adhere to a new set of government guidelines. Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

Canadian language schools are calling for international students to be exempted from the three-day hotel quarantine required to enter the country right now. They claim that the measures are unfair to international students planning to attend language school, and have asked for federal government support in the matter.

The federal government maintains that international students can learn French or English online and still be eligible for a Post-Graduate Work Permit. Despite that, educators such as Sheila Nunn from East Coast Language College say that international students need support beyond online provision. “For a large percentage of our students, they don’t want to just study online. They are coming because an essential part of their language learning is the whole Canadian cultural experience,” Nunn told the CBC.

Why exempt Canadian language schools?

Languages Canada, a national non-profit representative for 203 accredited English and French language education programmes, believes these travel restrictions to be discriminatory against middle-class students. Executive director Gonzalo Peralta said, “We are concerned about our diversity … and of course, we are concerned about keeping our members’ programmes alive because this could be the last straw for them. The students that come here are doing more than learning English … they want to learn the Canadian way of life, so they are willing to save for years just to come here.”

Canadian language schools


Over 150,000 international students learn English or French in Canadian language schools. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

According to a recent Languages Canada survey, 35% of international students were willing to pay the cost of a 14-day hotel quarantine — but only 3% were still willing to pay for the extra three nights in a government-authorised hotel. East Coast Language College student Minami Kouchi from Japan had to fork out almost $7,000 in travel and accommodation expenses to come back to Canada in November, before the new travel restrictions.

What are Canada’s latest travel guidelines?

According to the latest government guidelines, non-essential travellers arriving in Canada may only arrive in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, or Vancouver. They must stay up to three nights at a government-authorised hotel while awaiting their COVID-19 test results — even if they tested negative 72 hours before arrival. This requires students to pay for the cost of their hotel stay, as well as all associated costs for their food, security, transportation and infection prevention and control measures.

They will also still be required to complete the remainder of the mandatory 14-day quarantine after their  hotel stopover. Travellers must also take another COVID-19 test on day 10 of their 14-day quarantine. At a total estimated cost of over $2,000 Canadian dollars, Languages Canada said these measures would stifle the flow of international students into the country.

Canada’s language education sector contributes CA$22 billion-a-year to the international education sector, attracting over 150,000 international students to learn English or French. Over one-third of language students go on to pursue post-secondary programmes in Canada and many remain in the country as skilled immigrants.