The Canadian Government has implemented new COVID-19 testing and quarantine measures for non-essential air and land travel that came into effect on February 22, 2021. Leading Language Organization Languages Canada argues that this could result in international students postponing their studies or choosing an alternative location instead.
As per the government’s announcement, non-essential travellers arriving in Canada by land or air must stay at a government-authorized hotel for up to three nights while awaiting their COVID-19 test results, regardless of whether the traveller’s 72-hour pre-arrival test was negative. Travellers will pay for their hotel stay, as well as all related costs for their food, safety, transport and infection prevention and control measures.
They will also continue to be required to complete the remainder of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period after their mandatory hotel stopover. Travellers must also take another COVID-19 test on day 10 of their quarantine of 14 days.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the programme on January 29, 2021, Trudeau stated that the cost would exceed 2,000 Canadian dollars per person. Recent reports, however, indicate that the mandatory three-day hotel quarantine is much cheaper than was initially announced.
Quite strict measures for quarantine
Languages Canada, a national non-profit representative of 203, accredited English-and French-language education programmes, argues that these new testing and quarantine measures are unduly detrimental to the international education sector, which has already spent millions implementing risk management procedures during the pandemic.
Speaking to New Canadian Media, Languages Canada Executive Director Gonzalo Peralta said, “The most recent requirements imposed by [the] government undermine the ability to work for the 19,000 Canadians employed in our sector by unduly stifling the flow of international students.”
He placed: “The confusion, lack of functionality and the cost of the new requirements associated with studying in Canada will result in [international] students postponing their studies or choosing a competing destination.” The organisation said it received many complaints and questions from Canadian language education institutions and students, including whether three COVID-19 tests (pre-departure, on-arrival, and end-of-quarantine) are needed.
Peralta said that education institutions spent millions on meeting the requirements of the COVID-19 Preparedness Plan as mandated by the government last fall. Strict policies have already been adopted for international students, including compulsory testing, monitoring and quarantine for 14 days. Systems costing millions of dollars have been set up to handle the logistics required to comply with these policies, which Peralta argued: “have been working successfully from the outset.”
“In actuality, Languages Canada’s Study Safe Corridor–Travel Safe Program has not had a single case of COVID-19 among its students since it was launched in October 2020 and is designed to manage infections safely, if any,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that complicated. We already have a proven, secure, cost-effective and Canadian solution in place.”
Canada’s language education sector plays a vital role in the nation’s 22 billion dollars international education sector, attracting over 150,000 international students to learn English or French. Over one-third of language, students continue to pursue post-secondary programmes in Canada, and many remain in Canada as skilled immigrants, the report said.
The University of BC said it worked with Universities Canada and the Bureau for International Education to minimise the impact of travel restrictions on international students, according to Ubyssey, the campus student paper.
“Traveling to Canada for UBC International Students is deemed vital. They’re not tourists. Our hope in a conversation with the government is to eliminate the impact of these changes on students,” said Michelle Suderman, Director of International Student Development.
The University of British Columbia (UBC) student newspaper, The Ubyssey, noted that the University is working with Universities Canada and the Bureau for International Education to minimise the impact of travel restrictions on international students. “Travelling to Canada for UBC international students is considered essential. These aren’t the tourists. Our hope is a dialogue with the government is to eliminate the impact of these changes on students,” said Michelle Suderman, International Student Development Director.