Canada has a long, rich history of immigration. As one of the world’s largest countries in terms of area, the country has benefitted from pioneering individuals and, until now, welcomes immigrants looking for better lives or wanting to contribute to nation-building.
That openness is evident in the continuous growth of Canada’s education sector, which has seen an expansion in the number of international students applying to universities and the number of countries from where they originate.
“Canada continues to value the important contributions of international students within our communities. We recognize that people-to-people ties are foundational to building sustainable global cooperation. Advancing internationalization is critical to Canada’s global engagement, and remains core to our organizational mandate,” said Larissa Bezo, president and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education.
As Canada and China marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties, Canadian universities and government agencies have highlighted the important contributions made by the students from the world’s largest economy, which now accounts for the largest group of international students in the country.
“International students bring diversity, top talent, high skill sets and motivation that provide long-term economic, social and cultural benefits to the province of Manitoba,” said Ralph Eichler, the province’s minister for economic development and training.
Livia Castellanos, executive lead of international education at the ministry of advanced education of Saskatchewan, expressed similar sentiments and highlighted the province’s efforts to strengthen its network with Chinese schools and universities: “We have engaged in many conversations with our post-secondary institutions and with colleagues in China because the country is a partner for Saskatchewan and Canadian education.”
Because the COVID-19 global pandemic caused a huge disruption and much uncertainty to the plans of thousands of international students, Canada has had to quickly implement measures to ensure their safety and deliver continuity to their education. The travel restrictions put in place because of the pandemic affected more than 650,000 students from the country and elsewhere in the world.
“Early on, when we saw some countries and communities turn their back on international students, we embraced them. That was one of the responses that we saw in Canada before the pandemic. That approach will continue post-pandemic,” Universities Canada President and CEO Paul Davidson said.
The extra effort to accommodate international students in the middle of the pandemic was readily seen in Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories.
“Our country is a very welcoming place for international students and parents can have a great deal of confidence that their children will be safe,” said Randall Martin, the executive director of the BC Council for International Education.
In the eastern end of Canada, the province of Nova Scotia needed to intensify its collaboration with its network of schools, colleges and universities to provide all types of services and support for its international students, particularly those from China.
“We were able to do that in advance. Students received full support and felt that the government of Nova Scotia cared about their long-term mental health, security and safety. That was because we were acting collaboratively,” said Nicole Johnson-Morrison, president and CEO of EduNova, the cooperative industry association of schools and professional training providers in the province.
Given the diverse and unique demographics of each region and their differing needs, each of the provincial governments, through their ministries, was able to bring forward their concerns to the federal government in Ottawa and receive the needed support.
Because of that continued commitment to reach out to Chinese students, and buoyed by the success of its health and safety measures, the government is very confident that the spirit of collaboration within the entire education sector will stay as strong.
“International students from all countries are important to New Brunswick and all are welcome here because they contribute to our province’s cultural mosaic. That said, China has been the number one source of international students for us. Many universities have academic research relationships and other affiliations with Chinese universities, which results in a valuable interchange of students and ideas,” said Leigh Watson, New Brunswick government spokesperson.