frustration over backlog of Covid-19 readiness plan reviews

However, stakeholders have warned that institutions could be waiting for an unspecified amount of time to have these plans approved, due to government bodies having a large backlog of plans to review. 

“Canada’s universities are strongly committed to the health and safety of international and domestic students”

In turn, international students are expressing frustration, not knowing when their chosen universities and colleges will be added to the approved list. 

We’ve been very pleased with the Canadian federal government’s latest amendments to border restrictions, which as of October 20 have allowed more international students to travel to Canada to pursue their studies,” a spokesperson from UC told The PIE News.  

“Canada’s universities are strongly committed to health and safety… and have done an excellent job in developing comprehensive and rigorous plans to welcome international students with detailed health precautions in place.

“International students are important and valuable members of Canadian university and local communities, and we look forward to welcoming them back,” they said. 

Earlier this month Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced that international students would be able to enter Canada from October 20 if the institution they are studying at has a Covid-19 readiness plan approved by their local provincial or territorial government.

The move was welcomed by both students, institutions and UC who said at the time that it was testament to the critical importance of international students to Canadian communities.

IRCC said that it will regularly update the list of approved institutions as provinces and territories identify additional schools that have their readiness plans in place.

But Tina Bax, founder of CultureWorks, told The PIE that government bodies are likely to be facing a backlog of reports that they must review,  meaning many institutions are still waiting to find out when their plans will be approved.

Speaking of Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities, Bax said that a great deal of hard work was being done to solve the issue.

“Everybody wants schools to be open. We all know that this will end at some point, but I believe they are doing everything they can and then some,” she said.

“It’s a massive job. Imagine going through a 40 page report and then you have to decide is it accurate? Is it thorough? Is it true? And then they have to send it to the health units.

“The health units locally, instead of just doing Covid tests, have to look at reopening plans for colleges and universities and private language schools,” she added.

Bax also noted that because education in Canada is provincially mandated different provinces are coming up with different ways that they are going to decide who gets on the list, which affects the speed of the process.

International students are expressing concerns over the time frame around their institutions plans being approved.

“Because of the pandemic a lot of students have had to defer from the fall semester to the coming winter semester, so they have already lost a lot of time and the lack of clarity as to whether an institution will be on the DLI list is taking a toll on them,” said Anushray Singh, executive head, Canada at the North American Association of Indian Students.

“It’s taking a toll on their financial status, a lot of these students have taken out loans. Another cause of worry for some students is that their documents are dated, so they have to get more documents.

“They are also facing challenges with their mental and psychological health, with the anxiety of whether they will actually be able to travel to Canada… so there is a lot of anxiety and confusion and not much clarity in terms of what is going to happen with the list,” he said.

IRCC warned in a statement that if students try to travel to Canada when their institution isn’t included on the list, they may not be allowed to board their flights or may be turned away at the port of entry.

For more information on which institutions are on the list click here

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