A new bill before the Manitoba legislature aims to better protect international students from dishonest recruiters and ensure high standards at the province's schools, colleges and universities.
In December 2012, the CBC News I-Team interviewed several students who were concerned about how they were recruited into International College Manitoba (ICM), a private business on the University of Manitoba campus that prepares international students for university studies in Canada.
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The students said recruiters had misled them about what school they would be attending, the cost of living in Manitoba, and their ability to find jobs once they arrived.
Some of the students also raised concerns about the quality of education they were receiving at ICM, saying the classes were too easy and weren't doing a good enough of a job in preparing them for entry into the University of Manitoba.
According to the provincial government, at the time the story originally aired, ICM did not fall under Manitoba's laws governing colleges and universities because it was a business operating on a contract for the U of M.
Bill 44, the proposed international education act, was introduced this spring and would require any institution recruiting and educating international students to sign onto a code of conduct that would govern how students are recruited and the quality of education they receive once in Manitoba.
"It's horrible to hear stories of people coming to Manitoba and not being treated properly," said Erin Selby, minister for advanced education and literacy.
"If an institution is going to use an international agent to recruit students, that agent is going to have to follow our code of conduct," she added. "And once they [the students] get here, there's another level ensuring that the classes are what the institution said they would provide."
Selby said "it's about transparency."
Under the proposed legislation, the penalties can range from a recruitment agent being blacklisted to fines being levied against the institution.
Under Bill 44, which Selby hopes to have in place next year, the government can even revoke a school's ability to recruit international students entirely.
According to the minister, this legislation will the first of its kind in Canada, provided it is passed into law.
Student 'super excited' about bill
Carl Qu, originally from China, had attended ICM. He is now a second-year student at the University of Manitoba, majoring in film studies.
Qu says he is "super excited" about Bill 44.
"It shows me the government is really thinking of [international students]
," he said, adding that it's especially impressive since international students aren't Canadian citizens.
"It's good news for international students … to feel safe," Qu said.
When CBC News spoke to David Collins, the University of Manitoba's vice-provost for academic planning and programs, about ICM last year, he said if the students' claims were true, he "would be very disturbed, and that is actually something I will look into."
Advanced Education and Literacy Minister Erin Selby gave these statistics:
- International students bring $150 million into Manitoba's economy each year.
- About 1,600 jobs are created in the province in connection with international students.
- Manitoba has the third-lowest international student tuition in Canada.
When CBC News contacted the university to find out what Collins's investigation revealed, university spokesperson John Danakas said it was not prepared to share the results of an informal review process.
"There are formal review processes in place … we are confident those processes can achieve what they are intended to achieve, including with respect to the university's association with ICM," Danakas said in an email.
With regards to Bill 44, Danakas said, "The University of Manitoba looks forward to working with the province and other partners on the development of a new code of conduct for international recruiters."
When CBC News originally contacted Navitas, the Australian company that owns ICM, it said its agents are held to the company's code of conduct, and it terminates agents that are found to be in violation.
When asked for comment on Bill 44, the company said it has nothing to add.