EMSB cuts ties with South Korean recruiter linked to controversy

The English Montreal School Board has ended its relationship with an international student recruiter accused of misleading South Korean students.

Several former international students allege recruiter misled them about visas, work opportunities

English Montreal School Board chair Angela Mancini addressed the controversy surrounding an international student recruiter before a board meeting on Wednesday night. (CBC)

The English Montreal School Board has ended its relationship with an international student recruiter accused of misleading South Korean students.

"We have cut our ties," said EMSB chair Angela Mancini before a school board meeting on Wednesday night.

Earlier this month, several former South Korean students told a local news agency they paid an agent acting on behalf of the EMSB to attend vocational schools in Montreal.

They allege the agent promised visas that would allow them to work and eventually apply for permanent residency. But upon arriving in Montreal, they said that was not the case and some ended up working illegally for less than minimum wage.

After the revelations, the EMSB said it would take "swift action."

Mancini said they use the recruiters to get information about their educational services to potential students. She said they work directly with recruiters, but some may have teams on the ground with which the EMSB does not have any contact.

In this case, the school board discovered the agent had had created an "EMSB Korea" website without its knowledge or permission. The site would direct people to the EMSB's main web page.

The English Montreal School Board is facing a provincial audit and UPAC investigation. (CBC)

Chair defends 20% fee paid to Chinese student recruiter

Macini said the board works with an unspecified number of other recruiters, but does not have contracts with them. 

She said the EMSB has only one official contract, to recruit Chinese students, with the company Can-Share Connection, registered in Quebec to Cindy Yao.

The company earns 20 per cent of the fees paid by every student it recruits, according to Mancini. 

Macini said the board "grossed about $9 million dollars" from its partnership with Can-Share, though she said 90 per cent of that is turned over to the Education Ministry, leaving the board with 10 per cent to invest back into its schools.

"Last year we gave out $1 million — about $20,000 per school was given in order for them to do a variety of projects," said Mancini.  

"I think that the payback for the English Montreal School Board has been far bigger than what we've paid her out."

Mancini also defended the fact that Can-Share was the only bidder for the EMSB's Chinese recruitment contract, saying other companies did have the opportunity to apply if they wanted to do so.

"The laws are such that we put it on the [website] and if there's only one bidder, we have the responsibility by law to open that bid, we can't just close it," said Mancini.

"We've done what we can in terms of ensuring that the process is as transparent and as legal as possible, in terms of what we know we need to do at this time," she said. 

Cloud hanging over EMSB

Education Minister Sébastien Proulx announced in November that he was appointing Michelle Lapointe, a retired assistant deputy minister of education, to audit both the Lester B. Pearson and English Montreal school boards.

As well, UPAC, the province's anti-corruption agency, has confirmed it is investigating both boards.

"There's a bit of a cloud hanging over our board," said Mancini of the impending investigation and audit.

"We're not sure what they're looking for, but we're confident that that they won't find anything."

She added that the EMSB will address any issues that do come to light. Mancini said she hopes the both the audit and the investigation will begin soon so that the board could have its name cleared.