Quebec reverses decision, allows young refugee students to study in province

Premier François Legault made the announcement Tuesday, just hours after Radio-Canada reported on the disappointment school communities are experiencing after preparing to welcome, finance and sponsor the arrival of new, young students from abroad.

Hailed as 'victory' by a Montreal CEGEP teacher, program will provide about 20 students education this year

Quebec Premier François Legault announced on Tuesday that the program would once again be allowed to operate in the province. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

After first suspending the programming last fall over integrity concerns, the Quebec government is going to again allow refugee students to study in the province.

Premier François Legault made the announcement Tuesday, one day after Radio-Canada reported on the disappointment school communities were experiencing after preparing to welcome, finance and sponsor the arrival of new, young students from abroad.

"It is a program by and for young people. Young people here are organizing themselves to find accommodation and finance young refugees moving here," Rafaëlle Sinave, a teacher at Cégep du Vieux Montréal, told Radio-Canada.

When news broke on Tuesday that the government was changing course, the teacher called it a victory on Facebook.

"It feels good to see that things can move," Sinave wrote.

Roughly 130 refugee students are hosted on Canadian campuses each year, including a few dozen in Quebec. The program is managed through the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), which partners with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Quebec Immigration Minister Nadine Girault said on Twitter Tuesday that she is looking into the matter.

"I know how important it is to the educational institutions that take part in it," she wrote. "I asked my ministry to work on a solution as quickly as possible."

Since 1978, this program has enabled hundreds of refugee students aged 18 to 25, who live in camps in Jordan, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda, to come and study in Canada.

Schools fund refugees' education

Several Quebec CEGEPS and universities are participating, whether in Montreal, Sherbrooke, Alma, Matane or in the Quebec City region. In all, about 20 refugee students were expected in Quebec this year.

All costs are covered by the local student committees, which organize fundraisers.

To justify its initial decision to suspend the program, the Legault government raised concerns about the possibility of fraud in some collective sponsorship programs.

Quebec's Immigration Department said back in October that it had received "serious allegations" regarding the program.

"Investigations are ongoing and we will not be commenting further to avoid harming their progress."

According to a spokesperson for the minister of immigration, these suspicions were not related to this student program, and the Legault government says it is now ready to bring these young people to Quebec.

with files from Radio-Canada


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