Nova Scotia

CBU president presses federal committee on rural internet access

The president of Cape Breton University offered the federal government an update on the impact of COVID-19 in the Atlantic region, highlighting the impact on international students and the barriers presented by a lack of reliable high-speed internet in rural areas.

David Dingwall highlighted the issue during a presentation on COVID-19 issues in Atlantic Canada

David Dingwall, president of Cape Breton University, said more support should be offered to international students, including enrolment in Nova Scotia's health care coverage plan. (Emily Latimer/CBC)

The president of Cape Breton University offered the federal government an update on the impact of COVID-19 in the Atlantic region, highlighting the impact on international students and the barriers presented by a lack of reliable high-speed internet in rural areas.

David Dingwall presented to the standing committee on health Thursday.

He said in the wake of the outbreak, more support should be given to students, including better access to internet service and providing international students with cheaper access to better health care.

Dingwall said it's unreasonable to ask international students to pay high medical costs when the region is trying to retain students once they graduate.

"In some other jurisdictions in Canada, the provincial government allows them onto their medicare plan," he said. "Give MSI coverage to our international students as soon as they set foot onto our soil."

In addition, Dingwall said students need better access to high-speed internet.

He said many nursing students in particular have found it difficult to do their remote learning from rural communities. Students in other provinces have highlighted the difficulty in accessing a solid internet connection while trying to finish the semester. 

"With weak access to the internet, it makes it very difficult for them to do remote learning," he said. "As a result, this could jeopardize their practicum, their need to get that in order to qualify to be a registered nurse."

Poor internet has also been cited as a key concern for Nova Scotia as it rolls out an online strategy for schools across the province. ​​​​​​

Dingwall said the answer to relieving some stress in the health-care system rests with nursing students, saying they could help offer some relief to burned-out front-line health-care workers.

"While our current providers need rest and relief, it underlies the significance of having good quality access to internet," he said. 

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