Nova Scotia

N.S. minister says international students need to take responsibility for finding housing, jobs

Nova Scotia Advanced Education Minister Brian Wong says universities may be hiring unscrupulous recruiters to attract international students, but the schools are independent businesses that can make their own decisions.

Brian Wong says there are unscrupulous recruiters, but universities are independent businesses

A man with a white dress shirt, grey jacket and grey tie stands in front of a Nova Scotia flag and a Canada flag.
Nova Scotia Advanced Education Minister Brian Wong says international students have to take responsibility for their own housing and financial needs before coming to the province. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Nova Scotia's minister of advanced education says international students need to find housing and jobs before they arrive or have enough money to support themselves when they come here.

A card shop in Sydney says it is being inundated with resumes from job-hunting foreign students, some of whom say they desperately need work to live and are being misled about the availability of housing and jobs by overseas recruiters working for Cape Breton University.

Advanced Education Minister Brian Wong says that's possible.

"There's no doubt that there are recruiters out there that may be doing unscrupulous things and that is really unfortunate," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Halifax on Thursday.

"However, I do know for example that Cape Breton University has been training their recruiters to ensure that the proper information and honest information is given to students."

Students face a tight housing market across the country and federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser has said the Canadian government is considering capping the number of international students as one way to ease the pressure.

The Nova Scotia government is working on a student housing strategy that was supposed to be ready last spring, but it is still under wraps and Wong is not saying when it will be released.

Helping with housing

Wong did say the province is helping post-secondary institutions with funding towards housing, such as the Atlantic School of Theology and Cape Breton University, but he said the strategy will not require post-secondary institutions to provide accommodations.

Instead, they can make their own decisions, Wong said.

"Universities are independent board-governed institutions and the students that they recruit, wherever they recruit them from, is really up to whatever they set as their business plan and ... basically they are businesses, they're the ones that run their institutions," he said.

Wong also said students coming from outside the country have to do their own due diligence.

"If we're in a housing crisis or a cost-of-living crisis, I think it's imperative that that student does have money in order to support themselves when they come to Nova Scotia or they come to Canada," he said.

Cape Breton University enrolled more than 7,000 students last year and about 70 per cent of those were international students.

Current enrolment figures are expected to be finalized in mid-October.

The federal government has said it is talking with the provinces and post-secondary institutions about various ways to improve the lot of international students, but Wong said he has not had any discussions on capping the number of international students.

"Even if we don't cap or we do cap or whatever that may be, I do believe that there's a responsibility for students to make sure that they have those accommodations," he said.


Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 37 years. He has spent the last 19 covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at

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