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Ottawa will shut down shady post-secondary institutions if provinces don’t: Miller

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Ottawa is ready to step in and shut down shady schools that are abusing the international student program if provinces don’t crack down, Immigration Minister Marc Miller warned Tuesday. 

Miller said there are problems across the college sector, but some of the worst offenders are private institutions — and those schools need to go. 

“There’s responsibility to go around,” Miller said on Parliament Hill. “I just think that some of the really, really bad actors are in the private sphere and those need to be shut down.”

Provinces are responsible for addressing problems in the post-secondary sector with regards to international students, he said. But if they won’t do it, Ottawa will — although “jurisdictional questions” limit the government’s power.

A sharp rise in foreign student enrolment has sparked scrutiny of the international student program and prompted the Liberals to put a cap on new study permits for the next two years. 

More than 900,000 foreign students had visas to study in Canada last year, which is more than three times the number a decade ago.

Critics have questioned the dramatic spike in international students at shady post-secondary institutions and flagged concerns about some using the program as a back door to permanent residency.

One potential fix, Miller said, is the federal government’s plan to recognize post-secondary institutions that have higher standards for services, supports and outcomes for international students.

“The recognized institution model that we launched in the fall still is very pertinent to this discussion, because we will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff,” he said.

“And perhaps even — if provinces don’t assume their responsibility — shut down institutions ourselves if they don’t do a good enough job.”

The minister also called out schools that have seen spikes in asylum claims from international students. 

Asylum claims from international students at Seneca College increased from 300 in 2022 to almost 700 in 2023. At Conestoga College, claims jumped from 106 to 450 during that same period.

Miller called those increases “alarming” and “totally unacceptable.” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2024. 

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

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