In the aftermath of the H1N1 flu outbreak in Mexico, our neighbours to the south drew international help from neighbouring countries and a number of notable academics, health and agriculture experts. Now, there’s a movement to ask Canadians to do the same – with good reason: an influx of international students has led to a resurgence in college and university enrolment in British Columbia, which has been a relative bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economic landscape.
As I recently found out when my children were born, having young children in the middle of an outbreak is difficult. However, the unfortunate events of Mexico and now B.C. have refocused my priorities on the topics that truly matter: Canada’s future and the lives of my children.
International student numbers on the rise in British Columbia Read more
Not too long ago, my wife and I were going to be spending our lives building our own Canadian family. We weren’t even thinking about that day when my son woke up and asked if I could come and stay with me.
In this new plan of being an expat parents, one of the first tasks was convincing Canada to take an interest in the educational needs of its people. I was keen to instill in my children the values that have shaped the country and its ideals of cultural pluralism and the success of multicultural families.
It’s not hard to see how significant international student immigration would be for Vancouver’s economy. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), this demographic group – primarily from China and India – makes up 25% of all university students and 28% of all postsecondary students in B.C.
About 3,000 British Columbians per year leave the province to attend Canadian universities, leading to all kinds of economic, social and cultural benefits for our community. In other words, international students are one of the best ways to jumpstart post-pandemic recovery in our province.
In the past few years, the departure of international students from the rest of Canada has been slowing. So while taking advantage of their contribution to the economy and life in British Columbia is a no-brainer, it is also critical to the future health of B.C.’s economy. There are many other options.
What about pressing for international trade? By its own estimates, the federal government’s support package for the aerospace and aerospace defence industries is more than $4bn.
What about seeking permanent Canadian residency and citizenship for every international student in Canada? Some employers, such as Amazon, already make this a reality for international students. The labour shortage that has affected so many Canadian industries is real.
International students have a bearing on the economy of B.C. and this province needs to do all it can to keep them here. The figures speak for themselves – an additional 3,000 students arriving in B.C. annually will produce more than $92m in economic activity annually in our province.
To be clear, I don’t stand alone. In 2018, 27 communities across Canada signed a declaration urging the federal government to put the interests of Canadian citizens before that of international students. Some nations have risen to the challenge of incorporating the international student perspective into their citizenship applications.
British Columbia’s outlook also is strong thanks to a diverse foreign student population. According to the 2011 census, 46% of international students who were born outside Canada were from a mixed ethnic background, with Asian populations comprising more than 40% and more than 65% being of Chinese or South Asian origin. This suggests these students speak with a very local accent.
As our provincial government reviews its immigration strategy for post-Brexit Canada, international students will provide a concrete avenue to put “the interests of Canadian citizens” first. And yes, Canadian citizenship does come at a price. However, we really don’t need to look any further than our own economic future and even our worst financial times to know that these students will provide priceless benefits.