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COMMENTARY: With COVID under control, Canada gains competitive edge among international students

International students are highly sought-after — they help create significant, middle-class jobs and economic growth in over 100 communities across Canada. In 2019 alone, Canada hosted a record 628,000 international students from around the globe, 150,000 of them for English- and/or French-language education. - Reuters

Now, well into the summer, Canadians can take relative solace in how our governments have successfully worked together to manage the many challenges emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Led by a dynamic team of public health professionals, informed by science and a commitment to social responsibility, Canadians are now in the envious position of being able to contemplate key elements of a safe and steady reopening of our economy.  

Canada is a culturally diverse, trading nation whose bright future is in no small part reliant on welcoming highly skilled people who can help build a stronger country for future generations. For our national economy to make the comeback we need, a national plan that will position Canada for future growth is urgently required. 

A critical part of any economic recovery plan must include a safe and thoughtful strategy to re-engage with the economically and culturally relevant cohort of international students that visit Canada every year. 

Canada relies upon open borders to welcome foreign students and to support the policy objectives of all governments.

International students help create significant, middle-class jobs and economic growth in over 100 communities across Canada. In 2019 alone, Canada hosted a record 628,000 international students from around the globe, 150,000 of them for English- and/or French-language education. International students generate $22 billion in export revenue each year in tuition and living expenses alone, creating 170,000 Canadian jobs and contributing significantly to Canadian tourism, food and beverage, retail, entertainment, housing and services sectors. 

Many of these bright young students ultimately decide to pursue a path to Canadian citizenship, thus joining us all in our collective efforts of nation-building.  

Canada’s relative success in managing COVID-19 thus far and the strong public health measures in place, including mandatory 14-day quarantine measures, now place us in the position to safely begin welcoming international students back to Canada. For the Canadian economy, indeed all Canadians, this is good news.  

The vibrant economic and cultural track record of our country is built in the Canadian immigrant success story. We are recognized globally for our progressive policies and cultural-mosaic society.  

COVID-19 has paused this success story, and now we are in a position to responsibly seize the opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we can reopen our borders to certain priority populations. 

Given our success in flattening the curve, we are in a better position than most other countries to accept international students. We know that international student education is a global market, and students will gravitate to the places where they can safely go.  

Being able to safely open our schools to international students will give us an edge on other countries that have not managed this pandemic as well. We need these students, and we can safely manage their transition to Canada by following the robust public health guidelines that are available. It is time to seize this opportunity before students look elsewhere. 

We look forward to working with local health authorities and all levels of government to welcome students back to classrooms in a safe and responsible way. 

Even more so, we know that many of the future leaders of Canada’s path back to prosperity will come from this group. They will surely fall in love with this country and want to become citizens because of the generosity we have demonstrated towards them in this critical moment in time. 

Matt Collingwood, president & CEO, Tamwood International College in Vancouver; Tamsin Plaxton, president & managing director, Tamwood International College; Paul Schroeder, CEO, ILSC Language Schools, Greystone College based in Toronto; Jonathan Kolber, CEO, International Language Academy of Canada; Sharon Curl, managing director, Oxford International North America; Cyndi McLeod, CEO, Global University Systems Canada & chair, board of governors, University Canada West. 

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