I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number two of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Today the committee is beginning its study on the recruitment and acceptance rates of foreign students.
It's my pleasure to introduce the first three witnesses as we start this important study. I would like to welcome Larissa Bezo, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Bureau for International Education. We also have Francis Brown Mastropaolo, director, international affairs, Fédération des cégeps. As well, from Universities Canada, we have Paul Davidson, president and chief executive officer, and Marc LeBlanc, senior government and international relations officer.
Before we begin I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of all the witnesses.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are ready to speak, you can click on the microphone icon to activate your mike. All comments should be addressed through the chair.
Interpretation in this video conference will work very much like a regular committee meeting. When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute.
I would like to welcome all our witnesses who will begin our discussions with five minutes of opening remarks, followed by the round of questioning.
We will now proceed first to Madame Bezo, president and chief executive officer for the Canadian Bureau for International Education.
Madame Bezo, the floor is yours.
Good morning. Thank you so much for the opportunity to contribute to these important deliberations. I'm connecting to you virtually from Ottawa, the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe.
CBE 150-plus member institutions reflect the full spectrum of Canada's international education from K to 12 to FTS.D.s, spanning almost two million students. We are immensely proud of Canada's status as the destination of choice for international students, and we are acutely aware of the need to protect, maintain and, where possible, enhance Canada's standing in a fiercely competitive global market.
Accordingly, we commend the committee's interest in shedding light on how student visa applications are processed, including why rejection rates differ across Canadian visa offices and how we can do better to keep these rejection rates as low as possible.
Because each rejection letter is not only personally devastating for the student who has successfully qualified for admission to a Canadian institution, each rejection also arguably represents a failure of process, a waste of resources for the student and the host institution, a loss of opportunity for the community where the student planned to study, and fewer chances to leverage the people-to-people ties that come through education to promote Canada's long-term global engagement and future prosperity.
The problem is growing. Canada's rejection rate for student visa applications has increased in recent years. It is especially concerning in specific country and regional contexts; Africa, and francophone Africa in particular.
We need to be mindful that these failures of process do not end up being interpreted by potential international student candidates as failures of respect. The reputational risks for the Canada brand are significant.
Canada's IE sector has seen exponential growth in recent years, increasing by some 135% since 2009. This has occurred against the backdrop of an increasingly ambitious immigration program and, more recently, the pandemic.
To cope, ICC has had to change gears and increase its reliance on technology to help process applications. Unfortunately, student visa rejection rates have increased in lockstep with this growth, from 31% overall in 2016 to 53% in 2020. The growing disconnect between policy ambition and processing capacity is hard to ignore.
While it's important to pay attention to rejection rates for study permits, we strongly encourage the committee to consider the interconnectedness of this problem with the wider issues of policy coherence and integration across Canada's international education sector.
There are three issues I want to touch on very briefly. The first is what we are hearing from our institutions, that there are some troubling disconnects in the current system. We are aware that many well-qualified students have had their permit applications rejected, over half a million since 2016. Student study permit approval rates in some Canadian visa processing centres overseas have been and remain extremely low despite official policy direction through the international education strategy that Canada should diversify its source countries for international students.
Discretion is clearly being exercised, as it should be, given Canada's legitimate national interest concerns and to select students who have the best chance of succeeding, but where and how this discretion is being exercised is often opaque.
At a minimum, we need to ensure some level of consistency across visa centres so that we can test and validate that, where discretion is being applied, it is being done fairly and in a way that reflects Canadian values and Government of Canada priorities.
Second, with regard to dual intent, we encourage the committee to take a strong position on this issue. Dual intent is a simple concept that acknowledges the reality that many international students might want to both complete their study programs in Canada and then remain here to live and work. It lets them declare up front their plans to do so without creating the perverse incentives our current system has for them to misrepresent their intentions.
Indeed, if it is the stated policy of the Government of Canada to address our demographic deficit through immigration and to attract the best and brightest young immigrants to Canada, let us create a program that formally acknowledges and encourages this type of candidate.
With regard to dual intent, there is a broader need for a more integrated—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My final point is that we need to be more up front about our intentions about how we better inform student visa screening processes. We need ESDC to engage more effectively with industry, provinces, territories and community service organizations to identify labour market priorities that improve and inform those policies.
As we move ahead, we need IRCC to take some practical steps to improve its training, including placing an explicit focus on intercultural competence training, meaningfully assessing algorithms currently being used for screening applicants for unintended bias, and explore the confluence of factors that explain why some visa offices have high refusal rates.
In closing, we would really encourage the committee to explore benefits and risks about implementing an entirely new pathway for international students that allows those who want to both study in Canada and eventually stay after graduation. Simply tweaking the current temporary visa framework is not enough. We need some bold and innovative thinking here that complements our immigration goals and something that makes a strong statement that it's not “business as usual” in Canada. Our members are keen to engage on this issue.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First of all, I would like to thank the members of the committee for inviting me to appear today.
I am here on behalf of the 48 CEGEPs in Quebec. These are public institutions of higher learning that are attended by 195,000 students. Of these, more than 7,000 are international students and 30% of them come from French-speaking African countries.
Hosting international students is a priority for CEGEPs. In fact, the number of international students increases by about 15% each year. CEGEPs are thus contributing to Canada's international attraction goals.
According to a recent study, our members consider immigration procedures to be the main obstacle to international recruitment. This is especially true for students from the main recruitment pools in francophone Africa.
The CEGEPs note that, for several years, the study permit rate of refusal for applicants from these countries has been very high and is even tending to increase, which blocks the way to thousands of students who have nevertheless been admitted to our institutions.
Between 2015 and 2020, the highest refusal rates observable were for applications from 13 francophone African countries. For several of these countries, refusal rates reached 80%. The regional average remained above 65%. No other region in the world compares. For example, the important recruitment pools of India and China had average refusal rates of 35% and 17% respectively.
These exceptional refusal rates tell us that unfavourable treatment is applied in the case of applicants from French-speaking Africa, on the one hand, and in the case of applicants who want to study in a CEGEP, on the other. Indeed, for this same region, the refusal rates by level of education show a clear trend: they are clearly higher for CEGEPs, while they decrease for universities.
The year 2020 was of particular concern for CEGEPs, as application refusal rates ranged from 85% to 100% for the majority of sub-Saharan African countries.
CEGEPs feel that they suffer, firstly, from an immigration process that perceives these countries in a systemic way, but also from a lack of understanding of the Canadian higher education system.
To be clear, federation members question whether there are biases in the processing of applications or problems in the operation of the immigration system. This could explain such a disastrous result. Indeed, the recent increase in refusal rates forces us to question the use of automated systems such as the Chinook system. Furthermore, it appears to us that the redistribution, in 2020, of files from francophone Africa to processing centres outside that region has contributed to the increase in refusal rates.
The situation has significant implications for CEGEPs as well as for the broader communities in which they are located. First, CEGEPs are investing human and financial resources in vain. Furthermore, all Quebec CEGEPs, and even more so those located outside the major centres, need international students to fulfil their educational mission and to ensure the social, cultural and economic development of our country. Finally, communities are deprived of the direct benefits derived from the presence of these students.
There are also consequences related to the inconsistency between the denial of study permits and other government initiatives. Canada invests roughly $7 million a year just to promote the country as a study destination. Quebec, on the other hand, invests close to $15 million in attraction measures and scholarships for international students at the CEGEP level alone. Although it is the institution's management that proceeds with the admission of students after a serious analysis, it is more often the immigration officer who pronounces on the validity of the individual's background.
Finally, the situation also has implications for Canada's reputation. It prides itself on being an accessible and welcoming study destination, but treats students differently depending on their country of origin. Image-based diplomacy is just for show and has its limits, especially with young people who will quickly be asked to look elsewhere.
In conclusion, while the problem of study permit refusal rates is a national one, it is particularly damaging for CEGEPs and for the Canadian francophonie as a whole.
It seems that the actor responsible for immigration procedures is, on his own, capable of thwarting the efforts of governments, institutions, and above all, francophone African students.
We believe it is essential that the processing of study permit applications be fair, just and transparent for all individuals, regardless of their country of origin, language or intended level of training.
We invite the committee to shed light on current processes and to analyze the reasons behind the refusal rates of applications from French-speaking African students, for example by checking whether these students are victims of prejudice, as has been mentioned.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, IRCC, wants to integrate new permit application processing systems. It is extremely important that these do not have the same flaws as the current system; this must be made a priority.
We remain willing to work with the committee and with IRCC on these issues. We want to be involved when solutions are proposed to address the issue we are raising here today.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and thank you to the IT team of the House of Commons for getting me online so well.
It's great to be with you today. On behalf of Universities Canada and our members, thank you for the invitation to speak with you.
Thanks also to every member of this committee for the extraordinary work that all parliamentarians are continuing to do in these very challenging times.
With me today is Marc LeBlanc, who leads our international relations work.
I had the pleasure of appearing before this committee last April to discuss the temporary foreign worker program. As you may recall, Universities Canada represents 96 universities across the country. Taken together, Canada's universities are a $38-billion enterprise employing over 300,000 people, and universities are often the largest employer in their communities. Universities are a social and economic anchor in these difficult times and they are catalysts.
Canada's universities are an integral part of the Team Canada approach to responding to COVID-19, from mitigating risk to developing a vaccine, and accelerating Canada's social and economic recovery.
Now that the borders are reopening and Canada is once again welcoming international students, we look forward to working with this committee to ensure that the country remains a prized destination for top talent.
I want to talk to you today about the role of universities in attracting the talent that will drive economic recovery.
During my last committee appearance, I mentioned that today's global competition for talent is the 21st century gold rush.
Global competition is intensifying, and while Canada has a good reputation, it will take a greater effort to attract the brightest minds.
We have taken steps like the international student program to make coming to Canada attractive to highly skilled individuals. International students contribute over $22 billion to the Canadian economy and support over 218,000 jobs. They also play a fundamental role in building Canada's highly skilled talent pipeline.
For international students, borders are reopening around the world, providing more choice than even just two years ago. Canada has a global brand of being diverse and welcoming with world-class institutions, and we're seeing more international students arriving from emerging markets. These strengths must be leveraged as the global competition heats up. It will also be critical that our immigration system remains competitive.
In the coming months, we look forward to working with this committee to ensure timely and accurate visa processing in key markets and building a more applicant-friendly experience.
A more urgent challenge we need to address is the high visa refusal rates in many of our priority markets, particularly in francophone Africa. We greatly appreciate the work of this committee to examine this issue in greater detail. On average, the largest international source countries for university enrolment see about an 80% approval rate, with some countries as high as 95%. However, some of the top African source countries for Canadian university students show lower approval rates for study permits.
In 2019, the visa approval rates for undergraduate students from Morocco and Senegal, two of our priority countries for francophone student recruitment, were 55% and 20% respectively, versus 85% and 95% in other markets.
High refusal rates have a direct impact on our recruitment efforts and on Canada's brand as a welcoming place to study and build a life. We recognize that universities have a role to play in addressing this issue, and we're ready to work with the federal government, provincial governments and others to help ensure our prospective students meet the necessary requirements to receive favourable decisions on their study permits.
To succeed, the federal government, provincial governments and universities must take a collaborative approach to attracting the best and brightest students to Canada. By working together, we can ensure that enrolment at Canadian institutions remains sustainable, allowing them to benefit from students from around the world.
We are grateful for all the work the committee is doing to help Canada recover from the pandemic. We look forward to continuing this partnership to build a strong Canada.
Thank you again for the opportunity to be with you. We look forward to working with this committee throughout this Parliament, as Canada remains a top destination for international students from around the world.
I was just building on the previous question, before Mr. Godin, that France is absolutely a competitive nation for us in terms of attracting francophone students. It has a very powerful brand and historic roots. It is very aggressive in attracting francophone students to France.
It's important for all of Canada's universities as well, in Quebec and beyond Quebec, to attract French-speaking students. In minority francophone communities across the country, French-speaking students are a very valuable asset not only to the educational enterprise, but also to the economic growth of the region.
With regard to the broader competition in anglophone markets, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are our biggest competition and they spend vastly larger sums on marketing their brands.
We are in regular dialogue with IRCC on a number of issues. One is how we build a stronger Canadian brand, because people think of nation first when they're thinking of where they want to study.
Second, we have a very positive, non-partisan, all-partisan policy environment that welcomes international students. We have good policies. We need to improve our operational realities on the ground in the markets we're trying to attract students from. Therefore, we are working with IRCC in key markets in terms of how we improve their staff's knowledge of the work that's being done and how we ensure that we have high-quality, high-integrity and quick visa processing. It's really important.
I mentioned some of the refusal rates that our prospective students have encountered. Universities go to a great deal of effort and expense to raise their profile and recruit these students, and if they're refused for head-scratching reasons, we've lost investment. We've lost the potential of that student.
We want to make sure that we have world-class student attraction.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to welcome the witnesses.
My first question is also for Mr. Brown Mastropaolo.
As you know, Mr. Brown Mastropaolo, any application by a foreign student to study in Canada must meet certain financial criteria.
You know very well that, in accordance with the Canada-Quebec Accord relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens, the Quebec government determines the financial resources required for a student to be eligible for a study permit. In Quebec, a student 18 years of age or older must provide proof that he or she will have funds of more than $13,000 per year of study, while elsewhere in Canada it is $10,000.
First, do you believe this has an impact on the approval rate of applications from international students who want to study at Quebec post-secondary institutions?
Secondly, I would like to know if you, on your side, have approached the Quebec government to address this issue by asking them to agree to set the criteria at $10,000 instead of $13,000.
Thank you for the question.
In fact, it would be important not to gloss over the real reasons behind the high rejection rates. Talking about the financial capabilities of applicants, whether it's $10,000 or $13,000, is unfortunately not part of the battle to be fought, in my opinion.
Let me explain the situation concretely. First, the difference between these two amounts is minimal. Second, we see that the same refusal rate applies to students who are awarded scholarships by the Quebec government, including merit scholarships, in which case the scholarship recipients receive $14,000 per year in living expenses for the duration of their studies and are exempt from tuition fees. Despite the fact that they are scholarship recipients from the Quebec government and have been selected by CEGEPs after analysis of their file, these students are also denied a study permit.
So I don't think that the issue of students' financial capacity is the priority battle to be fought.
We have statistics on refusal rates for CEGEP studies based on countries of origin. We are able to make all the necessary comparisons. We know what the most popular reasons are for refusing a study permit. In light of the refusal rates and the reasons that accompany these refusals, sometimes numerous for the same student, I believe that our priority, as a nation, should be to look at the immigration system and the analysis that is done. On the one hand, how well do immigration officials know our higher education system in Canada, as well as the reality of those young people who wish to study abroad? On the other hand, why are the refusal rates higher for certain institutions?
Based on these statistics, we must begin to establish a precise and complete diagnosis of the situation, before looking at a slightly more operational mechanism that relates to a shared jurisdiction between the federal and provincial levels.
Yes, in terms of looking at the trends and the experiences prepandemic versus throughout this pandemic period, there are some notable differences. As I mentioned in my opening comments, from a processing standpoint, given public health measures and limitations in being able to access visa processing centres and supporting documentation, we saw a slowing down and, in fact, a halting of the processing of those applications in the early days of the pandemic. There has been an effort to ramp it up since that time.
Based on the numbers that we are seeing, our international education sector has recovered in the overall numbers that we saw prepandemic, at the end of 2019.
From that perspective, we are very much encouraged. However, as I mentioned, half a million who have applied through those processes have been rejected since 2016.
I concur with my colleagues, Paul and Francis. There is more work operationally to be done to clear those pathways, address some of those issues and perhaps unpack any systemic issues that may be standing in the way of that.
With respect to the tuition fees, yes, this is an area of sensitivity. We have been working with institutions, not only in trying to think about those talent pipelines and ways in which we could move students into the Canadian context, but trying to be sensitive in the ways in which the value of that Canadian education is positioned.
I can share with you CBIE's most recent international student survey. In December 2019, it received 40,000-plus international student responses from those who are currently in Canada. They continue to cite the high quality of the Canadian education system as one of the most desirable elements—
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
First of all, I thank the witnesses for appearing this morning. This is a very important study that is very close to my heart, as we know.
I have heard the Conservatives talk about competition and the Liberals blame the Quebec government in their first questions. I, for one, think that we are here to find solutions, because there is indeed a problem. On the one hand, human beings who are given a dream are having it ripped out of their hands in the most impersonal way possible. On the other hand, there is a crystallization of unfair treatment for French speakers in this country, regardless of their origin. This study is therefore important, and I hope that we will readjust our aim in order to find concrete solutions, because the start of the school year in September 2022 is coming up quite quickly.
Mr. Brown Mastropaolo, I loved your opening presentation. In our study, there will be a lot of talk about statistics, but we must not forget that behind them there are human faces.
It would be nice if you could describe to us the typical journey of a French-speaking African student who has been refused a study permit. Can you list the steps he would have taken, for example?
Thank you for asking me the question and thereby giving me the opportunity to tell you about what international students have to go through, which is sometimes described as an obstacle course.
I will use a student from Cameroon as an example. Let's call her Amina. She is about to graduate from high school. She goes to an EduCanada fair in Cameroon, where she meets officials from Global Affairs Canada and some representatives from CEGEPs. They give her advice and help her to complete her application, which she submits promptly. She is accepted. Given the quality of her record, she receives an academic scholarship from the Quebec government. As I mentioned, the scholarship provides $14,000 for living expenses and also waives tuition. After obtaining her Certificat d'acceptation du Québec, Amina is able to submit her complete application for a study permit to the Canadian visa office around the end of April. For 20 weeks, Amina receives no news from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, IRCC. The CEGEP tries to reassure her as best they can. For CEGEPs, the school year starts sometime between August 20 and 25. Amina receives an answer from IRCC between September 5 and 10. The answer is a refusal.
What are the typical reasons for a refusal? First, the officer is not convinced that Amina will return to Cameroon when she finishes her studies in Canada. Second, the officer does not feel that the proposed program of study is reasonable, given her career path or other educational opportunities available to her locally. Those are the reasons often given.
At this point, let's ask some questions. First, how can an immigration officer judge whether or not Amina will return to Cameroon, especially when the various levels of government have established a wide range of incentives for temporary residents, especially international students, to become permanent residents? Then, how is an immigration officer an appropriate substitute for the authority of an institution of higher learning in expressing an opinion on someone's academic career? And finally, is it an immigration officer's role to assess the validity of the education system in Canada, or, in this case, in Cameroon?
In total, Amina spent 10 months of her year convincing her parents, gathering some extra funds, preparing for her stay and obtaining a scholarship. Basically, she has to abandon her plans and she does not really understand why. The CEGEP cancels her stay, also without really understanding why.
That's the basic problem: no one understands why. CEGEPs meet with many quality candidates and, after reviewing their files, decide to award them scholarships because they believe that they have what it takes to succeed. So why are they being turned down?
Amina will continue to talk about Canada, as will her parents, but the discourse will change. It will no longer be to dream of the maple leaf; it will no longer be about the snow, the cultural experience, or the quality of the education. Instead, Canada will become a synonym for dashed hopes, an obstacle course with traps everywhere.
Amina's story is the story of thousands of French-speaking students from Africa whom we in the CEGEPs meet every year when we are taking part in various recruitment activities, including the EduCanada fairs.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses for their expertise and presentations.
I'd like to put my first question to you, Ms. Bezo. You mentioned in your opening remarks the issue of dual intent. Indeed, dual intent exists factually for family reunification, but yet, even in that stream, we're seeing a lot of rejections on the premise that the immigration officials who assess the applications deem the visits from the spouse such that they would not return to their home country, because of dual intent. With respect to students, in this instance, yes, students want to come and study, and some may want to stay, but it does not necessarily mean that they would violate their immigration requirements and not return home.
From that perspective, as IRCC takes these items into consideration, would you suggest that the government should actually make it clear that unless there is a history of violation of immigration rules, the person should not be automatically rejected because somehow IRCC officials deem that they would not return home?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses for being here.
My question is to all witnesses.
As you know, Canada is in a competition to entice people from around the world to come to study in Canada. We ask them to spend an enormous amount of money to do so. Among the inducements we offer them to study in Canada is the opportunity to work part time while studying and the opportunity to stay in Canada after completing their studies and to work in Canada as part of a pathway to permanent residence and ultimately citizenship.
Recently, a couple of cases of applicants from Pakistan came to my attention. IRCC refused one of the applications on the grounds that it was not satisfied that the student would leave Canada following their studies, based on four reasons, namely “the limited employment prospect in your country of residence; your current employment situation; the purpose of your visit; your family ties in Canada and in your country of residence”.
Isn't this exactly the type of person we expect to respond to our recruitment efforts?
In the other case, the applicant had completed a B.A. in business and wanted to come to Canada to study for an M.B.A. The IRCC officer wrote, “Submissions...do not provide a compelling explanation of why the applicant seeks to pursue Masters Management for future career path”. The officer's notes also state that the applicant “seeks study at a Christian university when the passport of applicant states religion as Islam, and submissions of applicant does not address the divergence of religious beliefs”.
In Ontario, it is not considered unusual that some non-Catholic families, including some Muslim families, prefer to send their children to Catholic separate schools.
Doesn't it seem as though sometimes we are sabotaging our own effort to attract international students? What would you suggest to address these issues?
I'll jump in, and I'm sure Larissa and Francis will want to join as well.
I think those very real-life examples are very pertinent to the committee. Of course, we're not going to comment on individual circumstances, but to go back to an earlier question in this conversation, they give you a flavour of what students are experiencing.
Again, what this comes back to is that we can have political commitment, and we do, because all parties in the House are supportive of positive immigration for Canada, which is really a good thing and a competitive thing. Therefore, we have political support. We have policy support in that we have a very attractive pathway for international students to come to Canada, to study, to work and to stay. International competitors are looking at our tools, and they're copying them and they're making them more generous. We have to stay competitive.
Then we have the operational realities of visa processing times. We want to ensure the integrity of the process, but the decision-making authority of the frontline immigration officer is real. We have to make sure that all staff representing Canada are well trained and have been invested in what we're trying to achieve as a country, because there was a time—and I've been in the field for over two decades now—where we wanted all international students to return to their country of origin. If you even expressed a hint that you wanted to stay, you'd be immediately rejected. Now I think we have a much more flexible approach and one that works for Canada's advantage and also for the countries of origin.
Those real-life examples are searing, and I'm glad the committee is doing this study and will be asking IRCC about how they would respond to those kinds of challenges.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I hope you cannot hear the horns too much; my office looks out on to Wellington Street.
Yesterday afternoon, we received the government's response to our written questions on the topic we are dealing with in this meeting. I will summarize what it says. I would like to hear Mr. Mastropaolo's comments. The other witnesses can add to that if they wish.
Here are some of the findings. First, the refusal rates for temporary permits are significantly higher for students who want to study in Quebec than for those who want to study elsewhere in Canada. Second, processing times are typically longer in Quebec than in the rest of Canada for all types of permanent immigration files. Third, the acceptance rate for study permits for English-language universities is higher than for French-language universities.
So, at the end of the day, what is the source of the problem? Is it because of a discriminatory process? Does our immigration system inherently discriminate against foreign students, especially francophones?
Let me react to that question.
Yes, it is a valid question: is there discrimination based on country of origin, language or even the level of education sought? We see it in the statistics for CEGEPs: they have the highest refusal rates of all levels of education, especially for students from French-speaking countries, Western Europe excluded. For us, the refusal rates at the CEGEP level are problematic. The trend is clear. The trend actually existed even before the pandemic and before the automated processing system went into operation.
The same is true for processing times. They are far too long. As I mentioned earlier, people hear nothing for weeks on end. responded by adding resources. That is a good thing, we welcome the gesture, but the mechanisms are still reactive. Are we always going to wait until we have a backlog of 1.8 million files before anything is done? Yet institutions have been complaining about the situation for three, four or five years.
Finally, it is true that acceptance rates are higher on the English side than on the French side, according to the available data.
Thank you, Mr. Brown Mastropaolo.
I have a question that is really bugging me. I will give you my opinion, my personal observation, and then I'd like to hear from all three of you. You are the experts and you are the ones who have to put up with the situation.
As you know, there are economic consequences for the community, but also for your educational institutions. The fewer teachers they have, the less revenue, and when there is less revenue, programs are cut.
Isn't that a way of letting the motivation to promote French slip away?
The question goes to Ms. Bezo, Mr. Davidson and Mr. Brown Mastropaolo.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Last year, the Liberal government brought in a landmark immigration policy to help students. When you look at the 90,000 applications that were brought in and the 27,000 express applications, it was a great help. The intent of the government is to get all students into the PR stream and then into citizenship.
I still keep hearing from students from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh about being discriminated against based on their country of origin. Their visas are rejected. We have a dual intent that the students who are going to come here to study get into the PR and citizenship streams.
Why are they being rejected and how can the government bring in a consistent policy? It was mentioned earlier that they're not going to go back to their country and they should not be rejected based on that.
Would any of you like to comment?
There are some very concrete, operational elements that could be introduced to address some of the concerns that you raised about perceived barriers or perceived systemic challenges.
One simple way of assessing if there are systemic problems in some of those visa offices and some of the country samples that you cited is to have IRCC analysts from other regions complete a blind review of a sample of applications that have been either favourably or unfavourably processed, to ensure that there's concordance on the findings.
Another option could be to initiate a pilot, where you enable candidates of high rejection regions—even thinking about colleagues in francophone Africa—to appeal decisions where there are obvious errors of fact. There are instances when scholarship holders are told that they lack the financial resources to pay for their stay. That's one example. Simply requiring candidates to resubmit their applications is not enough.
Another option would be regularly having IRCC analysts from across a number of regions review identical cases and compare outcomes. If there is no consensus on the result, this highlights that there is a need for new types of training on intercultural confidence and perhaps other areas of processing where discretion is factored into these decisions.
These are very simple examples, but ways in which we can really move some of this forward in constructive ways.