Challenges mount for international students as province requests tighter travel restrictions
Arti Dani, who lives in Mumbai, India, is an incoming international student at Conestoga College who has been impacted by the COVID-19 flight suspension. (Supplied)
WATERLOO -- Confusion and uncertainty continue for international students with Canada suspending flights from both India and Pakistan, and now the government of Ontario asking for even tighter restrictions.
"This is not how I imagined my Canadian study experience to begin," said Arti Dani.
Studying in Canada has been a lifelong dream for Dani who lives in Mumbai, India. In recent weeks she has watched as COVID-19 ravages her country, and now the virus is also putting her plans to study in Kitchener on hold.
"We are really heartbroken and really demotivated, but we do understand the situation is like this because of the ongoing pandemic," she adds.
On Tuesday, Dani was supposed to begin her two-year graduate degree at Conestoga College's new downtown Kitchener campus. Instead, she'll learn virtually between 7:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. because of the time difference.
The changes to her plan came after Canada suspended all flights from Pakistan and India last month because of the growing COVID crisis. The province of Ontario is pushing the federal government to keep tightening travel restrictions.
"The variants are 100 per cent coming from outside of our borders and we need to ensure that our borders are secure," said Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities.
In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the Minister of Colleges and Universities office wrote these steps include: "banning all non-essential travel, implementing mandatory PCR testing for interprovincial travellers, and closing the loophole at our land border with a three-day quarantine."
"Of course we want to move as much as possible to be able to deliver hybrid education, in-person learning wherever possible and when it is safe to do so" added Romano.
Although Dani is still hopeful a compromise can be reached between the Indian and Canadian governments.
"Maybe open some pathway for students, because we are not coming there for tourism or leisure purposes, we want to come there to study," she said.
Conestoga College says it's encouraging students to hold off on travel until it's safe to do so, adding the school is providing some financial assistance to international students.
"The college has established a special bursary program for students who begin their studies from their home countries: they are eligible to receive the $1,000 bursary when they arrive in Canada and begin their next level of study."
Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo both issued statements on Monday saying the schools plan to work with all levels of government to ensure safe environments for students.