Canada’s costly new mandatory quarantine unfairly punishes international students

Canada’s latest travel restrictions will incur exorbitant costs for those with student visas

Following a slew of winter vacationers to the Caribbean and Mexico, new regulations for passengers entering Canada have been enforced in an effort to discourage non-essential travel.

In effect since Jan. 30, the new restrictions include a suspension of flights to some sunny destinations enforced through April 30, as well mandatory COVID PCR testing at airports for returning travellers. But most notably, mandatory three-day quarantines at government-approved hotels, with packages that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says could cost upwards of $2,000 per returning passenger, have been the subject of complaint.

Among the chatter from Canadian vacationers who have expressed disdain for the new regulations, international students have begun to voice concerns about the financial and logistical impacts these travel restrictions will bear on their plans to return to Canada.

In multiple public posts to Concordia University’s subreddit, international students wonder whether those with student visas may be exempt. One user commented, “[$2,000] equals the tuition of a whole semester for a Quebec resident at Concordia. If they would [implement] this, why [issue] new study permits to international students?”

Currently, Concordia’s website lists international student tuition fees as ranging between $21,720 to $28,995 for one academic year. Given that Canadian citizens were responsible for the majority of non-essential travel that inspired these restrictions, legitimate concerns are being raised over the inequities in its effects on international students.

Conversely, since Canadian universities such as Concordia stand to profit broadly from international tuition fees (specifically nearly $6 billion in annual revenue for Canadian universities and nearly $22 billion in expanded economic contributions), candid discussions around the equitable handling of returning international students must be had.

In another Reddit post, one anonymous student remarked, “Concordia has definitely failed us, especially international students as they said last year that we could all go home and that they would adjust consequently…” Concordia and universities across Canada did, in fact, reassure international students flexibility as they collectively navigated distance learning in the pandemic.

However, the latest Canadian travel measures do not exempt international students from the $2,000 mandatory quarantine, which is evidence of universities’ negligence in advocating for their international students.

It is important to note that international students are not asking to break public health guidelines. Rather, given that international students are ineligible for emergency financial support like the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) or the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the costly mandatory quarantines exacerbate the already exorbitant costs they face. One anonymous student remarked, “That’s crazy. That’s the equivalent of four months of my rent.” Currently, robust measures to provide equitable travel guidelines for international students are still needed.

Concordia’s international students information page touts Montreal as the “best student city in North America.” With Canada’s failure to consider the unfair impacts on returning international students, Concordia’s claim that Montreal is an “affordable, student-friendly city” appears to leave out international students amidst a global pandemic.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

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