As Covid-19 spreads around the world, every country has been impacted (and reacted) differently. Canada has seen just over 95,000 Covid-19 infections (to date), 1/3 of which are active cases. Having reacted comparatively earlier than many countries, by all accounts Canada’s done a fairly good job controlling the spread.
Overall the situation has improved in the last few weeks, and some parts of the country are currently re-opening. Despite Canada having flattened its overall curve, it’s currently keeping most existing restrictions in place, at least for the moment (eg. closing its US border until at least 21 June 2020, social distancing nationwide, etc.).
Will Canadian Universities be in-person or online later this year?
In Canada, education is the responsibility of each provincial government, meaning each of the 10 provinces (ie. Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, etc.) and 3 territories have their own local rules and guidelines, which at the moment are fairly aligned, but may start to diverge later this year as the situation evolves. You can find the latest Covid-19 updates, warnings, and provincial data here.
Currently, most Canadian universities are doing online learning only, with plans to re-start in-person classes only when it’s safe to do so. At the moment, there’s very few students on-campus at any Canadian school. The only exceptions, for instance being some STEM students who need specialised laboratory access, but these are closely controlled.
Onsite Measures for In-Person Classes
While a number of universities have already declared their fall semester will only be delivered online (including McGill University, University of Winnipeg, Dalhousie University, etc.), a number of schools are planning a blend of face-to-face classes plus online tools.
In general, where schools will be offering in-person classes, they will be with greatly increased hygiene protocols, as well as significantly smaller class sizes, staggered schedules to limit crowding in common areas, etc. The best way to get specific details about these measures is to contact the admissions office at your prospective school.
How is Canada supporting international students?
Canada has implemented a number of measures aimed directly at helping international students, ranging from emergency financial assistance, to visa extensions, etc., including:
Covid19-Specific Bursaries and Financial Aid
A number of universities are giving bursaries to specific students who, through no fault of their own, have unmanageable costs due to Covid-19, while many are also directly increase their financial aid packages, but this is on a case-by-case basis.
In general, most international students have access to public healthcare through various arrangements. Like education, healthcare in Canada is managed at the provincial level, and a number of provinces give international students direct access to public healthcare, including Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, etc. While other provinces don’t provide direct access, they have their own insurance policies/requirements, so it’s best to check directly with your university’s admission office, or on the respective provincial government’s own websites, which are consolidated here.
Allowing More Part-Time Work
The government has recently relaxed the specific working-hour requirements for international students who are working part-time while studying in essential services (e.g. healthcare, transport, etc.). Under the newly relaxed student-visa work requirements, students working in essential services are now able to work more than 20 hours per week.
Nationwide, Canada also has an International Student Hardship Fund which allows the individual universities of international students who are affected by Covid-19 to apply for special grants, to get direct relief (eg. money towards students’ living costs), and even non-monetary support like food parcels for international students forced to self-isolate, or who are otherwise impacted by Covid-19.
International students with visas expiring from April-July 2020 will in most cases receive an automatic extension up to late September at no additional cost.
What if you’re already planning to come to Canada later this year?
That depends entirely on the issue date of your study permit. International students who already have a valid study permit granted before 18 March 2020, can still travel to Canada, but will have to submit to mandatory 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival, regardless of nationality, destination, or duration of stay.
If you don’t have a valid study permit issued before 18 March 2020, you can’t currently travel to Canada, yet. In this case, students can begin their classes online, and are allowed to complete up to 50% of their entire programme via online learning (if they can’t travel to Canada in time). Further details of which can be found on the official IRCC website.
Is Canada’s post-graduation work programme still available?
Canada’s always had a popular post-graduation work programme, and students can get up to a 3-year post-graduation work visa. The good news is that students who are pursuing an online Canadian course due to Covid-19 can still count their online course time spent towards their time in Canada. If you’re going to be taking your course online, and if you want to apply for post-graduation working permission later, you can visit educanada.ca for more details.
To get a real look at what’s happening in Canada right now, not just with international students but for everybody, check out #everythingwillbeok and #çavabienaller (the same meaning, in French). Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of rainbows! It’s kinda become Canada’s thing during Covid-19, with bright, hand-drawn rainbows popping up everywhere.