Quebec students feel there’s ‘no future’ for them due to religious symbols law, study suggests

Of note. Interviews, not a poll, selection bias likely at play, but nevertheless of note (article in Le Devoir below):

A new study looking into how university students feel about Quebec’s religious symbols law is painting a bleak picture, with many saying they’ve lost faith in the province and plan to leave.

The study, completed by researchers from two Montreal-based universities, asked post-secondary students, recent graduates and prospective students about their feelings on Bill 21.

The bill, also known as Quebec’s Laicity Act, became law in June 2019. It banned some civil servants, including teachers, police officers and government prosecutors, from wearing religious symbols at work within the province.

The study acknowledged the sample size is “relatively small” — 629 respondents, polled from Oct. 2020 through to Nov. 2021 — and has a “strong possibility of selection bias,” as those who feel more strongly about Bill 21 are more likely to have responded to the survey.

However, the authors noted that respondents were “relatively diverse” and attended both French and English institutions from across the province.

Only about 28 per cent of respondents said they wore some form of religious symbol.

“We were expecting a more balanced diversity of responses. We thought we would get more people in favour of the law,” said Elizabeth Elbourne, an associate professor of history at McGill and one of the researchers behind the study.

“There’s a really interesting generational gap. We were quite struck.”‘I have no future in Quebec’

Respondents in Elbourne’s study were invited to write-in additional comments. Many said they experienced increased racism since the law was introduced.

“I think that the bill — despite the fact that many people don’t mean it this way — in practice, can give permission to discriminate,” she said.

Over 34 per cent of respondents — including those who did not wear a religious symbol — reported experiencing increased discrimination since the law was passed. That number jumps to 56.5 per cent for those who do wear religious symbols.

“It used to happen to me occasionally. Now it happens almost every time I go out,” said one Université de Montréal student who wears a hijab.

One McGill education student described seeing Bill 21 invoked in the classroom while on a work placement during their studies.

“[I] watched students and the teacher ridicule a Muslim girl for wearing a hijab. The teacher said with Bill 21, you can’t dress like that,” the respondent wrote. “The girl was mortified and silent and just 11 years old.”

Even those outside of law and education, the fields most impacted by the law, reported feeling its effects.

“I have had some job interviews where I could immediately tell that the person lost interest in my application as soon as they saw me with my headscarf,” said a Concordia engineering student.

Moving provinces seen as ‘only solution’

As a result, 69.5 per cent of the students polled who wear a religious symbol said they were likely to leave the province for work.

“I didn’t even get a chance to start my career properly,” lamented one McGill education student who wears a hijab.

“The only solution I am strongly considering is to move to another province.”

Weeam Ben Rejeb is one of those considering the move. The McGill law student hoped to become a prosecutor, but would be banned due to her hijab.

“Even though I could practice in the private sector, it’s more about what this law is saying about me,” she said.

Ben Rejeb described Bill 21 as an “insult,” saying it suggested that she wouldn’t be able to do her job because of what she chose to wear.

“It’s extremely offensive,” she said. “We are essentially saying we’re not intelligent enough or impartial enough to be able to be neutral judges or teachers.”

Can’t work with ‘clean conscience’

They’re not the only ones considering leaving.

Forty-six per cent of the students who don’t wear religious symbols said they were also planning to leave Quebec due to Bill 21, saying they don’t want to participate in a system that discriminates against their colleagues.

“I refuse to work in a place where my peers cannot or will be punished for expressing themselves,” said one education student.

“I don’t feel that I can be a teacher here in Quebec and have a clean conscience while doing so,” wrote another.

“I chose Canada because I believed their laws aligned with my liberal beliefs,” wrote a Concordia law student who does not wear a religious symbol. “Now I am very disappointed and rethinking everything.”

Elbourne, the researcher who worked on the study, said she sees the potential exodus of students having a “serious impact” on the province’s education system.

“I think it’s going to make it harder to recruit teachers. And I also think, if we’re looking at the people leaving — are people from the outside going to want to come to Quebec?” Elbourne said.

As for how they feel about Quebec, 70.3 per cent of all respondents said they had a worse perception of the province since the law passed.

“I despise Quebec now,” wrote one McGill education student who wears a hijab. “A province which has absolutely no respect for me or my people to the point that they’d like to take my livelihood away deserves no love.”

“We’re racist af (as f–k),” wrote another.

Some support for Bill 21, survey shows

Not everyone was against the law, however. While the study notes that the “vast majority of people … were critical or divided” on Bill 21, there were also those who supported the measure.

One McGill education student hoped the bill would “encourage all faiths to embrace secular civic life” in Quebec.

“Hopefully we will see a new era in which students are able to attend school without being subjected to symbols of patriarchal religious oppression on their teachers,” they wrote.

One McGill law student said their family “escaped” a country that forced women to wear the hjiab. “We are free here,” they wrote.

A PhD student in education at McGill said they came from a conservative and religious part of the United States and would like to see something similar there.

“[Bill 21] is a wonderful step towards women’s liberation and freedom,” they wrote. “I wish my state would pass a similar bill.”

Ben Rejeb, the law student, acknowledged that Bill 21 does have widespread support in the province — especially in more rural regions — but questioned why that was.

“If all that you know about Muslims is what you see on TV … then it makes sense why you might have these fears,” she said.

Ben Rejeb said that with more education, she believes that most Quebecers would change their minds about supporting the law, though she fears many have already moved on.

“I feel like most of my peers, and Quebec society in general, has kind of forgotten about this and is going on with their lives and not really thinking about it because it doesn’t affect them personally,” she said.

“All of us who are living in Quebec right now are complicit in allowing this bill to continue to exist.”

Source: Quebec students feel there’s ‘no future’ for them due to religious symbols law, study suggests

Un grand nombre d’étudiants en enseignement et en droit projettent de faire leur vie hors de portée de la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État québécois — en commençant par ceux portant un signe religieux, mais pas seulement eux.

Près de trois ans après l’adoption de la loi 21, 73,9 % des futurs, actuels ou anciens étudiants en enseignement qui portent un signe religieux et 54 % des futurs, actuels ou anciens étudiants en droit qui portent un signe religieux réfléchissent à l’idée de quitter le Québec, peut-on lire dans un rapport de recherche signée par les professeures Elizabeth Elbourne (Université McGill) et Kimberley Manning (Université Concordia).

Celles-ci se sont employées à mesurer l’incidence de la loi 21 sur les projets de vie d’étudiants et de diplômés en enseignement et en droit. Pour y arriver, elles ont notamment distribué un questionnaire sur les campus des collèges et des universités, que 629 personnes ont rempli entre le 13 octobre 2020 et le 9 novembre 2021. « L’échantillonnage est relativement petit et pas nécessairement représentatif de l’ensemble des étudiants du Québec en droit et en éducation », précisent-elles.

L’idée de tourner le dos au Québec trotte aussi dans la tête de plusieurs étudiants et diplômés qui ne portent pas de signe religieux. En effet, 46 % des personnes interrogées se disent être « très ou assez susceptibles de chercher du travail ailleurs qu’au Québec à cause de la loi 21 ».

« Ce ne sont pas seulement les gens qui portent un symbole religieux, mais ce sont les membres de leur famille, ce sont leurs amis, ce sont leurs camarades de classe qui repensent leur carrière, se demandent s’ils vont rester au Québec, et cela se répercute sur leur impression générale du Québec », soutient Kimberley Manning.

D’autres, moins nombreux, se résigneraient plutôt à revoir leurs plans de carrière, croyant — parfois à tort — ne pas pouvoir aller au bout de leurs ambitions professionnelles en raison de la loi 21.

« Au lieu d’aller en droit, je vais essayer de rentrer en psychologie. Je voulais être enseignante de droit au niveau universitaire », a souligné une collégienne portant le hidjab.

« Je comptais terminer mes études en droit ou enseigner à l’université, mais j’ai changé mes plans parce que je n’ai pas d’avenir au Québec dans ces domaines », a affirmé une étudiante inscrite au programme Droit et société de l’Université Concordia. La femme, qui porte aussi le voile islamique couvrant les cheveux, les oreilles et le cou, dit ne pas pouvoir se résoudre à demander à son mari de renoncer à son emploi et à déraciner leurs trois enfants de Montréal, « une ville que nous aimons et dans laquelle nous avons vécu la majeure partie de notre vie ».

La loi 21 interdit à certains employés de l’État québécois, dont les policiers, les procureurs, les gardiens de prison, les enseignants et les directeurs d’école primaire ou secondaire publique de porter un signe religieux dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions. Les avocats de pratique privée et les professeurs de cégep ou d’université ne sont pas assujettis à l’interdiction du port de signe religieux.

Épisodes de discrimination

Par ailleurs, les chercheuses notent une montée de l’islamophobie et de l’antisémitisme depuis l’adoption de la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État par l’Assemblée nationale, en juin 2019.

Pas moins de 76,2 % des femmes portant le hidjab ou un foulard interrogées dans le cadre du projet de recherche ont rapporté avoir subi de la discrimination. Elizabeth Elbourne dit avoir été « surprise par les expériences de discrimination vécue — harcèlement dans la rue, etc. » relatées par les étudiants au fil de ses travaux.

Les autrices prennent soin de signaler « une forte possibilité [de] biais de sélection en faveur de ceux opposés à la Loi » dans les résultats du sondage, qui serait causé par le « haut taux de réponse dans la région de Montréal, où se concentrent les minorités religieuses plus que partout ailleurs au Québec, et des personnes portant des signes religieux visibles ».

Cela dit, « le fait que peu de personnes aient répondu afin d’exprimer un fort soutien à la Loi est un élément significatif en lui-même », estiment-elles.

Source: La loi 21, source de craintes pour des étudiants en droit et en enseignement

Diversity and Education: Half of Canadian kids witness ethnic, racial bullying at their school

Interesting and useful survey. Most interesting finding for me (apart from the extent of bullying) is the correlation between greater student diversity and knowledge of racism in Canadian history. Worth reading the full survey:

As Canada grows and changes, becoming more diverse every year, new generations of children are immersed in a reality that can look far different than that of their parents or grandparents.

And while diversity in schools is largely an accepted and comfortable fact of life for Canadian children, a new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of British Columbia finds some – in particular those who identify as a visible minority – struggling to fit in more than children who do not identify this way.

Indeed, this conversation with 12- to 17-year-olds in Canadian schools finds that racially motivated bullying and insults are a reality in more ethnically diverse areas of the country.

While half of kids who describe their school as made up of mostly students from similar backgrounds say that these racial issues are something they have seen, this rises to two-thirds among those who say their school is more diverse. Further, visible minority students are three times as likely as white children to say that they have faced personal abuse. Indigenous children are twice as likely to say this.

That said, most Canadian children say that they have an outlet to talk about these issues. Indeed, nine-in-ten say that they talk to their parents or other family members about it. There may, however, be more for teachers and school staff to do. Three-in-ten victims of bullying or abuse say that staff in their school were either unaware of it or just ignored it.

More Key Findings:

  • Children in more diverse schools are significantly more likely to say that they have learned about racism in Canada’s history, Indigenous treaties, residential schools, and multiculturalism, than those who say their student body is made up of kids from mostly the same background.
  • Most Canadians kids are comfortable with their peers wearing different clothes, celebrating different holidays and speaking different languages than they do. Approximately two-thirds say it’s not a big deal, while one-in-ten say they enjoy it.
  • Among those who say that they have been the target of ill treatment, 43 per cent say it is something that they carry with them after it happens. More than half (57%) say it doesn’t bother them, or that they’re able to move past it.
  • Older kids, between the ages of 15 and 17, are more likely than 12- to 14-year-olds to say they talk about racism with their friends – 73 per cent to 56 per cent respectively

Link to full survey:

Le Québec perd la course aux étudiants étrangers

More pressures from within Quebec regarding more immigration, this time on the part of students and the relatively low number studying in Quebec:

Le nombre d’étudiants étrangers qui entrent au pays a doublé en quatre ans. L’Ontario en profite à plein. Le Québec ? Si peu que la province risque de perdre la course aux talents internationaux.

Selon les données d’Immigration Canada, le Canada a délivré 256 000 permis d’études à des étrangers en 2019, le double d’il y a quatre ans.

La moitié des candidats acceptés au pays étudie en Ontario. Le Québec, pour sa part, accueille seulement 12 % des titulaires de permis d’études, moins que le poids de sa population de 22,5 % dans le Canada.

Cette sous-représentation n’est pas sans conséquence, puisque l’attraction et la rétention des étudiants étrangers constituent un axe stratégique en vue de créer de la richesse et de soulager un tant soit peu la pénurie de main-d’œuvre à moyen terme. Le ministre de l’Immigration du Québec, Simon Jolin-Barrette, a décliné notre demande d’entrevue en nous invitant à communiquer plutôt avec Ottawa.

« La réalité, c’est que l’écart se creuse entre le Québec et les autres provinces dans la course aux talents », déplore Christian Bernard, économiste à Montréal International, organisme de prospection des investissements directs étrangers, qui fait aussi la promotion de Montréal comme ville étudiante internationale.

M. Bernard rappelle que le Canada est en compétition avec la plupart des pays occidentaux dans cette course aux talents.

D’après les chiffres obtenus par La Presse, 51 % des étrangers voulant étudier au Québec se sont vu refuser leur permis d’études par le gouvernement canadien en 2019, contre 38 % dans le reste du pays.

Outre la barrière de la langue française, qui réduit le nombre de demandes à son égard, le Québec est pénalisé par le refus du Canada de laisser entrer au pays un fort contingent d’étudiants francophones en provenance d’Afrique.

Selon Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada (IRCC), les raisons courantes pour refuser une demande sont que « le demandeur n’a pas prouvé qu’il a assez d’argent pour subvenir à ses besoins pendant ses études ». Ou qu’« il n’a pas convaincu l’agent des visas qu’il quittera[it] le Canada à la fin de sa période d’études », explique, dans un courriel, Peter Liang, conseiller en communication d’IRCC. Pour certains pays, un examen médical est également requis. Dans tous les cas, le candidat ne doit pas avoir de dossier criminel.

« Ce qui est désolant, ajoute Christian Bernard, de Montréal International, c’est la contradiction entre, d’une part, les critères mis de l’avant pour délivrer ou non le permis d’études et, d’autre part, la volonté de tous les paliers de gouvernement qui déploient des initiatives et qui investissent des sous avec l’intention d’attirer et de retenir davantage d’étudiants internationaux au Canada et au Québec. »

Le 31 janvier, l’organisme a recommandé que le Canada réduise le taux de refus des étudiants francophones dans une étude sur la connectivité de la métropole, produite conjointement avec la Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain.

Accepter deux fois plus d’étudiants dans l’espoir de pourvoir les places disponibles

Au trimestre d’automne 2019, à l’Université de Sherbrooke, 37 des 102 places réservées aux étudiants étrangers admis au bac en régime coopératif avec stages de travail rémunérés n’ont même pas pu être pourvues, les étudiants admis ayant été refusés par Immigration Canada. L’institution avait pourtant admis 189 étrangers au départ pour que soient pourvues ces 102 places.

À l’Université Laval, le taux d’inscription des étudiants internationaux préalablement admis a décliné depuis 2014. Il se situait à 67 % en 2018, dernière année pour laquelle la donnée est disponible. « En nombre absolu, le nombre a augmenté de 1100 à 1400 étudiants internationaux. Ce qui nous préoccupe, c’est qu’en pourcentage, ça baisse. On a des étudiants qui ne peuvent pas venir chez nous faute d’obtenir leur permis d’études à temps », dit Yan Cimon, vice-recteur adjoint aux affaires externes, internationales et à la santé et directeur des affaires internationales et de la francophonie.

Ces bourses d’exemption de droits de scolarité pour la francophonie du Sud, au nombre de 235 par an, ont été créées par le premier ministre Philippe Couillard lors du Sommet de la Francophonie tenu au Madagascar en 2016.

En raison de refus de permis d’études, le réseau des cégeps est incapable d’atteindre son objectif, datant de 2012, de 5000 étudiants internationaux. Les 48 cégeps publics accueillent actuellement 4300 élèves étrangers au diplôme d’études collégiales.

Dans le reste du Canada, les collèges d’enseignement professionnel formaient 151 000 étrangers en 2017, d’après un document de 2018 du Bureau canadien de l’éducation internationale. C’est 35 fois plus qu’au Québec.

« On cherche à mieux faire connaître aux agents d’immigration le réseau collégial, avance M. Tremblay, en guise de solution. On leur dit que ça se peut qu’un diplômé universitaire d’Afrique veuille suivre après coup une technique dans un cégep. Il y a un grand attrait pour les formations techniques qui ne sont pas très présentes dans le système d’éducation en Afrique. »

« Dans un contexte de pénurie de main-d’œuvre, l’intégration des étudiants internationaux au réseau collégial représente la solution à la régionalisation de l’immigration, qui est un problème au Québec depuis 40 ans », soutient le patron de la Fédération des cégeps.

Les Africains refusés par dizaines de milliers

Les données d’Immigration Canada montrent que les taux de refus sont particulièrement élevés pour les demandeurs des pays africains, principal réservoir de locuteurs francophones, après la France.

La proportion de refus atteint 90 % pour les Guinéens, 82 % pour les Camerounais, 77 % pour les Algériens et 75 % pour les Sénégalais.

Depuis cinq ans, 16 000 étudiants algériens et 5300 Sénégalais se sont ainsi vu refuser l’entrée au pays.

« Nous n’arrivons pas à nous expliquer cette situation, écrit dans un courriel René Gingras, DG du Cégep de Rivière-du-Loup. Nous espérons qu’il y aura déblocage bientôt. Nous pourrions ainsi accueillir plus d’étudiants qui parlent français, qui s’intègrent dans notre région et qui répondent aux besoins du marché du travail. »

De leur côté, les collèges et universités anglophones du reste du Canada ne rencontrent pas ce problème. Ils recrutent les étudiants de pays anglo-saxons, de pays comme le Japon, la Chine, l’Inde et la Corée du Sud, tous plus riches que les pays africains. Les taux de refus y sont beaucoup plus faibles.

« Aucune discrimination », soutient Immigration Canada

« Les demandes du monde entier sont examinées de façon uniforme et en fonction des mêmes critères. Il n’y a absolument aucune discrimination dans notre processus d’évaluation des demandes », se défend M. Liang, d’Immigration Canada.

Aucune discrimination, mais des objectifs totalement contradictoires avec ceux du Québec, déplore la Fédération des cégeps.

Le fédéral ferme la porte quand il n’est pas convaincu que l’étudiant quittera le pays à la fin des études. Or, ce même étudiant est recruté en se faisant promettre par Québec qu’une fois diplômé, il pourra rester au pays de façon permanente.

Par exemple, des missions de recrutement d’étudiants visent régulièrement le Maghreb, une région pour laquelle Immigration Canada refuse de 40 à 77 % des demandeurs.

Autant de cerveaux qui n’entrent pas au Québec.

Cinq pistes pour hausser la part du Québec

Pour attirer davantage d’étudiants étrangers, le Québec pourrait toujours emprunter un raccourci et imiter la France en proposant des formations uniquement en anglais. Le cégep de Gaspé a choisi cette voie avec son campus de Montréal, qui accueille 2000 Indiens et permet à la maison d’enseignement de faire des profits de 1 million. Des solutions moins controversées existent néanmoins.

Diminuer le taux de refus des permis d’études

« On aimerait voir plus de flexibilité dans le processus de délivrance des permis d’études, confie Yan Cimon, de l’Université Laval. Il y a énormément de pièces justificatives à fournir. C’est difficile de voir des dossiers refusés pour des formalités. »

Si le taux d’acceptation des demandes visant le Québec remontait au niveau du Canada hors Québec, la province aurait accueilli 10 000 étudiants internationaux de plus en 2019. Rapidement, la part du Québec passerait de 12 à 18 % de l’ensemble des étudiants étrangers présents au Canada.

Le fédéral ferait ainsi d’une pierre deux coups. Le pays marquerait plus de points dans la course aux cerveaux qui a cours en Occident tout en diminuant sa dépendance à l’égard de l’Inde et de la Chine, responsables à eux deux de 54 % du flux d’étudiants internationaux au pays.

Instaurer le traitement rapide des permis dans les pays francophones

En 2018, le gouvernement canadien a lancé le Volet direct pour les études (VDE) pour les demandeurs de la Chine, de l’Inde, des Philippines et du Viêtnam, puis en juillet 2019 pour le Pakistan. Le VDE a permis de réduire les délais de traitement.

« Quand vous avez des délais qui interrompent ou qui induisent un report de projets d’études, ce n’est à l’avantage ni de l’étudiant ni de l’université », dit Yan Cimon, de l’Université Laval, où les deux tiers des étudiants étrangers inscrits sont africains.

« Dans le cadre du VDE, les permis d’études des étudiants potentiels peuvent être traités plus rapidement, avance Immigration Canada, dans un courriel, car en faisant leur demande, ceux-ci montrent d’emblée qu’ils ont les ressources financières et les compétences linguistiques. » Le VDE a été élargi au Maroc et au Sénégal en septembre 2019.

Élargir l’admissibilité des diplômés du collégial au PEQ

L’accès rapide à la résidence permanente pour les candidats ayant passé par la filière étudiante contribue à la popularité du Canada comme terre d’études. Au Québec, la voie rapide se nomme le Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ), en révision. Les cégeps voudraient que le gouvernement ouvre le PEQ aux diplômés d’une attestation d’études collégiales, obtenue habituellement après un an d’études, dans les secteurs en pénurie de main-d’œuvre.

Augmenter le nombre de bourses

La France a haussé les droits de scolarité facturés aux étrangers en 2018. La mère patrie cible dorénavant les pays payants comme l’Inde et la Chine. L’Afrique francophone pourrait en subir les contrecoups, elle qui fournissait historiquement 45 % des étudiants étrangers en France, selon un article du Devoir de novembre 2018. Une fenêtre s’ouvre pour le Québec en augmentant le nombre de bourses versées aux Africains. Depuis 2016, le Québec offre 500 bourses d’études aux francophones du Sud qui s’inscrivent au cégep. Encore faudrait-il que les agents d’Immigration Canada considèrent la bourse dans l’examen de la demande de permis d’études.

Entente avec la Belgique et la Suisse

La Fédération des cégeps est en demande auprès du gouvernement pour que celui-ci conclue une entente pour admettre les étudiants de la Belgique et de la Suisse aux mêmes conditions monétaires que les Français dans le réseau collégial. Les étudiants en provenance de l’Hexagone acquittent les mêmes frais que les Québécois. Une entente existe avec la Belgique depuis deux ans pour faciliter l’inscription de ses ressortissants à l’université, mais rien en ce qui concerne le cégep. Aucune entente n’existe actuellement avec la Suisse.

Four in 10 international students turned away by Canadian immigration

Study Permit Refusals by Level

Source: IRCC data

More than half the international students headed to undergraduate programs in Canada were turned away this winter and spring by immigration officials.

Between January and May, officers rejected 53 per cent of the study permit applications filed by foreign students hoping to begin a bachelor program in Canada, according to data provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The record refusal rate is part of a trend that has seen immigration officials refuse a higher proportion of applications every year as international demand for Canadian education has soared. The overall refusal rate – including study permit applications to attend primary, secondary, post-secondary and language programs – was 39 per cent in the first five months of the year. (Rates for the first five months of 2019 may not reflect full-year rates.)

Reasons for refusal: fraud, danger, doubtful intentions

Twenty-eight per cent of all study permit applications were rejected by immigration officials in 2014. Four years later, in 2018, the overall rejection rate had climbed to 34 per cent. Demand for education boomed in that same period, with total applications almost doubling to more than 340,000 in 2018.

Increasing study permit refusals 2014 to 2019, Canada

Source: IRCC data

Robert Summerby-Murray is president of Saint Mary’s University, where 34 per cent of all students come from outside Canada. He is also chair of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, which promotes international education on behalf of more than 100 Canadian colleges, universities, schools and institutions.

He said study permit approvals have been improving for his students and he hasn’t heard of problems from other institutions.

“In some markets now, approvals are over 90 per cent,” he said of the experience of his own university this year. “We don’t see a 40 per cent refusal rate. That’s not our experience at all.”

Officials can refuse a study permit for many reasons: if they suspect the student may not return to their home country after graduation; if the student doesn’t have sufficient funds to pay for tuition and living costs while in Canada; if the student poses a health or security threat to Canada; if the officer doesn’t think the student’s academic plan makes sense; if the application is incomplete or inaccurate or if there is evidence of fraud in the application.

Harpreet Kochhar, assistant deputy minister of immigration, warned last fall that fraud had become a significant problem in study permit applications. He told a conference of the Canadian Bureau of International Education that a sample audit found that 10 per cent of the admission letters attached to study permit applications were false. In one case, he said, a supposed admission letter from Dalhousie University did not even spell the name of the university correctly.

Undergraduate refusals double

University-bound students are driving the higher rejection rate. While the study permit refusal rate for graduate university programs has increased slightly, the refusal rate for bachelor programs is soaring.

In 2014, only 20 per cent of international students headed to a bachelor program were refused a permit, compared to 37 per cent in 2018 and 53 per cent in the first five months of 2019.

Five years ago, visa officers were twice as likely to approve the study permit applications of international students bound for Canadian universities as students bound for Canadian college programs. Today the overall rates are similar.

The lowest refusal rates in early 2019 were for students who want to attend a doctoral program (11 per cent), high school (20 per cent), primary school (20 per cent), master’s program (31 per cent) or language program (31 per cent).

Refusals vary by source country

Refusal rates also vary dramatically by country, with students from Africa much less likely to receive a permit than students from many Asian and European countries.

Alain Roy, vice president of international partnerships with Colleges and Institutes Canada, said he is pleased that the rejection rate for college-bound students has remained steady despite a huge increase in the number of applications.

Summerby-Murray said his university works hard to build and maintain relationships with the consular officials who decide whether a student permit is approved, and they also work with expert agents who vet students thoroughly before an application is filed.

“We visit. We call,” he said. “I can pick up the phone. I can talk to the consuls in Shanghai, the team in Beijing, the folks in Hong Kong, Nairobi and other places and say, ‘Heh, we have these refusals, can you reconsider?’ We have worked very hard on these relationships.”

Polestar collected impressions from several other university administrators across Canada, all of whom shared information on the condition that neither they nor their institutions would be named. Two smaller universities said they have noticed an increase in problems with study permit approvals and two larger institutions said they had not seen any increase.

Universities Canada declined to comment on the study permit refusal rates.

International students who want to attend school in Canada must be admitted to a designated learning institution before they apply for a study permit from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Most students will also need either a temporary resident visa or an electronic travel authorization to enter Canada.

Source: Four in 10 international students turned away by Canadian immigration

Douglas Todd: Over-reliance on students from India and China sparks Ottawa reaction

More on the government’s efforts to diversity source country of students (Trudeau government outlines five-year, $148-million plan to attract more foreign students to Canadian universities):

Amid warnings that universities are relying too much on the high tuition fees paid by foreign students, Justin Trudeau’s government has promised to do something about how more than half of the 572,000 international students in Canada hail from China and India.

The Liberal government has announced a new international-student strategy two months before the October election, amidst rising diplomatic tensions and opinion polls showing 90 per cent of Canadians have negative impressions of the government of the People’s Republic of China.

The federal Liberals, who have roughly doubled the number of foreign students in Canada since being elected in 2015, are pledging in carefully worded announcements they intend to adjust the current international demographic ratio, which sees more than half of offshore students coming from China (143,000) and increasingly India (173,000).

A University of Sydney, Australia, professor warned this month that post-secondary institutions in his country and elsewhere risk “catastrophic” financial shortfalls by relying so heavily on students from China, who make up about 40 per cent of the total in that country. One-fifth of the University of Sydney’s budget, for instance, depends on the cohort from China, says Salvatore Babones.

Since Canada and Australia are two of the world’s most sought-after destinations for international students from China, Babones is not surprised the Trudeau government is promising to change the foreign-student ratio by spending $30 million to recruit more young people from countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Ukraine, France and Turkey.

“As in Australia, these marketing plans are part of a ‘diversification strategy’ intended to dilute the risk that an adverse event — for example, a suspension in the convertibility of the yuan or a major recession in India — that might suddenly result in a revenue shortfall at universities,” Babones said by email.

“When universities and governments think of international students as a revenue source, these kinds of perverse policies start to seem natural. The proper role of international students is to diversify and enrich campus culture, not to support universities with their tuition money.”

Babones’s report, titled The China Student Boom and the Risk it Poses to Australian Universities, does not focus on how various political tensions could also reduce the number of students from mostly well-off Chinese families who head to English-language schools.

However, an overwhelming majority of Canadians, according to recent polls by Nanos and others, increasingly don’t trust China’s leaders, who in turn, in the midst of a trade war with the U.S. and Canada, are issuing various warnings against their citizens travelling to North America. Some politicians in India, in addition, are also worrying about a student brain drain to Canada.

Stresses are also escalating on some North American campuses because of a flurry of news reports maintaining that some students from China are attempting to intimidate people with roots in either Tibet or protest-filled Hong Kong.

In B.C., Chinese nationals comprise about 40 per cent of the 153,000 foreign students at all levels in the province, most of whom are in Metro Vancouver.

University of B.C. officials confirmed Friday that students from China make up by far their largest international cohort. In the recent school year, UBC enrolled 6,281 students with Chinese citizenship, taking in $184 million from their fees, which are three to four times higher than that of domestic students.

That adds up to 44 per cent of the $414 million collected from all of the 17,200 foreign students at UBC, which has annual revenues of $2.7 billion. Asked if the number of applicants from China is declining, a UBC official said there was sharp growth up to 2019, but that “according to global forecasting trends, it’s possible this growth will slow in future years for a variety of reasons.”

Across the city at Simon Fraser University, officials provided data showing the institution’s 3,078 students from China make up 46 per cent of all international students — who in total paid $126 million in fees in the 2018-19 school year. That is 16 per cent of SFU’s annual revenues.

“We are not over-reliant on international tuition, but we do carefully monitor the situation,” said a senior director of student services at SFU, Leanne Dalton.

Despite the financial vulnerabilities associated with Canadian educational institutions leaning on offshore nationals from China, India and elsewhere, the federal Liberal government has made welcoming more foreign students a major theme in its election campaign.

In addition to saying it intends to recruit more students from beyond India and China, Liberal cabinet ministers toured the country in August to expound on a series of news announcements that foreign students pump $21.6 billion into the economy and “support almost 170,000 jobs for Canada’s middle class.”

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen upped the emphasis on the issue by maintaining the total number of foreign students is even higher than 572,000, the figure most often cited in government documents.

“In 2018, more than 721,000 international students studied in Canada,” Hussen claimed in August. The immigration minister’s much larger foreign-student totals surprised and perplexed educational officials contacted by Postmedia, including specialists at the Canadian Bureau for International Education.

If Hussen’s announced new total is accurate, it means that since 2014, when 330,000 international students were in the country, the number has jumped by 391,000. And he is looking beyond China and India to bring in more to boost the GDP.

Source: Douglas Todd: Over-reliance on students from India and China sparks Ottawa reaction

China and the Difficulties of Dissent (University of Queensland)

Lessons and implications for Canada, particularly universities and academics:

…The University Takes Sides

Following a successful social media campaign, these confrontations caught the attention of local and internationalmedia, and the pro-Hong Kong camp decided to protest again. Amid Facebook and Twitter wars freely available to the reader (particularly UQ Stalkerspace), it became clear that Chinese nationalists were making threats of violence against pro-Hong Kong protestors. Even the Chinese consulate in Brisbane got involved, sending a message of support to “patriotic” Chinese protestors, a clear indication of how Beijing likes to deploy its “soft” power.

Quite rightly, the University of Queensland decided to act. Unfortunately, UQ shares a great deal of commercialised intellectual property with fascist China. It has even promoted a Chinese diplomatic representative to the post of adjunct professor without advertising the fact. It was therefore not entirely surprising that, when the university did finally act, it was against free speech.

First, they attempted to shut down future protests by threatening the enrolment of the protest’s student leaders. The pro-Hong Kong students would be “held responsible” for any violence in a future protest and potentially expelled. In effect, Chinese nationalists were handed a “heckler’s veto”—they were free to cause disruption, secure in the knowledge that the university would silence the speakers, not those disrupting them. The university said it was acting in the interests of safety. Fortunately, the protestors refused to be intimidated, and plans went forward for the protest.

In a final gambit, the University of Queensland decided it would allow the protest but wanted it moved, away from everyone else and away from the plaque commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which is where it was due to be staged. Again, the protestors refused to back down and the protest went ahead. By now, the issue had become wider than Hong Kong.

The Fragility of Collective Action

The media attention generated by the first two groups of students and their allies caused other dissidents to emerge from the shadows. Free speech advocates, Taiwanese, Uighurs, Falun Dafa practitioners, and Tibetans came out in support of the Hong Kongers and their protest, and soon formed a tiny but determined coalition. Their enemy, however, had changed.

Originally, the enemy had been the Confucius Institute on campus and the extradition bill in Hong Kong; now, it was now the University of Queensland, the Confucius Institute and its propaganda, the lack of transparency regarding Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence, Vice-Chancellor Peter Høj, and the Chinese nationalists on campus. By the time the protestors gathered a second time, they had various speakers arranged from China’s persecuted minorities, Australia’s own left-wing political parties, and a woman from Hong Kong. As if that wasn’t broad enough, the Taiwanese (ROC) flag was hung above a nearby building, emphasising the common struggle of those threatened by the CCP.

Chants were directed against the oppression of the Uighurs, Tibetans, Hong Kong, and Falun Dafa. Former Greens senator Andrew Bartlett said in his speech that these events should be understood in the broader context of Chinese influence, UQ and freedom of speech, digital surveillance, and colonialism. There were land acknowledgements to the Aboriginal people of Australia, who were neither present nor lending any support to the protest. There were party policies on free speech read aloud to little fanfare or resonance. And there was a speech on the executions and organ harvesting of Falun Dafa practitioners which (if I read the mood correctly) was treated with incredulity and disbelief.

China’s government teaches its people that all dissent against its policies is ultimately directed towards the breakup of the country, and the protest served that narrative perfectly. Protestors really did shift from “close the Confucius Institute” and “withdraw the Hong Kong extradition bill” to “free Hong Kong, free Xinjiang, free Tibet, free Taiwan, free Falun Dafa” in a single move. I agree with all of those aims, but that is exactly why the Chinese nationalists on campus are hypersensitive to any protest movement, to any sense of dissent, to anyone who dares delegitimise the CCP, to anyone who opposes the dictatorship.

In such circumstances, even more moderate Chinese nationalists, who may not be enamoured by many of China’s internal policies, will line up to defend the regime. The status quo seems much more attractive to the average Chinese person than the anarchy they (falsely) think is demanded by liberalisation protest movements. Collective action is fragile and vulnerable to fragmentation, and leftwing protestors who had initially shown solidarity with Hong Kong broke away. UQ’s Socialist Alternative student group refused to back the protest, fearing that somehow it would be hijacked by racists, a fear which proved unfounded.

The Protestors Lose Control of the Narrative

As protestors gathered for the second protest, I saw two curious and unrelated things which I suspected would become related and consequential. First, I watched a man with a deliberately insulting, profane, homophobic sign directed at China’s dictator, Xi Jinping, being led away by police. Second, I watched a Caucasian reporter conduct interviews which appeared to be aimed at creating a pro-China angle.

The interviewer was a left-wing, pro-communist journalist eager to conflate protests against China’s government with racism, and to ignore the depredations of Chinese fascism. The protest, he reported, was “ugly,” and the presence of a former Greens senator was a “cynical effort to put on a more favourable face” on Australian racism. When the protestor with the profane sign was arrested, no one from the protest movement followed him, supported him, or attempted to interfere with his arrest. Indeed, when someone pointed out the arrest taking place, two of the protest organisers urged people to “ignore him” and reiterated “he’s not with us.” However, because the arrest was the only piece of action that day, a media scrum ensued and the headlines followed.

The pro-China Left had a field day, and used that protestor to tarnish everyone else as racists and homophobes, and, naturally, fascists. The Tibetans and Greens in attendance had been duped and used, the argument went. This was all dismayingly predictable. No matter how often the speakers reiterated their commitment to universal human rights and their opposition to the CCP not the Chinese people, their reassurances only succeeded in making them sound defensive. The pro-Hong Kong protestors had been drawn into a bitter squabble with the leftists who ought to have been their allies against Chinese fascism. Their battle has been lost.

A similar argument now prevails in academia, where scholars cannot shake the reputation of being “anti-Chinese” or racist simply for criticising China’s rather open attempts to influence Australian politics. Their battle is probably also lost.

The Danger is Real

Interestingly, and contrary to expectations, the pro-Beijing counter-protestors and most of the Hong Kongers decided to stay away from the second protest. This was not providence—at least, not in every case. Several Hong Kongers were told by family or friends not to attend. Several people reported visitations by the local branch of China’s party representatives. These representatives are either Australian residents or Chinese students who act as informants and messengers for the regime. The message from the Chinese government seemed to be that it was best to stay away entirely, rather than create more publicity in defence of the regime. The absence of the counter-protestors was, in its own way, a fascinating look into Beijing’s ability to discipline its own people in other countries.

Of course, this isn’t new or surprising. Chinese students have been known to report anti-Beijing activists directly to their embassy, and there have been concerns about China’s leverage of its students here for a long time. China’s diplomats in Australia have even been recorded explaining to a Chinese-Australian audience in great detail how “they are at war” and their job as soldiers for China is to influence the Australian political system. The danger is real. Given that China is a country that arrests you if you want to vote, unionise, or criticise the Party, it would be rather surprising if there were no risk involved in allowing China unfettered access to our politicians, academics, infrastructure, and markets.

Source: China and the Difficulties of Dissent

Hong Kong tensions reach B.C’s Simon Fraser University as notes, posters supporting protests partly torn down

Suspect we will see more of these tensions:

Tensions from protests in Hong Kong appear to be spilling over onto campuses around the world, including a university in British Columbia, where a student-organized campaign supporting Hong Kong demonstrators was disrupted.

Last week at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus, Hong Kong international students and peers who have ties to the territory put up a “Lennon Wall” – a message board full of posters and colourful sticky notes that mainly express solidarity with Hong Kong’s demonstrators. According to some students, these notes, bearing messages such as “Stay with Hong Kong” and “Fight for Hong Kong,” were partly torn down three nights in a row.

There also was unrest at a university in Australia last week, where disagreements on the Hong Kong political turmoil turned violent. As seen in footage circulated on social media, punches were exchanged at the University of Queensland between pro-Beijing students and those who back the Hong Kong protesters, who began marching to oppose China’s proposal to extradite criminal suspects to the mainland.

Some SFU students from Hong Kong said they were disappointed to see those notes being ripped off.

“When the wall got destroyed, [I was] not surprised, but I am just disappointed, really disappointed,” said Michael Chan, president of SFU Hong Kong Society, who is familiar with the incident even though his group didn’t start the wall.

Mr. Chan said damaging the wall infringes on freedom of speech, and he calls on the university to protect such rights on campus.

Taylor Cheng, who left a note on the wall, said she hopes the vandals would express their opposition in a more respectful way. “I thought everyone could communicate in a civilized, well-mannered way,” she said, adding the incident has been reported to the university.

SFU spokesperson Adam Brayford said on Sunday the Campus Public Safety is looking into the vandalism reports.

Rummana Khan Hemani, SFU’s vice-provost and associate vice-president of students and international pro-tem, said the university expects students to express their views in a lawful and respectful manner. “We do not know if these specific posters were approved to be posted. However, the removal of approved posters or unapproved posters in a disrespectful manner is not acceptable,” she said in a statement.

So far, it is not clear who damaged the wall. Both Mr. Chan and Ms. Cheng have seen screenshots from a large SFU student group chat on WeChat that some students are critical of such campaigns and condemned Hong Kong separatism.

The incident has left Mr. Chan and Ms. Cheng with concerns that if tensions escalate on their campus, there may be violence similar to what happened in Queensland. “I don’t want SFU to become the second University of Queensland incident,” Ms. Cheng said.

Mr. Chan said he is worried that some messages on the wall may irritate some students from mainland China who may hold different views on the issue. “They may be angry. … I am worried this kind of [violent] situation may happen,” he said.

William Chen, a third-year student at SFU who is from mainland China, said the Lennon Wall campaign generates “a barrier” between him and some of his Hong Kong friends.

“My first reaction was sad rather than angry,” he said. “The conflicts in Hong Kong happened because some Hong Kong people are unsatisfied with some policies set by China. [But I wonder] who spread the anger to here.”

He said the campaign does not represent the views of all students from Hong Kong and may increase the tension between students from the territory and mainland. He further added that some mainland Chinese students may think these messages encourage Hong Kong independence.

Jia Tiancheng, a student from Douglas College in the Vancouver area, said if the posted notes are purely showing support for the protesters, then they’re acceptable. But if some contain radical political opinion, then it’s just “expressing rage.”

Mr. Jia, who is from Harbin, a city in northern China, said since the extradition bill has been suspended, Hong Kong protesters should have achieved their goal. But the continuing protests that demand the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, and the complete withdrawal of the bill doesn’t benefit the city.

Students from Hong Kong and mainland China all expressed their longing for more understanding and communication.

“Hong Kong students are fighting against the extradition law, and is not trying to fight for Hong Kong to become an autonomous country, nor are we attacking Chinese people, “Ms. Cheng said.

“Hong Kong students welcome dialogue and discussion. We are not going against the fact that there will be different political stakes on the issue.”

Mr. Chen said many students from mainland China usually do not care about political issues, however, in this case, he agrees that some mainland Chinese students believe Hong Kong people are using protests to promote Hong Kong independence.

“They find it surprising: why Hong Kong wants independence,” he said.

“There has to be a good communication between students from Hong Kong and China, otherwise, the conflicts are inevitable.”

Source:     Hong Kong tensions reach B.C’s Simon Fraser University as notes, posters supporting protests partly torn down Xiao Xu July 29, 2019     

Immigration: les étudiants étrangers diplômés au Québec expulsés de la voie rapide

Not a great way to communicate the change, nor explain it:

Sans faire de bruit, le gouvernement de François Legault vient de suspendre un programme qui permettait aux étudiants étrangers diplômés d’une université québécoise d’immigrer par la voie rapide.

L’annonce a été faite par le truchement de la Gazette officielle du Québec, publiée hier. On apprend dans ce document hautement technique la suspension temporaire immédiate du programme qui permet depuis 2010 aux nouveaux diplômés d’obtenir en quelques semaines seulement un certificat de sélection du Québec, premier pas vers l’obtention de la résidence permanente au pays.

Interrogée par La Presse, l’attachée du ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion a expliqué que la suspension se terminera le 1er novembre et fait partie de la refonte du système d’immigration par le gouvernement de la Coalition avenir Québec.

Un autre volet du Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ) – nom donné au processus d’immigration accéléré -, qui vise les travailleurs étrangers occupant un emploi au Québec depuis plus d’un an, est maintenu.

« Étant donné la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre, le gouvernement a décidé de donner la priorité aux travailleurs qui occupent déjà un emploi au Québec. Ils répondent rapidement à nos besoins », affirme Élisabeth Gosselin.

Lorsque La Presse a demandé comment des travailleurs déjà embauchés pouvaient avoir un plus grand impact sur les 120 000 postes à pourvoir au Québec que des étudiants fraîchement diplômés, l’attachée de presse de Simon Jolin-Barrette a affirmé que la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre serait « pire si ces travailleurs [déjà en poste] quittent » le Québec.

Mme Gosselin ajoute que malgré la suspension, ceux qui ont obtenu un diplôme récemment n’ont pas nécessairement à déménager hors du Québec. Ces derniers peuvent demander un permis de travail temporaire, fait-elle valoir.

« En catimini »

L’annonce de la suspension du programme a fait bondir l’opposition officielle à Québec. « Le gouvernement a fait ça en catimini. Il y a eu des annonces la semaine dernière sur l’immigration : pourquoi ne pas avoir parlé de la suspension d’une partie du Programme de l’expérience québécoise, un programme qui fonctionne très bien ? », tonnait hier Dominique Anglade, députée de Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne et candidate à la direction du Parti libéral. « C’est un gouvernement qui pense à court terme, sans vision. Cette annonce va être dommageable pour l’image du Québec à l’international à long terme », dit celle qui a été présidente et directrice générale de Montréal international avant de faire le saut en politique.

Président de l’Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration (AQAADI), Guillaume Cliche-Rivard était incrédule hier. « Tout ça est une conséquence des seuils d’immigration revus à la baisse par le gouvernement. Couper dans le programme destiné aux étudiants étrangers avec un diplôme du Québec et qui parlent français n’a aucun sens, se désolait hier l’avocat. Toutes les sociétés occidentales veulent que les étudiants formés chez eux restent. On envoie vraiment le mauvais message à ceux qui veulent venir étudier au Québec. »

Selon lui, la suspension du programme rendra les universités québécoises – qui recherchent sans cesse de nouveaux étudiants étrangers – moins attrayantes.

À Montréal international, l’une des organisations mises à profit par le gouvernement précédent pour convaincre un plus grand nombre d’étudiants étrangers de rester et de travailler au Québec après leurs études, on disait ne pas s’inquiéter de l’annonce gouvernementale. « Ce qui a été annoncé nous réjouit. Les étudiants étrangers peuvent toujours obtenir un visa de travail. Ce qui est important pour nous, c’est que les travailleurs et les étudiants étrangers qui viennent au Québec ne soient pas freinés lorsqu’il est temps d’obtenir un permis temporaire », a dit hier Christian Bernard, vice-président aux affaires économiques et aux communications.

Un programme populaire

C’est le gouvernement de Jean Charest qui avait mis sur pied le Programme de l’expérience québécoise en 2010 afin de donner rapidement un statut d’immigration permanent aux travailleurs qualifiés temporaires et aux étudiants étrangers qui ont terminé leurs études dans la province. Pour y être admissibles, les demandeurs doivent avoir une bonne connaissance du français.

Depuis 2015, le gouvernement du Québec a déployé des programmes spéciaux pour convaincre davantage d’étudiants étrangers de s’installer au Québec après leurs études, notant un retard important sur la rétention des diplômés par rapport à d’autres provinces, dont l’Ontario, ou encore en se comparant à d’autres pays d’immigration, dont l’Australie et les États-Unis.

En 2018, 10 711 personnes ont été sélectionnées pour l’immigration par le Québec grâce au PEQ, soit près du cinquième des 55 000 immigrants reçus dans la province l’an dernier. De ce nombre, la moitié – soit 5146 – était composée de récents diplômés. En 2019, 8052 personnes ont déjà reçu le feu vert du Québec par le truchement du PEQ, dont 3226 diplômés. Or, le gouvernement de la CAQ a abaissé à 40 000 le seuil d’immigration du Québec pour 2019.


Deux fois plus d’étudiants étrangers

De 2009 à 2018, le nombre de permis d’études délivrés à des étrangers a doublé au Québec. En 2018, ils étaient 70 060. De ce nombre, 5146 ont fait une demande d’immigration auprès du gouvernement du Québec. En général, le Québec retient environ 20 % des étudiants étrangers après l’obtention d’un diplôme. Le gouvernement libéral voulait doubler ce pourcentage.

« Par leur expérience préalable au Québec, [les diplômés et les travailleurs qualifiés temporaires] ont déjà amorcé leur processus d’intégration au marché du travail et à la société québécoise, ce qui en fait des candidats de choix à l’immigration permanente. »

– Extrait du document Planification de l’immigration au Québec pour la période 2020-2022 produit en 2019 par le ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion

ICYMI – Douglas Todd: China’s long surveillance arm thrusts into Canada

Chinese students understandably do not wish to be openly critical of the Chinese government. But it is another matter when they try to shut down or intimidate persons critical of China or Chinese policies:


The only hope is this culture of watchfulness doesn’t always work. A University of B.C. professor who specializes in Asia tells me how an apparent culture of subjugation is playing out on campus.

The majority of the many students from China that the professor comes across are self-censoring.

They don’t go to possibly contentious events about China. They don’t speak out in classes. A few patriotic ones feel it’s their duty to criticize the professor for exposing them to material that does not hold the world’s most populous country in a positive light. A few very privately offer the faculty member their thanks for the chance to hear the truth.

“Mostly, however, I find my undergrads in particular to be profoundly uninterested in politics and proud of their country’s rise,” said the professor, who, like many academic specialists on China these days, spoke on condition of anonymity. Metro Vancouver campuses host almost 50,000 of the more than 180,000 students from China in Canada.

Mandarin-language students in Canada are “the major beneficiaries of the rise” of China, said the professor. “They don’t want to rock the boat and the more aware ones are discreet about their critiques. They have decided to tread carefully, which suggests a consciousness that they could be under surveillance.”

If that is the look-over-your-shoulder reality for students from China in B.C., imagine how it is for those on some American and Ontario campuses, which have had high-profile outbreaks of angry pro-China activism.

National Post reporter Tom Blackwell has covered China’s recent interference in Canadian affairs. He’s dug into how University of Toronto student president Chemi Lhamo was barraged with a 11,000-name petition from people with Chinese names, demanding she be removed. Raised in Tibet, which China dominates, Lhamo was also targeted by hundreds of nasty texts, which Toronto police are investigating as possibly criminal threats.

A similar confrontation occurred in February at McMaster University in Hamilton, where five Chinese student groups protested the university’s decision to give a platform to a Canadian citizen of Muslim Uyghur background. Rukiye Turdush had described China’s well-documented human-rights abuses against more than a million Uyghurs in the vast province of Xinjiang in China.

The animosity and harassment is escalating. Even longtime champions of trade and investment in Canada from China and its well-off migrants are taken aback. Ng Weng Hoong, a commentator on the Asian-Pacific energy industry, is normally a vociferous critic of B.C.’s foreign house buyer tax and other manifestations of Canadian sovereignty.

But Ng admitted in a recent piece in SupChina, a digital media outlet, that Chinese protesters’ in Ontario “could shift Canadians’ attitude toward China to one of outright disdain and anger at what they see is the growing threat of Chinese influence in their country.”

It certainly didn’t help, Ng notes, that the Chinese embassy in Ottawa supported the aggressive protesters. “The story of Chinese students’ silencing free speech and undermining democracy in Canada,” Ng said, “will only fuel this explosive mix of accusations.”

Some of the growing mistrust among Canadians and others has emerged from multiplying reports of propaganda and surveillance in China.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, is attempting to control followers through a dazzling new app, with which China’s Communist Party members are expected to actively engage. The New York Times is reporting China has been swabbing millions of Uyghur Muslims for their DNA, with human rights activists maintaining the genetic samples could be used to track down those not already sent to “re-education” camps.

China’s pressure tactics are also coming down on journalists. The Economist reports students from China trying to enrol in Hong Kong’s journalism school are being warned against it by their fearful parents. They’re begging their offspring to shun a truth-seeking career that would lead to exposing wrongdoing in China, which could result in grim reprisals against the entire family.

Within the Canadian media realm there are also growing private reports that Mandarin-language Chinese journalists at various news outlets across this country are being called into meetings with China’s officials, leading some Chinese reporters to ask editors to remove their bylines from stories about the People’s Republic of China and its many overseas investors.

It’s always wise to be wary of superpowers. But China’s actions are cranking suspicion up to new levels. Compared to the flawed United States, which somehow still manages to win grudging admirers around the world, China’s surveillance tactics are making it almost impossible for that country to develop soft power with any appeal at all.

While some observers say many of the people of China are primed for more reform, openness and media freedom, it’s clear the leaders of China have in the past year been going only backwards, intent on more scrutiny and repression.

Source: Douglas Todd: China’s long surveillance arm thrusts into Canada

Angry over campus speech by Uighur activist, Chinese students in Canada contact their consulate, film presentation

Crossing the line and a reminder of the role the Chinese embassy and consulates appear to be playing with respect to some of the Chinese students in Canada:

The news of a talk by a Uighur activist spread quickly on campus, ricocheting across WeChat, the Chinese messaging app.

A group of Chinese students at McMaster University, in Ontario, learned that Rukiye Turdush, a vocal critic of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighurs, was set to deliver a presentation about the mass internment of Muslims in China’s far northwest.

The students were furious that a woman they considered a separatist would be given a platform to speak. So they rallied in a chat group and reached out to a familiar source of guidance: the Chinese government.

As Turdush gave her presentation that afternoon, a student in the audience filmed her, and later shouted at her before storming out.

Students wrote in a WeChat group that they contacted the Chinese Embassy about the event and were told to see whether university officials attended and whether Chinese nationals had organized the talk. They later wrote that they sent photos to Chinese officials.

In the following days, Chinese student groups published a “bulletin report” about Turdush’s talk. The bulletin, which was co-signed by five McMaster student groups, including the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), noted contact with the Chinese Consulate in Toronto.

The incident at McMaster was pieced together using records of a group chat conducted in Chinese and translated by The Washington Post, interviews with three people who attended the event, video footage, and the bulletin.

It offers a vivid example of how Chinese students have grown into a vocal and coordinated force on Western campuses, monitoring and pushing back against speech they deem critical of China. It is of particular note because it is unusual to find written evidence of apparent coordination with officials.

Though student organizing and heated debate are common and important parts of campus life, contact with the Chinese Consulate may cross a line, experts said, and will no doubt renew questions about the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to influence foreign institutions, including universities.

“As with many things involving China, there is a continuum, running from what is acceptable to not acceptable,” said David Mulroney, who served as Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012.

Students rallying around a cause is absolutely acceptable, he said, but coordination with diplomats generally goes beyond normal involvement. “The fact they want to know which academics attend hints at desire to stop academic freedom,” he said.

Multiple calls to the Chinese Consulate in Toronto went unanswered. The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a written request for comment. Reached by phone, two men in the embassy’s education section declined to discuss the incident.

Gord Arbeau, director of communications at McMaster, said the school was aware of the incident but was still looking into exactly what happened.

“We are concerned if anyone felt they would be under surveillance while attending an event on campus,” he said. “This would not be in keeping with our principles of free speech and respectful dialogue that we uphold at McMaster.”

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, there were more than 140,000 students from China in Canada in 2017.

As the number of Chinese students at foreign universities has grown, educators have expressed concern that student activism carried out with the support or direction of Chinese officials could corrode free speech by making students and scholars, particularly those with family ties to China, afraid to criticize the Communist Party.

This week, more than 10,000 people signed a petition trying to block a Tibetan woman from running for student president at the University of Toronto at Scarborough, because of her pro-Tibetan social media posts. The case was written up in Communist Party-run nationalist media in China.

 In 2017, students at the University of California at San Diego, after reportedly consulting with the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, mounted large protests condemning the university for naming as commencement speaker the Dalai Lama — the Tibetan spiritual leader who is considered a separatist and anathema by the Chinese government.

 The protests come at a time when the ruling Communist Party under President Xi Jinping has ratcheted up nationalist and ideological education within China, outlawed historical criticism of the party, and moved to purge Western influence from textbooks.

Xi in 2016 called on students studying abroad to serve their country. The same year, the Chinese Education Ministry issued a directive calling for a “contact network” connecting “the motherland, embassies and consulates, overseas student groups, and the broad number of students abroad” and ensuring that they will “always follow the Party.”

There are students who came of age in the Xi era who may see defending government positions and working with officials as natural and necessary, experts said.

“Among some Chinese students who just came from China, they are so used to the government telling them what to do all the time, they need to seek guidance,” said Lynette Ong, an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

The McMaster incident took place Feb. 11, when a user named “Mr. Shark” shared a picture of a brochure for Turdush’s talk with a large WeChat group of Chinese-speaking students.

People participating in the chat expressed disbelief that their government operated mass detention centers, saying they had not seen Chinese news reports about them. (The centers have been widely covered in international media, but many of these reports are censored in China.)

Other students suggested calling the Chinese Consulate. Mr. Shark, meanwhile, added more than 100 other students to the group chat to bring Turdush’s talk to their attention.

In a conversation with a Post reporter on WeChat, Mr. Shark, who said he is studying engineering and declined to provide more personal details or his real name, said many Chinese students felt that criticism of their country amounted to an attack on themselves.

He said he had no connection to the government and was motivated by a sense of anger. Many of the other students were in fact disappointed that their embassy did not speak up forcefully to condemn Turdush, he said, adding that Chinese students “should rationally express our point of view and let our embassy know this event exists.”

He did not believe freedom of speech on campuses applied to Turdush, he said, because the issue in Xinjiang, the autonomous territory in northwest China where most Uighurs live, has already been “elevated to an ethnic issue.”

“It’s no longer purely an issue about a country or politics,” he said. Turdush “is stirring ethnic hatred.”

When asked whether he thought university campuses should provide a forum for other polarizing issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said he had no opinions about politics. He chided a Post reporter, who is of Chinese descent, for thinking like a “baizuo” — Chinese Internet slang meaning “white liberal.”

“We study-abroad students don’t know anything about politics, we just know our personal interest and our sense of belonging to our nation,” he said. “If other people hurt us, smear us, we have to counterattack.”

 On Wednesday, several Chinese student organizations put out a joint statement reproaching McMaster for hosting a “separatist” critic of the Chinese government and demanded that the university uphold its “duty of supervision.”

In a statement, McMaster’s Muslim Students’ Association and Muslims for Justice and Peace, the groups that organized the event, said they are “highly concerned” by what they called an attempt to silence coverage of human rights issues on campus.

Turdush, the activist, said the experience left her unnerved.

As she was set to begin, she said, she saw a student standing at the back of the room, filming the door. As she delivered her presentation, she noticed another student filming her. “I felt like he was sent by the consulate to distract me,” she said.

She worried that people filming and potentially reporting students or scholars to Chinese officials could threaten academic freedom.

 “Uighurs are sending me messages,” Turdush said, “They ask, ‘How can these guys do this in Canada?’ ”

Source: Angry over campus speech by Uighur activist, Chinese students in Canada contact their consulate, film presentation