NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan and Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk clashed in the House on cuts to English language programs
Corrigan said: “Three weeks ago hundreds of students came to the Legislature to protest the end of English language programs at several B.C. colleges and universities. The minister dismissed these students’ concerns as fearmongering. Today dozens more students from Camosun College came here to tell the minister, again, that these programs are important.
“My question to the minister is: why is the Minister for Advanced Education doing nothing to save the English language programs that help 9,000 new British Columbians every year build a life here?”
Virk responded: “It’s consistent behaviour that the member opposite continues to mislead the vulnerable new learners …”
After interruptions, Virk continued: “As the member opposite certainly knows, as a result of the changes made by the federal government, they’ve changed the manner in which ESL is provided. In fact, there are over 35 organizations in British Columbia offering English language training at approximately 80 locations. The member opposite certainly can look up those 80 locations and provide that information to her constituents.
“We are working continuously with universities and colleges across British Columbia to find a solution that is sustainable and equitable.”
Corrigan said: “So 9,000 students at post-secondary education institutions are going to be losing their programs, starting with VCC, in December — 9,000 students. I’m wondering what the minister expects these students are going to do once their programs wrap up. Maybe he expects them to enroll in the newly announced Vantage College at UBC, which will offer advanced education for non-English speakers.
“The only problem is you can’t be a Canadian student, and students who can’t afford the $50,000 per year in tuition need not apply either. But we’re not losing Vantage College. We’re losing accessible, inclusive programs for people who live here in British Columbia.
“My question to the minister is: what are you going to do for these students — these 9,000 students a year that are losing their programming?”
Virk replied: “Well, the member opposite is certainly trying to bundle a number of issues. First of all, Vantage College — and the member knows this; the member absolutely knows this — is self-funded entirely by UBC based upon the tuition of international students.
“The member ought to know, as well, that international students provide such an economic value to British Columbia. In fact, these international students provide an economic value to British Columbians. They provide a social value. They provide business connections.
“In fact, let me read something out. Here’s something I’ve read. “They buy food. They buy alcohol — hopefully not too much. They pay for entertainment. They use taxis. They ride on transit. They go to grocery stores. They benefit our economy in a whole bunch of ways.” I didn’t say that. That’s the MLA for Nanaimo that said that. Maybe that side of the House could get their facts straight, and you’d have members that support international students. The rest of these anti-immigrant views here — this is unfortunate.”