Student visas made easier
By Karena Walter
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien emphasized the importance of international students at Canadian universities and introduced measures to attract those students on Wednesday.
"International students bring new ways of thinking to classroom discussions and help give our students a better understanding of the world," Chrétien said. "And when foreign students go back home, they become great ambassadors for Canada."
Chrétien was speaking to about 150 members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada in Ottawa.
The prime minister announced the government will modify medical procedures to make the student visa process easier. Currently, students examined in their country of origin who meet Canadian medical requirements must have additional verification by a Canadian medical officer. However, under a new streamlined process, students who meet the Canadian health requirements would no longer be double-checked by a Canadian officer.
The pilot project will be implemented in four Asian sites Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia.
Western's president Paul Davenport said universities have been pushing for the new measures and he is pleased with the announcement.
"International students bring new experience and new perspective to our classrooms," Davenport said. "The overall objective is to get the Western name abroad."
Western is expecting about 600-700 international students for the 1997/98 school year, about the same as last year, said deputy registrar Rob Tiffin. Statistics Canada reports there were 9,368 foreign students enrolled in Ontario in the 1995/96 year.
Robert Giroux, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, said when educators embarked on the recent Team Canada trade mission they noticed how medical exams caused delays and the new streamlined system cuts down considerably on delays.
"We hope these pilot projects will come into place quickly," Giroux said.
Chrétien also said government investment in knowledge, education and innovation is one of the Liberal's top three priorities child poverty and securing medicare being the others.
"We all felt this was a very positive speech for the universities," Giroux said. "It is a long vision and a very promising speech for relations with the federal government."