Queen's Park approved Western's COVID-19 Readiness Plan, welcoming international students back to campus who were previously barred from entering the country before March's lockdown.
Western's president Alan Shepard said the plan — approved Nov. 17 — impacts hundreds of students, who are now able to enter Canada in time for second semester, assuming they can demonstrate a plan to quarantine.
The federal government first updated its travel regulations in July, an attempt to expedite the process for international students’ entry to Canada — but international students who didn't have a visa before March were blocked from entry until the university had a plan in place.
Western International has been hard at work developing a readiness plan that fits in with the provincial government’s guidelines to allow students to return under the most recently revised federal regulations for international students.
The Oct. 20 regulation was a result of schools' successful efforts in lobbying the federal and provincial governments on behalf of international students, according to associate vice-president and vice-provost of Western International, Britta Baron prior to Ontario approving Western's plans.
“Not a lot of students qualified for the March 18 deadline [for a visa],” according to Baron, which was a catalyst for lobbying the government to relax their entry policies.
Students who did not have their visas approved before the Mar. 18 date and could not prove their travel was “non-discretionary or non-optional” were refused entry. Western’s readiness plan replaces the need for visa approval before Mar. 18 and allows students who were not approved earlier in the year entry to the country.
Western’s COVID-19 Readiness Plan outlines the procedures the school has in place for ensuring the safe return of these students. The government looked to post-secondary institutions to ensure plans for quarantine and food delivery and provide information about health insurance, how to stay healthy for international students planning to return and financial assistance for housing and food, all of which is included in the university’s plan.
Western’s plan is also flexible allowing students to quarantine at their own preferred location as long as they communicate the steps they are taking to follow government guidelines to the university, though Western also stresses the benefits of using the Western-based program upon arrival.
“We have talked to other institutions such as the University of Alberta and other Ontario universities to develop Western’s plan,” Baron said. “[The top priority being the] safe return of students to campus.”
Western continues to advocate for the safe entry of international students to the country to ensure that students who have had to alter their plans are supported for re-entry and can return to campus as soon as possible under these new guidelines.