International students lost millions when three private colleges, including M College in Montreal, CDE College in Sherbrooke and CCSQ College, closed in early 2022. Students have not been able to get their tuition back.
Between 500 and 600 students asked the colleges for refunds before the owners filed for creditor protection.
The affected students paid between $10,000 and $15,000, the CBC reported. In another court filing last year, 633 students sought refunds totaling $6.4 million.
It is not clear how many students in total were affected by the closure, but in February of last year, thousands protested in various parts of Canada.
News reports said students were asking for reimbursement when they were denied or unable to obtain study permits due to the pandemic.
McCarthy Tétrault Law Firm has been appointed to represent the students’ interests in the creditor protection process and is now working on the lawsuit.
Before they closed, M College and CDE College were investigated by the Quebec government for what it called “questionable” hiring practices.
Some of the college’s owners have also been investigated by Quebec’s anti-corruption unit for financial irregularities, as reported by CBC News.
McCarthy Tétrault says the Quebec government should have intervened sooner and that the provincial and federal governments are at least partly responsible for the students not being able to get their money back.
A legal firm told CBC News there is a discrepancy between the provincial legislation and what Immigration Canada is asking students to do.
“Education is a provincial and territorial responsibility”
Quebec law says colleges cannot ask for payment in advance until the start of the school year, but the federal government’s website says students must prove they can afford tuition.
“So the students, in order to get a visa, pre-paid for their studies, not knowing it’s not legal in Québec, and today they’re waiting to be reimbursed,” McCarthy Tétrault partner Alain Tardif told CBC News.
“For us, the federal government—you made those students do something they shouldn’t have done.
A hearing at the Quebec Supreme Court was set for March 27 at the Montreal courthouse.
PIE News contacted the Québec government for comment but did not receive a response.
IRCC told The PIE that the Canadian government knows that international students have a “tremendous economic, cultural and social contribution to Canada.”
“Education is a provincial and territorial responsibility. Educational institutions are approved by their provincial or territorial government to host international students. Provinces and territories inform IRCC which institutions are designated to accept international students,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson explained that a prospective student intending to study in Québec must first apply for confirmation of acceptance to Québec before they can apply for a study permit from IRCC.
“It is important to note that international students do not have to pay for their tuition fees in advance.
“In order to obtain a study permit, they must demonstrate that they have enough money to pay for tuition fees, living expenses for themselves and any family members coming to Canada with them, and return transportation for themselves and any family members to Canada. .
“It is important to note that international students do not have to pay for tuition fees in advance.”
“In general, a study permit holder is expected to remain enrolled at their school and continue to complete their program in Canada.”
A spokeswoman said a study permit holder affected by the school closure was considered to be on “authorised leave”. While the holder of the study permit is on vacation due to the closure of the school, he is not entitled to use the work permit to work on or off campus.
IRCC said students are expected to resume their studies at another institution, apply for a different status (ie, as a worker or visitor) or leave Canada in most cases within 150 days of school closure.
“Foreigners with a valid study permit at the post-secondary level can change schools without having to apply for a new study permit,” the spokeswoman added.
Practices at some private colleges in Canada have recently come under the spotlight.
A charity said private colleges in British Columbia are using “unethical business practices” to deny refunds to international students.