BURNABY-Hit with a potential total $22 million cut in federal settlement funding through the now cancelled Canada-BC Immigration Agreement, BC colleges delivering English language training have an uncertain future when unexplained changes come into effect on March 31, 2014.
“On April 1st, what happens for all of the students who depend on these services to be successful in their education?” asked CUPE BC President Mark Hancock. “The Federal Government needs to provide some answers.”
The BC Ministry of Advanced Education informed Camosun College on December 2nd of a reduction in base funding of $2.5 million, related to the reduced transfer from the federal government to the Province for ESL programs for domestic, immigrant and new Canadians. The cut exceeds the budget for Camosun English language programming and comes on top of other reductions for the College’s 2014 budget.
“The message it sends to our campus community is disturbing,” said Jerry Oetting, President of CUPE Local 2081 representing education workers at Camosun. “To deny domestic English language training to our resident immigrants is an appalling move considering that this province was built on the backs of immigrant labour.”
Camosun College provides 14 percent of BC’s ESL programming affected by the change, second to Vancouver Community College (VCC) which provides 46 percent of the support to the 9,000 students across the province who depended on ESL resources.
VCC Vice-President Bill Radford updated education worker members of CUPE Local 4627 on December 9th, and claimed the College had received “no information” from the Ministry of Advanced Education regarding the English language training funding loss. On December 10th, BC Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk stated, “public post-secondary institutions are developing transition plans in partnership with the ministry to mitigate the impact on students, staff and faculty.”
“The Local is confused and concerned by this message, or lack of, given the recent announcements from Minister Virk,” said Jo Hansen, CUPE Local 4627 Chief Shop Steward. “Unlike the process at Camosun, there has been no communication at all from VCC President Kathy Kinloch.”
“All levels of government, including the administration of BC’s colleges and universities need to clear the air on this vital issue for thousands of students,” added Hancock.