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Visa rejections frustrate efforts to bring in more international students

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OTTAWA — At a time when Canada is attracting more students from around the world, there are concerns qualified applicants from certain countries are getting turned away because of its visa process.

Most students have been coming to Canada in recent years from India and China. Fazley Siddiq, a University of New Brunswick professor who served as dean of the business department, said visas have been a headache for applicants from countries like Pakistan and Nigeria.

“It’s frustrating for the students, it’s frustrating for universities,” Siddiq said.

“The security checks were so stringent that no one could make it. Or at least, in my experience, very few were given visas.”

He added that the issue has been of particular concern in Atlantic Canada, where some universities are desperate for international students and “bend over backwards” to attract them.

Siddiq said the situation has improved for applicants from Nigeria, but those from Pakistan have continued to see more refusals — in some years eight Pakistanis received acceptance letters from his department but none could get a visa.

Canada wants to draw in more international students as a way to diversify classrooms and increase the economic benefits they bring, which already amount to billions of dollars each year. The economic impacts of foreign students rival Canada’s exports of auto parts, aircraft and lumber.

Pakistan’s High Commission in Ottawa has urged federal government officials to address what its spokesman calls a “very high” visa rejection rate for the Asian country’s students.

“Canadian universities are popular among Pakistani students, but due to visa difficulties increasing numbers of students is turning towards other countries,” Nadeem Kiani said in an email.

“Consequently, Canadian universities are losing both high-quality students and revenue.”

For example, Kiani pointed to numbers in government documents obtained through access-to-information law that show 2015 student permit applications from Pakistan had a success rate of about 32 per cent. The student-permit success rate for applicants from India that year was more than 68 per cent, say the data.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the approval rate for visas for Pakistani nationals has gone up under the Liberal government.

Hussen also said the government will soon announce an expansion to a program — known as the student direct stream — to include applicants from Pakistan. The program, which already covers applicants from China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam, is designed to speed up the processing of student visas.

A spokesman for Hussen said all applications are assessed in a fair manner, based on the merits of the case and in accordance with Canadian law.

“You can’t compare one country to another,” Hussen said in an interview. “Each country has its own country conditions, economic circumstances, people have different travel history.”

The application decisions are made by visa officers. Therefore, a key to helping more students receive permits, Hussen said, is connecting the schools directly to visa offices and embassies to explain the government’s criteria.

It’s also important for applicants to demonstrate they can support themselves financially while in Canada, he said.

Denise Amyot, the head of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said it’s often difficult for students from emerging economies to show that they have financial means to pay for their stays. 

More collaboration between visa offices and post-secondary institutions is also important to ensure applications are complete, she said.

“(The visa officers) don’t have a lot of time when they examine an application, so as soon as there’s a doubt they could reject it,” Amyot said.

“That’s we need to ensure as much as possible that all the info is there and it’s clear, and that there’s integrity to whatever information is there.”

—With files from Teresa Wright

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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Crime

Ontario doctor alleged to have killed 4 people around same date in 2021: documents

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HAWKESBURY, Ont. — Court documents allege an eastern Ontario doctor killed four people around the same date in 2021.

Dr. Brian Nadler was initially charged with first-degree murder last year in the death of 89-year-old Albert Poidinger at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital.

At the time, police said they were investigating the doctor in connection with several other deaths at the hospital.

Ontario Provincial Police laid three additional charges of first-degree murder against Nadler on Wednesday, in the deaths of 80-year-old Claire Briere, 79-year-old Lorraine Lalande and 93-year-old Judith Lungulescu. But they declined to provide details on the new charges, including when and where the three died.

Court documents allege Poidinger was killed on March 25, 2021, and the three others “on or about” that date.

The documents say Briere, Lalande and Lungulescu also died in Hawkesbury, Ont.

Nadler’s lawyers have said their client maintains his innocence.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Brian Greenspan, David Humphrey and Naomi Lutes said Nadler provided “excellent palliative care” to the four patients, who they said died from COVID-19.

The doctor was released on bail in July of last year, and his lawyers said he was released again under the same conditions after his arrest this week.

Those conditions include that Nadler remain in Canada, reside at an approved address and notify police of any address change. He is also forbidden from practising medicine and from communicating with employees, patients and relatives of patients at the Hawkesbury hospital.

The case is set to return to court on Sept. 7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

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Human Interest

Wolf missing from Vancouver zoo found safe, returned to pack

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ALDERGROVE, B.C. — A wolf missing from a British Columbia zoo has been found safe and returned to its pack.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo says in a statement the discovery of the one-year-old female canine known as Tempest puts an end to a three-day search and rescue operation.

It does not say where the wolf was found or elaborate on her condition, but it says the zoo in Aldergrove, B.C., will re-open Saturday.

Menita Prasad, the zoo’s deputy general manager, said Thursday that nine wolves escaped after a perimeter fence and their enclosure were deliberately “compromised.”

Workers and conservation officers began searching for the wolves after the escape was discovered Tuesday morning, while the RCMP is investigating the incident as a suspected case of unlawful entry and vandalism.

A three-year-old female wolf called Chia was found dead on a roadside, while all others have now been accounted for.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

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