Housing protest for international students was a ‘publicity stunt,’ northern Ont. college says
The president of a college in North Bay, Ont., says a recent protest at the school that saw students sleeping in tents was a “publicity stunt” organized by an outside group.
Canadore College president George Burton said many students involved in the protest never planned to go to school in the city, while others actually turned down accommodations the school suggested.
“The tent set up at Commerce Court on the evening of Sept. 6 was nothing short of a publicity stunt, orchestrated by the third party that developed after the students turned down the accommodation options we offered,” Burton wrote in an open letter Wednesday.
“Canadore had access to accommodation for all students who wished to be housed – no student was required to sleep in a car, tent, bus shelter, bus depot, or air terminal unless they chose to do so. To suggest anything different is misguided.”
The September protest made headlines with one student telling CTV News that she had been in the city since June but hadn’t found a place to live.
The story also quoted Laurie Sharpe, a residential leasing administrator with London, Ont.-based Sireg Management Inc.
Sharpe said students from other countries struggled to find a place to live in North Bay.
The president of a college in North Bay, Ont., says a recent protest at the school that saw students sleeping in tents was a “publicity stunt” organized by an outside group. (File)
“One story that stood out was one gentleman who came from Africa and his first night in Canada, he slept at the bus station because he didn't have any place to go," she said.
“Canadore is taking tuition and giving students placement here at the school, but they don't have enough housing for them and I think that's wrong.”
While not commenting at the time of the protests, Burton said Wednesday that Canadore did not leave any student in the lurch. The protest was driven by an unnamed southern Ontario group, he said.
“Many students involved in the demonstration live in southern Ontario and never intended to attend in-person classes in North Bay,” Burton said.
STUDENTS WERE 'MISLED'
Many students were misled into thinking that rent would be $250 a month – an impression “created by outside groups and incorrect information provided by third parties.”
“The students were made aware of the cost of renting a room or an apartment in North Bay as part of the college’s repeated and comprehensive communications,” the letter said.
While Canadore told incoming students to arrange housing as early as possible, Burton said many waited “until the week before classes to begin their search for housing.”
“Although we are prepared for this eventuality, it does take time to manage the influx of last-minute requests for accommodation,” Burton said.
Staff at the bus terminal and airport have been told to contact Canadore if they see any international students sleeping there.
“A member of our security team would have been dispatched to pick up the students and take them to emergency housing,” the letter said.
“No one was left to spend the night in public places.”
In addition to the challenge of finding students a place to live, Burton said the start of the school year was marred by outside influences.
“This year we encountered a number of conflicting agendas, supported by various interests, lobbying for reduced international tuition, low-cost housing, home country politics, and online study access which generated challenges for our staff and students,” he said.
“Canadore is disappointed that a third party, an unrecognized organization from outside our region, involved itself in our efforts to find housing for our international students.”
Burton said students from another post-secondary institution “were agitating the situation, prevented us from interacting directly with those looking for housing, and provided information and advice that was unfounded and contravened the conditions of the students’ study permits.”
In future, he said international students will have to prove they have housing as part of registering for school, beginning with the winter 2024 semester.
Burton didn’t explain what he meant by “home country politics” being a driving force behind the protest, or which third party was agitating behind the scenes.
However, he will address his allegations at a news conference Thursday morning. CTV News Northern Ontario will provide coverage.
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