Canadian universities respond to American travel ban

Following the U.S. executive order passed on Jan. 27 that banned immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, several Canadian universities responded with generosity.

Universities such as Brock University, Memorial University, and the University of Calgary issued statements offering financial help to potential students from the affected areas, waiving application fees for international students. Brock University also offered a $1,000 “transition award” to help students move to the university’s main campus.

The University of Ottawa went a step further in their statement and offered to waive international tuition for some students. Law schools at McGill University and the University of Toronto have reopened their application windows for prospective students from the countries targeted by the ban.

Carleton offered support in a statement to those affected by the ban, as well as students going on exchange programs, to ensure their travels occur without any incident.

Dr. Noreen Golfman, Memorial University’s provost and vice-president (academic), said in an e-mail the reason for the university’s decision to waive application fees was to offer some support.

“We want to do whatever we can, as quickly as we can, to help students in the countries affected by these travel restrictions. To us, the application fee waiver seemed like the first, easiest gesture we could make,” Golfman said. “Memorial University is welcoming, inclusive, and an option for all.”

The offers seemed to be effective in attracting the attention of prospective students affected by the ban. As of Feb. 8, Memorial University received 95 applications from students from the affected countries, according to Golfman.

Brock was contacted by 145 applicants from the affected countries, but have yet to determine how many were made after the executive order was issued, according to Jamie Mandigo, Brock’s vice-provost for enrolment management and international.

The American travel ban has since been lifted, with a U.S. federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s order on Feb. 3.

Despite the ban being put on hold, Canadian universities have so far maintained their offers.

“Brock’s offer still stands . . .  and will remain so in case any subsequent court ruling reinstates President Trump’s travel ban,” Mandigo said in an e-mail.

“We understand that this situation is uncertain, and we continue to offer support for those affected by the U.S. travel restrictions,” Golfman said.

Carleton’s office of the vice-president (students and enrolment) said in an email that the university continues to remain committed to helping students affected if the ban is reinstated.

But Howard Duncan, the executive head of Metropolis, an international network of researchers focusing on developments in migration and diversity, said universities should be careful about intervening with government policy.

“You don’t want Canadian institutions going to the US and doing things that ultimately are going to be harmful to US-Canada relations,” Duncan said.

Duncan added that the measures taken by Canadian universities did not step outside any bounds of legitimate action, and that the offers will not affect foreign relations.

“It’s a gesture that indicates to international students that we would welcome their presence here,” Duncan said.

– File photo