Evidence of meeting #18 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was international.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Emma Rose Bienvenu  As an Individual
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Marie-France Lafleur
Babacar Faye  President, University of Ottawa Students’ Union
Timothy Gulliver  Advocacy Commissioner, University of Ottawa Students’ Union
Bryn de Chastelain  Board Chair, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations
Jade Marcil  President, Quebec Student Union
Matt Reesor  President, University Students’ Council, Western University
Mackenzy Metcalfe  Vice-President, External Affairs, University Students’ Council, Western University

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you very much.

I'll turn to Mr. Chastelain, please.

3:55 p.m.

Board Chair, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations

Bryn de Chastelain

I would add to this that we are seeing a lot of confusion among students on their eligibility for either the emergency student benefit or the emergency response benefit. I would go beyond looking at unpaid interns on their own and think about a lot of the students who are finding themselves confused as to their eligibility for these programs. In our recent polling, we found that only 47% of students were 100% sure that they were eligible for the emergency student benefit, and in fact we're seeing more than a quarter of students who aren't even sure if they're eligible for any programs. I think there needs to be more work done here to ensure that students are aware of which programs they're eligible for and especially what to do when they may be eligible for both the CERB and the CESB.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Ms. Kwan.

Thank you, Mr. Chastelain.

Next we'll go to Mr. Albas for five minutes.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for the Quebec Student Union representative.

I've heard members from across the country speak about the many issues with the Canada summer jobs program. I can confirm that, in my own constituency, fewer jobs will be supported this year than the year before.

Ms. Marcil, do you think that there will be fewer student jobs across the country this year?

In areas where needs are greater, is this an issue?

3:55 p.m.

President, Quebec Student Union

Jade Marcil

Thank you for your question.

I think that there will be fewer job opportunities. Many businesses can't reopen, particularly in the tourism and leisure sector in general. These sectors usually provide a great deal of employment for students in the summer.

Although the Canada summer jobs program may provide a supplement to some businesses and non-profit organizations, or NPOs, the previous employment rate won't be reached. It's really important to maintain financial measures such as the CESB and the additional amounts to help people with special needs.

Obviously, we know that these jobs won't be available, mainly because of public health measures. We respect this. We must comply with the pace of the reopening.

However, the financial assistance measures must be maintained, at least until the end of August, and perhaps even a little longer, since some seasonal jobs end between August and October. I'm specifically referring to jobs related to outdoor activities.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Thank you.

In your opinion, should the government have increased the budget of the Canada summer jobs program rather than simply supporting fewer jobs, as it has chosen to do?

4 p.m.

President, Quebec Student Union

Jade Marcil

Nonetheless, a number of projects have been supported. Of course, more projects could have been supported. This also depended on the number of applications, which was high. There was also a delay in the intake of applications under the Canada summer jobs program.

Support for more jobs would certainly be welcome, where possible and in certain areas, of course.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Next I will go to the University Students' Council at Western University.

Very simply, Conservatives proposed a program to the government to pair students looking for work with available agricultural jobs. Do you think that program would have been helpful for students?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, External Affairs, University Students’ Council, Western University

Mackenzy Metcalfe

Through the chair, I think students are thankful for any support they are getting from the Government of Canada. However, I think it is important to note that students are pursuing higher education to gain experience in their industries and that students are really interested in gaining meaningful work opportunities so that they can use the degree they are pursuing at post-secondary education.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Lastly, I'd like to go to CASA.

On April 22, the government announced a variety of student programs. One of these was a volunteer incentive called the Canada student service grant. It is now almost two months later. There's no program available for students, and we are already into the summer break. Do you feel the significant delay in rolling out the program is a problem and will it negatively impact students who were waiting to access it?

4 p.m.

Board Chair, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations

Bryn de Chastelain

As you mentioned, there were a number of programs announced on April 22 that positively benefited students. I know that a number of us have been eagerly waiting to see how the Canada student service grant will take shape and what opportunities it will provide students if they are able to receive funding for activities and experience opportunities throughout the summer.

I think it's fair to say that students are looking for work in whatever capacity they can get it right now, and looking for opportunities to gain experience that might be relevant to their field or relevant to their lives moving forward. In that regard, I'm looking forward to seeing a little bit more information on the Canada student service grant and what that will bring for students, what opportunities it will bring and potentially how many students will be able to access it moving forward.

June 12th, 2020 / 4 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

So on this program—

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mr. Albas.

Thank you, Mr. de Chastelain.

If I may, we're going to go to Mr. Kusmierczyk for five minutes, please.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you very much, Chair. I'll be splitting my time with MP Vaughan.

Congratulations, first and foremost, Bryn, on your election to the position of chair of CASA. I really enjoyed meeting CASA in February when they were up on Parliament Hill for their advocacy week. I really enjoyed listening to your views.

In April, when the pandemic was still unfolding, CASA published a document entitled “Safeguarding the Future by Protecting Students: CASA's Advocacy Priorities During COVID-19”. The report listed five priority recommendations, including, for example, creating a CERB student stream and increasing Canada student grants by 40%. I just want to get your feedback. How did our government do in terms of those five priorities listed in that report?

4 p.m.

Board Chair, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations

Bryn de Chastelain

Thank you. It was an honour for students to be able to meet with members such as you in February.

CASA was very happy to see a number of the programs that were implemented on April 22. Most notably, the emergency student benefit has gone on to support a very large number of students already. It's definitely something that's bringing students a lot more comfort through the summer as they continue to need to pay rent on the first of each month and pay their bills as they prepare, hopefully, to go back to school in the fall.

There are definitely some gaps that we still see with these programs. Notably, for the emergency student benefit, we're hoping the federal government will commit to not leaving any student in Canada behind. In that regard, we're hoping to see the emergency student benefit extended to international students to allow them to mitigate some of the challenges they're facing through the summer.

With that, we're hopeful that policy-makers will continue to be aware of some of these gaps that have been created, and hopefully fill some of them to allow more students to be able to have some of their concerns addressed through the summer.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you very much for that answer.

I'm glad that my colleague raised the question of meaningful work experiences for young people. I can tell you work-integrated learning is really critical for students who are looking to get real-world job experience.

We know how critical it is for young people to enter the job market. Since 2015 this government has spent $1.1 billion on work-integrated learning and job experiences for young people. That includes 20,000 spaces this year through the student work placement program, an additional 10,000 placements through the Business + Higher Education Roundtable that we're rolling out, but we also learned from a StatsCan report recently that about one-third of those WILs were cancelled or postponed because of COVID.

I just want to ask you to provide maybe some suggestions or ideas as to how those WILs could be adapted moving forward so they can be carried out.

4:05 p.m.

Board Chair, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations

Bryn de Chastelain

First and foremost, work-integrated learning is becoming a more important part of university education. Students are continuing to look for meaningful experience within their field and how they can integrate that into their university or post-secondary degrees more broadly. In that regard, students are continuing to look for work throughout this period. Regardless of whether students have been able to access the emergency student benefit, the emergency response benefit or other programs, they are continuing to look for employment and experience.

I think as we head back in the fall, looking to expand co-op programs and looking to provide additional opportunities for students to make money during their degree will be important and hopefully allow students to feel comfortable coming back to campus and entering an environment where they will be able to make a little bit of money on top of attending classes and completing their degree requirements.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you very much.

Chair, I will yield the remainder of my time.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Thanks very much.

To Mr. de Chastelain, just to be clear about this, you're aware that international students can qualify for CERB if they have, for example, taken advantage of the 20 hours a week they're allowed to work or may work as part of co-op placements and university courses. Are you aware that international students have been made eligible to apply for CERB if they have earned $5,000 in the last year and have lost employment?

4:05 p.m.

Board Chair, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations

Bryn de Chastelain

Yes, we are aware of that, and one of the challenges we've identified is that a number of international students are restrained by the requirements and their study visas, based on the number of hours they can work.

It can definitely be challenging for international students in particular to find employment during the school year, and so we are hearing about those challenges from a number of our members.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

You're also aware that we've lifted that 20-hour limitation in key sectors, which were declared essential: transportation, food services and a series of other things related to COVID, especially for medical students?

4:05 p.m.

Board Chair, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations

Bryn de Chastelain

We're aware of that, and we think it continues to be important to allow international students to be able to work during the year and receive funding for that so they can use it towards their education.

That said, we still identify a gap for students who have not made over $5,000 in the last year. In most cases they are international students who are staying in Canada in the hope of being able to contribute to our communities and to the campuses they study at, as we go back in the fall.

We're hoping to see similar funding applied to those international students to allow them to feel comfortable coming back to campus in September.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mr. Vaughan and Mr. de Chastelain.

Thanks to all of the witnesses for being with us today. Your insights are greatly appreciated and valued in our work.

We've reached the appointed hour. I wish you all a very good weekend.

The meeting is adjourned.