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

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

I'd like to turn quickly to the issue of international students. They've been left out of any support, and there have been tremendous hardships for them. I've been hearing that from my own community as well. Could I get a quick comment from each of you on that? Do you think international students should also get emergency support from the government in this pandemic?

We'll start with you, Mr. Gulliver.

2:50 p.m.

Advocacy Commissioner, University of Ottawa Students’ Union

Timothy Gulliver

Yes, I absolutely agree, Ms. Kwan. We're very concerned about the situation of international students. We're currently waiting on the Canada student service grant eligibility criteria. We're very hopeful that, at the very minimum, they'll be eligible for that. We have lots of concerns on our end, absolutely, with regard to international students.

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you.

Ms. Bienvenu, go ahead, on the same question.

June 12th, 2020 / 2:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Emma Rose Bienvenu

I agree. I would also say a word on the question of whether the student benefit should be the same as the CERB. In my experience, I think it was particularly frustrating for the students who were graduating into the pandemic. They had a job waiting for them that was then cancelled. They were denied the full CERB, because they had not lost a job that they were currently employed in; nonetheless, they did lose one.

I think that merits a second look. I understand the frustration.

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Before we go to Mr. Faye on that last question, I'd like to bridge onto that. Many students are unpaid interns, and some had contracts lined up for prestigious internships. Those contracts got cancelled as a result of COVID. Now they're completely out of luck. They would have been on an unpaid internship. Even though they get a stipend for various allowances and so on, that does not count as income, and therefore they do not qualify for CERB or the student CERB. This has created tremendous hardship.

On that, do you think the government should also rethink the impact on interns to ensure that they get support during this pandemic?

2:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Emma Rose Bienvenu

I do. The way it was designed structurally, as I understand it, was that it was for people who were working and who lost a job, whereas I think what was trying to be expressed was that it was for people if they lost a job. For many students, the way the job market works, particularly for law school, is that they have a job that they have not yet begun. With the timing of the pandemic being right as they were about to graduate into the labour market, often with huge amounts of debt, they lost their jobs but didn't qualify. School wasn't over when this pandemic started really impacting the economy.

There's a lot of frustration on that end, which I understand. I do think the intent was for people whose employment was impacted by COVID-19. They are no longer students, and have lost the jobs they thought they had, but they are still only eligible for the lower student amount.

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Internships should be seen as jobs, and right now they are not.

2:50 p.m.

As an Individual

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you.

Turning to—

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thanks, Ms. Kwan, and thank you, Ms. Bienvenu. We're out of time.

Mr. Vis, you have five minutes, please.

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you, Chair.

I'd like to thank all the witnesses for a great discussion this morning.

Really quickly, Ms. Bienvenu, with regard to your points about Internet access, do you believe Internet service is an essential service?

2:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Emma Rose Bienvenu

Absolutely. I believed it before the pandemic, and I believe it now.

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Do you think it's equitable that first nations especially, and rural Canadians, have disproportionately worse Internet access than other Canadians?

2:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Emma Rose Bienvenu

I think it's a national embarrassment.

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Would access to Internet help alleviate poverty in rural Canada?

2:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Emma Rose Bienvenu

Unquestionably.

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

How do you think the Canadian economy would benefit overall if we provided stable and secure Internet to all Canadians?

2:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Emma Rose Bienvenu

A huge portion of the workforce is being left out of the knowledge base but also economic productivity. That's a loss for everyone.

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Faye and Mr. Gulliver, would you be able to function as productive members of society without access to the Internet?

2:55 p.m.

President, University of Ottawa Students’ Union

Babacar Faye

I don't think I would be, especially considering my meetings every day. I wouldn't be able to do that.

2:55 p.m.

Advocacy Commissioner, University of Ottawa Students’ Union

Timothy Gulliver

Agreed. Absolutely not.

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you. I'm just making those points known. I represent over 30 indigenous communities, and for many of the young people in those communities, that's the reality they face. To Ms. Bienvenu's earlier points about the labour market, that is all very relevant, but as an MP who represents a riding of 22,000 square kilometres with many rural communities that can only be accessed by forest service roads, I can say that they find themselves in a very challenging position, not only normally but especially now, given the COVID-19 pandemic, so thank you for answering my questions on that.

Mr. Faye or Mr. Gulliver, regarding experiential learning and connecting students to the workforce, do you think the federal government could have done a better job of connecting students with work by simply providing direct funding to them through the CESB? Do you think we, as parliamentarians and the government, could have done a better job of incentivizing job-matching programs through the pandemic to help students?

2:55 p.m.

Advocacy Commissioner, University of Ottawa Students’ Union

Timothy Gulliver

Certainly. I also think the reality is that there aren't many jobs in the market right now, so obviously it's extremely concerning.

It's always a challenge. It's actually quite systemic, and that will require a long time to address.

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

In light of many educational institutions planning on offering virtual courses come September, how does the student union at the University of Ottawa feel about the prospect of online learning this fall?

2:55 p.m.

Advocacy Commissioner, University of Ottawa Students’ Union

Timothy Gulliver

It's quite challenging. Online learning has been thrust on us in a way that was completely unexpected. Obviously, the university is working overtime to make it work.

We are especially concerned about students who can't learn online, or as you correctly mentioned, don't have that Internet access. That's very worrisome, and we really want to ensure that there is additional tech support to allow these classes to run seamlessly, which they have not so far.