A Nova Scotia law student said he is “embarrassed” that his home is enacting a rule that sets out separate quarantine rules for international students.
“It’s purely racial discrimination. It’s discrimination based on nationality,” said Ziad Lawen, a third-year student at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law.
Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s University, and Cape Breton University have made it mandatory for international students who are travelling from locations outside Canada to pay from $650 to $1,800 for accommodations to quarantine outside of their own residence. International students who have their own apartment are also asked to either stay on campus or in a hotel for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Some universities, like Dalhousie, do offer financial assistance if the student left Canada before the rules came in.
Lawen’s partner, who asked to be anonymous, is an international student from Lebanon, and is planning to come back to Nova Scotia for the coming semester but the additional fee on top of the rent is making it hard for her to come back.
“My partner is being punished for coming back. And, it’s not just my partner. It’s every international student who is coming back,” said Lawen.
Lawen said it’s really “unjust” that the school rolled out the rule after his partner has left Canada.
“It’s common in law that you can’t retroactively apply this to people. It’s very abusive,” Lawen said, “you have to have a high threshold of justification to do that. There’s no justification.”
Domestic students who are travelling from international locations have not been asked by universities to quarantine at a designated location.
“What is the pure sense of logic? Why is (it that) someone coming from Los Angeles can’t quarantine at home around his family? Is he less susceptible to COVID because he’s an international student?” said Lawen.
In an emailed statement, Dalhousie University said it is ready with a plan in place to accept international students who have been living outside of Canada back to campus.
“The plan was developed in consultation with the Nova Scotia Department of Advanced Education and Labour and in keeping with strict public health precautions,” Janet Bryson, Dalhousie’s associate director of media relations and issues management, said in the email.
The rules laid out by the universities are the product of guidance coming from both federal and provincial governments. International students are under the purview of the federal government, which has asked universities to defer to their provincial health authorities for quarantine regulations around international students.
“So as a province, economically, they’re very important to Nova Scotia. But, the provincial and federal government aren’t treating them like they are,” said Madeleine Stinson, the president of Dalhousie Student Union.
Stinson said Dalhousie University is expecting more international students to come in January.
“I do think we’ll start to see more students facing issues with their return after the new year when the new semester starts,” said Stinson.