Victory for Manitoba’s international students

With their high tuition fees, ineligibility to receive student aid, and lack of employment opportunities, international students in Manitoba should be happy to hear about the provincial government’s recent initiative.

International students in Manitoba, who currently pay approximately $400 per year to cover their health benefits, will no longer have to purchase private health coverage on top of their UMSU Health and Dental fees.

The Manitoba government has announced that international students — whether in high school or attending post-secondary institutions — and their spouses will be covered under Manitoba Health as of April 1, 2012, Health Minister Theresa Oswald confirmed.

“As many other provinces offer coverage already, Manitoba was at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting international students. By aligning our coverage with other provinces, we are able to remain competitive in recruiting international students,” she said.

She noted that this regulation has several “economic benefits for Manitoba” and will encourage more international students to move to Manitoba permanently.
The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) has welcomed the plan to remove mandatory private health insurance for international students.

UMSU president, Camilla Tapp, said that UMSU, along with all the student unions across Manitoba, has been fighting for international student health care.

“We have been talking about international student health care coverage for a quite some time. It was very important because international students are here in large numbers; we wanted to make sure that they are covered by the Manitoba health care,” said Tapp.

Marakary Bayo, Manitoba chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, commented that international students, in addition to their exorbitant tuition fees, are also vulnerable to a host of other costs including housing, study permits, financial prerequisites, travel and health-related expenses.

“Does this sound fair to you?” he asked.
“It is also beneficial to the government because this will encourage more international students to stay and continue to contribute to the economy,” said Bayo.

Bayo noted that in 2010, the presidents of the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, Université de Saint-Boniface and Brandon University submitted letters to the provincial government in support of student campaigns for international student inclusion under provincial health care.

“We are grateful for the support we received on this campaign from all the university presidents and administration,” Bayo said. “This is a good example of university administration and students working together to achieve a tangible goal.”

Ramogi Nyonje, international students’ representatitive on UMSU council, said that it is an exciting time for all students.

“We are very happy and grateful to the government and everybody else who put in a lot of effort to make this happen,” said Nyonje.

He added that tuition fees for international students are three times higher than those charged to Canadian and permanent residents.

“It is always good news when our costs go down, especially for such a crucial service such as healthcare,” said Nyonje.

International students at U of M shared their feelings about free health care coverage with the Manitoban.

Yilang Feng, an international student in the faculty of arts at the U of M, said that international students are contributing to Canadian society by paying taxes like citizens.

“We should be entitled the access to universal health care during our stay in this country,” Feng said.

Feng said that a large proportion of today’s international students are choosing to immigrate to Canada after graduation. Making it easier for them to complete their education will contribute to the well-being of the nation in the long run, she said.

“If the treatment of today’s international students is fair and equal, they are more likely to become responsible citizens of Canada tomorrow,” Feng added.

Weidong Wen, an international student who recently graduated from U of M, said “this is a good trend.”

“I hope more steps will be taken in the future to benefit international students.”.
Salim Bana, an International College of Manitoba student, said that he wants to thank the government for recognizing international students.

“I no longer have to worry about my health insurance and can go to a doctor any time I want.”