I don’t know how many RCMP officers Diane Finley had around her last week when she made it radically easier for international students to work in Canada after they complete their studies, but perhaps we could divert some of our attention from the police escort to the minister’s announcement itself. The Globe paid attention, as did the Windsor Star. Reactions in those articles were quite a bit more enthusiastic than most of the reviews we’ve read lately of the Harper government. “This will put Canada ahead every other country in the world,” said the woman who looks after international students at UBC, while her counterpart at the University of Windsor said: “It is one of the biggest steps forward in immigration regulations in the last 10 years. All my students were jumping for joy as soon as they got the news.”
Certainly, Finley’s work-visa regime is far more ambitious than the one Joe Volpe introduced three years ago, which put most of its benefits out of the hands of students in Canada’s three largest cities — that is, out of the hands of most international students. In a hotly competitive global market for educational services to highly-mobile international students, where other countries are sweetening their policies all the time to attract more immigrant students, Volpe’s restrictions were boneheaded. Finley’s relaxation of work-permit access has already received attention in India.
We have said it before: bright kids can study anywhere in the world, and the most adventurous will. If they stay in Canada after their studies they become highly productive immigrants who already have begun to build the social networks and the familiarity with Canadian society that sometimes elude other newcomers. If they go back home, they will be Canada’s goodwill ambassadors for life. Finley’s other policies have come in for criticism, but this one is bold and smart.