ESL cuts translate into layoffs

More than 100 faculty members are to receive layoff notices and 3,000 English language learners will be left in the lurch in 2015, says Karen Shortt, president of Vancouver Community College’s Faculty Association.

VCC says it can only afford to offer one set of settlement English language classes beyond mid December.

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The federally funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program, or LINC, which serves the equivalent of 800 full-time students per year, apart from other English as a second language programming, will be the only stream to continue.

VCC has long been the largest provider of ESL training in Western Canada, typically training 46 per cent of all immigrants who take English language training in B.C.

But Shortt says the Ministry of Advanced Education recently confirmed it would provide VCC no additional funding for ESL courses.

“Under the College and Institute Act, it is the provincial government’s responsibility to train adults,” Shortt said. “And you listen to [Premier] Christy Clark go on about the jobs plan and families, well what’s more basic than being able to speak English and get a job.”

Shortt spoke at a rally organized by the ESL Matters campaign that was launched by faculty and students at VCC on East Broadway Tuesday afternoon.

The federal government announced two years ago that it would no longer transfer money to B.C. to fund ESL courses at post-secondary institutions.

The provincial government announced $10.5 million in “one-time funding” for public post-secondary institutions in B.C. in February and announced an additional $6.7 million for these institutions in April.

Altogether, Shortt says VCC received roughly $8 million, $3 million less than the previous year, while other institutions received their previous year’s amount.

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk wasn’t available to speak to the Courier Wednesday, so the ministry emailed a statement that said, “The transition funding was to facilitate planning for the coming year so the school could make the necessary program changes.”

The statement also says:

  • “The federal government’s decision to cancel after more than 15 years a key portion of the Canada-BC Immigration Agreement, unfortunately, prompted a major change to the delivery of ESL programs at many public secondary institutions.
  • “We made it very clear that B.C. preferred the existing model for the delivery of ESL training.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada is to provide VCC with $9.4 million to fund  six levels of courses through LINC for 2014 to 2016.

A representative of CIC told the Courier in an email that the federal government continues to fund an array of English language courses that are delivered by non-profits, public and private educational institutions.

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