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March 23, 2020

Supporting each other through COVID-19

As we all watch attentively for updates from public health authorities in Canada and around the world regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to inform you of the steps we are taking to support the health and safety of our staff, our members, and our partners. We are trying our best to take the steps necessary to help keep people safe and contribute to global efforts to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Firstly, we have made the decision to close our offices in Ottawa until further notice. We want you to know that all CICan staff, while working from home, remain accessible during business hours. Employees will not be travelling and in-person meetings have all been moved online. Though this will require adjustments on all parts, we remain as committed as ever to serving as the national and international voice of Canadian colleges and institutes.

As provinces, territories, cities, and regions have been affected to varying degrees, you have all responded with dexterity. Many of you have moved face-to-face classes online, made alternate arrangements for exams, and restructured in-person recruitment activities, while campuses have switched to an essential-services model to help flatten the coronavirus curve. It is at times like these that the adaptability of your institutions is most apparent.

Through an online survey, we asked you to share how each of your institutions have met challenges and to provide us with advice and suggestions to better support you at this time. While in early days of virus-mitigation, we heard that more than half of you were equipped to manage potential closures of your institutions, while many of you remain concerned about the effects of travel bans on international students and the availability of applied-research funding. (See our full Continuing business and advocacy update below for updates).

We shared the full results of the survey in a webinar last Friday. This webinar is the first in a series that will take place every Friday at 12-1:30 EST to update you on our efforts in Ottawa and allow you to share amongst yourselves how the situation is evolving in your various regions, and what approaches you are taking to tackle the challenges.

We have also created a new webpage to gather and share all of our most recent updates regarding COVID-19. Be sure to check in regularly as we are constantly working to update the content, including our regular advocacy with the federal government and freely available teaching and learning resources.

This is a challenging time that calls upon each one of us to act in the best interests of all Canadians, and citizens around the world. We are committed to supporting our employees, their families, our members, and their communities through this unprecedented period.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to CICan for support and to those in your communities who may be more vulnerable. In times like these, we must all show our caring and our resilience.

Member News

  • Eduvation’s COVID-19 on Canadian Campuses update provides a detailed summary of the measures, including alternate exam arrangements, face-to-face class suspensions, and campus closures, put in place at post-secondary institutions across the country.

Continuing business and advocacy

With regard to border closures and international students, we are strongly advocating with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to ensure that your concerns, and those of your students, are being heard and addressed in a timely manner and with as much flexibility as is possible.

We are pleased to share that on Friday evening, March 20, IRCC issued a press release confirming that “exemptions to the air travel restrictions will apply to foreign nationals who have already committed to working, studying or making Canada their home, and travel by these individuals will be considered essential travel for land border restrictions” and that these exemptions include “international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit, when the travel restrictions took effect on March 18, 2020”.  

One week earlier, IRCC shared via social media that post-graduation work permit (PGWP) eligibility would not be impacted by online course delivery. This means international students who are not able to maintain full-time student status during each academic session for reasons related to COVID-19 will still be considered eligible for the PGWP, provided they meet all the other program criteria.

We have also been able to ascertain that international students who were eligible to work on or off-campus can continue to do so regardless of their enrolment status but will be subject to the same restrictions on the number authorized working hours.

In both cases, institutions should be prepared to provide students with letters of support should they be questioned as to how COVID-19 has impacted their full-time status. We do not anticipate that study-permit holders currently outside of Canada who complete their program remotely will be negatively impacted in terms of PGWP eligibility.

Going forward, we are reaching out to both financial institutions and federal departments to ascertain what can be done to provide financial relief to students in need and we will continue to advocate for IRCC to consider alternatives means for bio-metric data collection and non-traditional means to demonstrate language proficiency.

We recognize that many of you are also involved in CICan projects both domestically and internationally. We are working with funders to ensure flexibility in meeting deadlines and are in regular conversation with the relevant federal departments. We have also recommended that the launch of the Outbound Student Mobility program be postponed until the fall.

In the meantime, program business is continuing with a new Request for Proposals for our Young Africa Works: Youth Employability through TVET project in Kenya with the Mastercard Foundation.

Cancellation of upcoming events

In light of the continuing concerns and the advice of public-health authorities to avoid large gatherings and limit non-essential travel, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the upcoming 2020 CICan Connection Conference and related pre-conference activities scheduled to take place in Montreal from May 1st to 5th. While this decision was not made lightly, we feel that this is the most responsible step to be taken at this time.

Our primary concern is and remains, the health and well-being of our community: members, sponsors, exhibitors, and partners. We have contacted all registrants for details regarding reimbursement of registration fees.

Given the small-group format and date in late June, our upcoming Leadership Institutes will continue as planned for the time being. We will keep you informed in the event of any changes, postponements, or cancellations.

Help design innovative medical equipment

The Montreal General Hospital Foundation and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre need your help designing a low-cost, simple, easy-to-use and easy-to-build ventilator that can serve COVID-19 patients, in an emergency time frame.

They have launched a global innovation challenge to design new medical equipment to help those needing respiratory support as more stress is placed on our worldwide health-care systems. Manufacturers can produce equipment using 3-D printers, CNC machines, and low-cost computers; but they need a design!

The top three designs will be available for free download to anyone who needs them, saving lives immediately. Details online.

Eureka! Moment

Did you know that a recent graduate of BCIT’s Computer Systems Technology in Could Computing program created a real-time COVID-19 outbreak tracker to make it easier for people to get up-to-date information broken down by province and country? The online tracker is also equipped with a live stream of COVID-19 related news, an overview of possible symptoms from the Government of Canada, and contact information for the Public Health Agency of Canada.


College of the Rockies announced the appointment of Paul Vogt as the college’s eighth president and CEO. Vogt will join the college in summer 2020 with many years of experience in public administration.


Help shape the evolution of the Paul and Gerri Charette Bursary Program. Give us your feedback online.

Send Us Your News

One of our main goals at Colleges and Institutes Canada is to champion and share the innovations and awesomeness of our members. You can help! We want to hear about your new applied research, industry and community partnerships, international education, important financial investments and more. Add to your media mailing lists! We’ll share member institution News Releases and other upcoming announcements online and with our national media contacts based in Ottawa.