By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

Last week we brought you a story about the effect that strikes by Canadian embassy officials were having on the study abroad industry, with visa applications stacking up at some embassies.

Study Travel Magazine was contacted by Students International, an agency in Russia, about the damage that was being done in that market to the busy summer season; the agency had already lost 50 students by early July as a result of the visa delays.

I have noticed this story gathering pace in the media over recent days, especially as the implications for the looming academic year begin to unfold. “International students depend on receiving their study permits in a timely manner to plan for educational success in Canada,” said Jonathan Champagne, National Director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). “We are worried that students waiting for permits will start their courses late or be denied admission altogether.”

Indeed, McGill University has already stated that any student more than two weeks late for the start of the academic year should wait for the next semester.

Some light at the end of the tunnel seemed to emerge this week with an indication that the government’s Treasury Board President, Tony Clement, accepted an offer of arbitration from the Professional Association of Foreign Services Officers (Pafso). However, the acceptance came with preconditions, which Pafso have flatly rejected. A statement said, “Until the conditions for arbitration are resolved, there will be no change in Pafso’s job action measures.”

Of course, this is an issue that doesn’t just affect study abroad; the wider tourism industry is likely to lose millions of dollars as a result of the strikes leading to cancelled trips. There will no doubt be some serious political pressure on the government to resolve this issue promptly.

The impact of the strike could reverberate far beyond this summer season. Igor Mishurov, Deputy Director of Students International, said that Canada has invested a great deal of time, money and effort in developing Russia as a source country, an investment that is in danger of unravelling. He was keen to highlight that visas for Canada are an issue every summer, but the strikes have exacerbated the problem this year. Mishurov warns some Russian agencies could remove Canada from the summer portfolio next year.

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