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International Education at a Cross-Roads in Canada

September 22, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm EDT

How will Canada’s growing success in attracting international students

be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and global geopolitical tensions?


September 22, 2020 (Tuesday) from 4:00 to 5:30 pm (Eastern Time)


International students who are attracted to further their education in Canada are an important and multidimensional aspect of Canada’s international relations.  More than 640,000 foreign students chose Canada in 2019.  The growth in the Canadian intake has been very strong over the last decade, vaulting Canada to a third ranking globally, behind the US and Australia.  As Canada reached this record level however, the disruption and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly intervened, seriously upsetting studies and exams, diminishing co-op and permanent job prospects, and introducing significant barriers to travel.


International students bring notable economic benefit to Canada, including to universities and colleges which benefit financially from the higher fees they pay.  Annually, the students support almost 170,000 jobs and contribute over $21 billion to Canada’s GDP, comparable to the country’s auto parts, lumber and aircraft exports.  The immediate economic impact of the pandemic stands to be significant.  Canadian post-secondary institutions face financial loses, layoffs, and uncertainty about the number of students they can expect for the forthcoming year.  The pandemic has also drawn attention to the risks associated with dependence on international students and on a limited number of source countries, especially India and China.


For Canada, graduating foreign students are an attractive source of well-educated immigrants able to adapt readily and become valued contributors.  Available evidence suggests more could to be done to raise the retention rate.  In 2019, some 85,000 obtained visas via the Express Entry system.  Others choose to return to their homelands, taking with them what they learned about Canada and its values, along with Canadian experiences, friendships and connections, which are likely to link them to Canada throughout their lives.


To ensure Canada remains among the top destinations in the global competition for international students, the Federal government’s 2019 budget committed $148 million over five years to a new and more ambitious International Education Strategy (2019-2024), “Building on Success”.  The new Strategy also supports programs to encourage Canadian students to seek international experiences.


A high level expert panel has been assembled to discuss the role and impact of international education, the associated opportunities, Canada’s gains, the disruption brought on by the pandemic, the outlook, and the challenges.


  • The Honourable Marco Mendicino MP PC, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
  • John Tibbits, President and CEO, Conestoga College, Kitchener
  • Paul Davidson, President and CEO, Universities Canada, Ottawa
  • Meti Basiri, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder, ApplyBoard, Kitchener


The Moderator will be John Milloy, former Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, who is now Assistant Professor of Public Ethics and Director of the Centre for Public Ethics, Martin Luther University College, Wilfrid Laurier University.

About the Canadian International Council

The CIC is Canada’s national non-partisan not-for-profit international affairs forum whose programs, activities and resources engage Canadians in exploring and defining the country’s role in the world and areas of international engagement (https://thecic.org/en/).  CIC and its predecessor organization have a rich, active and influential 90-year history.  With over 1,200 members nationally, its 16 Branches serve as CIC’s backbone.

About the Speakers

The Honourable Marco Mendicino MP PC

The Honourable Marco Mendicino is a family man and at the centre of his life are his wife Diana and their two daughters, Michaela and Gemma.

Minister Mendicino was recently appointed as the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship. In this new role he will be working with his Parliamentary colleagues to advance smart immigration policies that contribute to economic growth, reunite families, live up to Canada’s responsibilities to the most vulnerable, and lift up communities

In 2018, he was appointed as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, representing the Minister in getting innovative, green infrastructure built from coast to coast to coast.  In early 2017, he was appointed as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, where he helped to advance priorities such as criminal justice reform, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and restorative justice.

A passionate advocate, Minister Mendicino has dedicated his career to keeping our community safe. As a federal prosecutor for nearly ten years, he fought against organized crime and put terrorists – including members of the “Toronto 18” – behind bars.  He also worked at the Law Society of Upper Canada and served as President of the Association of Justice Counsel for two terms — a national association representing nearly 3,000 federal prosecutors and government lawyers employed by the Government of Canada.

Most recently, Minister Mendicino co-ran a law firm helping organizations enforce professional standards and resolve workplace conflicts. He has been an Adjunct Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Minister Mendicino cares deeply about his community. He has sat on numerous boards and has been involved with the John Wanless Childcare Centre, John Wanless Public School, North Toronto Soccer Club, COSTI Immigration Services, the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee and Heart & Stroke Canada. On weekends, you’ll see him coaching both of his girls at the Eglinton Park soccer field.

Shortly after his arrival in Ottawa, he was elected chair of the Ontario Caucus. Minister Mendicino also sat on the committee for Public Safety and National Security as well as the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.

Dr. John Tibbits, President & CEO, Conestoga College


Dr. John Tibbits has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning since 1987.  In that time Conestoga has evolved to become a leader in Ontario’s college system.


Dr. Tibbits holds a Bachelor of Science degree and a Diploma in Education from McGill University, a Master of Education degree and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study from the University of Vermont as well as a Doctorate in Education from Boston University. He has held senior administrative positions at Dawson College in Montreal, Touche Ross & Partners in Ottawa and Canada Post Corporation in Ottawa.


He has served as a board member for a variety of industry and community organizations, including Canada’s Technology Triangle, Polytechnics Canada, Cambridge and Kitchener -Waterloo Chambers of Commerce, Grand River Hospital, Cambridge North Dumfries Hydro, the March of Dimes, Skills Canada (Ontario), Thyssen Krupp Budd Canada, and Communitech.


His many honours and awards include the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, Business Leader of the Year Award (K-W Chamber of Commerce), Lifetime Achievement Award (Cambridge Chamber of Commerce), Paul Harris Fellowship (Rotary International), Impact Award (Communitech) and induction into the Skills Canada-Ontario’s Klaus Woerner Hall of Fame.

Paul Davidson, President and CEO, Universities Canada

Paul Davidson has played leadership roles in government, the private sector and the voluntary sector for more than 30 years. He joined Universities Canada in May 2009 as president and CEO.

As president of Universities Canada, Mr. Davidson is building strong partnerships with postsecondary education, business and community leaders across the country to advance a vision of higher education that promotes opportunity and excellence for Canadians. During Mr. Davidson’s tenure, the university sector has seen substantial and exceptional investments in university research funding, increased resources for campus internationalization and additional supports to increase access and success for Indigenous students. Mr. Davidson has been named both a top lobbyist in Ottawa and a top foreign policy influencer.

Prior to joining Universities Canada, Mr. Davidson was executive director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC). He also held senior positions in the Canadian book publishing sector, including five years as executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers. In the early 1990s, Mr. Davidson led the Toronto office of a prominent government relations firm after having served as a political advisor to Ontario’s Leader of the Opposition, Treasurer and Deputy Premier.

Mr. Davidson holds an MA from Queen’s University, where he studied southern African history and a BA from Trent University, where he was part of the first graduating class of the Trent International Program.



Meti Basiri – Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder, ApplyBoard, Kitchener, Ontario

Meti Basiri drives the International Recruitment, Partner Relations, Sales Enablement, and Marketing Teams at ApplyBoard to make education more accessible to people around the world.

As a former international student himself, Meti empowers his teams to help students achieve success by delivering an A+ customer experience and continuously innovating to help improve student success. Since co-founding ApplyBoard in 2015 with his brothers, Martin and Massi Basiri, Meti has been instrumental in building partnerships with over 1,200 of the best educational institutions across North America and leading the company’s marketing and outreach strategy.

Meti was named one of Forbes’s Top 30 Under 30 in 2019 alongside his brother Massi, in three different categories (Education, Immigrants, and Big Money). He is known at the ApplyBoard headquarters for his infectious joy and commitment to creating the best possible student experience for each person that uses the ApplyBoard platform.

ApplyBoard is a Canada-based technology company helping international students around the world connect with world-class educational institutions in Canada, the US, and UK that streamlines the international student application process into one simple, easy-to-use software platform. Intuitive and personalized, the platform is designed to help students—as well as partner schools and agents—succeed. The company works with over 4,000 Recruitment Partners to drive diversity on campuses and has 500+ team members across the globe, with its headquarters located in Canada.  Through ApplyBoard’s structured vetting system, students have a 95% success rate in receiving a letter of acceptance from academic institutions.

Dr. John Milloy, Director of the Centre for Public Ethics, Martin Luther University College, Waterloo

From 2003 to 2014, John Milloy served as MPP for the riding of Kitchener Centre, holding several senior Cabinet posts including Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Minister of Research and Innovation and Government House Leader. He had previously worked on Parliament Hill, including five years in the office of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Upon retirement from politics, John entered academia and currently serves as the inaugural Practitioner in Residence in Wilfrid Laurier’s Political Science Department, the Director of the Centre for Public Ethics and Assistant Professor of Public Ethics at Martin Luther University College – formerly Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.  He is also a lecturer in the University of Waterloo’s Master of Public Service Program.  

John holds an Honours B.A. from Carleton University, an M.A. from the London School of Economics and a Doctorate in Modern History from the University of Oxford where he was a Commonwealth Scholar. 


September 22, 2020
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm EDT