Virk Changes Tune After NDP Embarrasses Him About What’s Really Happening With Dismantling Of ESL In Universities And Colleges

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VICTORIA- NDP called outAdvanced Education MinisterAmrik Virk, who had beentelling British Columbians hedoesn’t know what it will meanwhen changes to federal governmentfunding for English as aSecond Language (ESL) programsare implemented in thespring.But the federal minister incharge revealed that the B.C.government was fully on boardwith the changes.Virk suddenly changed his tuneand said Friday neither he norhis government endorsechanges from Ottawa to howESL is funded and taught.Virk says the province knowsthe needs of BC’s immigrantcommunity the best.He says removing ESL classesfrom colleges will impact thousandsof students.“Minister Bond at the time wasin dialogue and never endorsedthe federal change. I would havepreferred the way federal fundingflowed throughout theprovince. We certainly understoodthe needs of the localimmigrant community the bestbecause we are the boots on theground. Lets clarify that we havenot endorsed this change andthis certainly has an impact onstudents in British Columbia.”NDP had earlier asked Virk toexplain why he didn’t tell thepublic the B.C. Liberal governmentsupports the federal government’splan to take ESLfunding from B.C. universitiesand colleges.Here’s what Minister Virk andthe federal immigration ministerhave been saying about thechanges:Amrik Virk: “As a province wefelt that the status quo and theway that we were delivering itwas the best model.” – CBCradio, Dec. 11, 2013Federal Minister of ImmigrationChris Alexander: “We’ve actuallydone it with the agreement ofthe provincial government. I’vebeen working very closely withShirley Bond on this transition,she supports it, the premier supportsit, the government endorsesit.” – CBC radio, Dec. 12The NDP had questionedwhether the real reason the B.C.Liberals support dismantling thecurrent ESL system becausethey plan to drop their commitmentto offer free ESL coursesto domestic students at B.C.’scolleges and universities, whichthey announced just last year?“This investment will helpCanadian citizens and Canadianbornresidents whose first languageis not English improvetheir English language skills inorder to move on to higher levelsof education, skills andtrades training and employment.”-Naomi Yamamoto, formerB.C. Liberal advanced educationminister, April 5, 2012, ina news release promising tuitionfree ESL for domestic students.Virk was asked if his governmentis working with BC’s collegesto help them adjust to thepending ESL changes.“In terms of the agencies thatare going to provide this trainingin the future we don’t havedirect contact with them at thispoint because we don’t knowexactly who is going to win thecontracts from the federal governmentto provide this trainingin the near future and we arehoping that we get this informationas soon as possible fromthe federal government so thatthe transition is indeed verysmooth,” he said.This comes as the VancouverCommunity College FacultyAssociation is asking theprovince to retain the currentESL model.