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Canada still viewed as safe despite student's death

Jun 08 2012

The killing and dismemberment of a Chinese foreign student in Montreal is unlikely to have a lasting effect on Canada's international reputation as a safe place to study, education officials and researchers say.

Canada's "very favourable" image is expected to override the news about the killing of Concordia University student Jun Lin last month, said Elizabeth Shepherd, research director with the British Council's education intelligence branch.

The slaying of Lin, 33, and the search for his alleged killer, Luka Rocco Magnotta, has made headlines around the world.

"Yes, there will certainly be an impact immediately, but we're beginning to understand that after that immediate impact, the embedded view of a country does seem to remain strong," Shepherd said in a telephone interview from Hong Kong.

The British Council, a charitable organization based in Britain, has released a report showing that safety has become an increasingly important factor when people select a country as a study destination.

In 2007, people surveyed by the council cited safety as the 17th most important factor in choosing Canada as their first choice, the report says. By this year, safety had risen to the fifth most important reason.

Geoff Wilmshurst, director of the international student programs at Camosun College, said the Montreal case is unlikely to alter that perception of Canada as a safe destination.

"What we've found over the last five to 10 years is that the international student marketplace has become very sophisticated," he said. "People look at this kind of news and, of course there are concerns. You hate to see what happened to Jun Lin happen to anyone.

"But people can look at that and see that this is a unique situation where it wasn't an international student necessarily being targeted."

Wilmshurst said the situation differs from attacks on Indian students in Australia several years ago that led to a drop in enrolments there.

"There was a perception that what happened in Australia was really one where international students and minorities, in general, were being targeted. I don't think there's the perception that is the case in this incident."

Shepherd said one of the key lessons from the Australia case is that educational institutions need to be open about what happened, and focus on educating students about how to stay safe.

Carolyn Russell, director of student recruitment at the University of Victoria, said all institutions get asked about safety by parents and prospective students.

"And what the University of Victoria would respond with is providing the student and the family with as much information as possible regarding our own on-campus programs for safety," she said.

UVic would give students details about campus security, integration programs and supports "so that they don't find themselves in situations where they might be subject to violence," she said.

> Magnotta case: Rumours of multiple killings fly, B8

lkines@timescolonist.com

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