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The B.C. Jobs Plan announced key steps to increase the number of international students coming to British Columbia in Kamloops, B.C. on Tuesday September 20, 2011. (Jeff Bassett For The Globe and Mail)
The B.C. Jobs Plan announced key steps to increase the number of international students coming to British Columbia in Kamloops, B.C. on Tuesday September 20, 2011. (Jeff Bassett For The Globe and Mail)

Globe Editorial

Protectionism hurts Canadian community college athletics Add to ...

Even as Canada’s community colleges set out to recruit large numbers of foreign students, they have chosen to preserve their quotas on the number of foreign athletes who can make their varsity sports teams.

The question in this archetypal Canadian conflict is whether such protectionism helps or hurts this country’s athletes. In the short term, it helps an athlete make a team. But aren’t teams better off when drawing from wider, more diverse talent pools? And then the players who make those teams are better off. Excellence is reinforced by openness; a more closed system reinforces mediocrity.

It speaks volumes that tiny Holland College in Prince Edward Island (2,600 students, 4 per cent of them foreign) is standing up against the long-standing quota system in which 10 of 12 players on volleyball and basketball teams must be Canadian, and 15 of 18 in soccer. Within eight years, the school says, the population of high-school graduates in Atlantic Canada will drop by 30 per cent. Postsecondary schools need international students if they wish to survive, it says. The small cannot afford protectionism.

Canadian postsecondary schools are becoming increasingly international in their professoriate, their student body and in the experiences they offer their students. The schools profess that the quality of education increases with competition, diversity and new ideas. It is hard to square that stated belief with the quotas limiting foreign athletes who may have different athletic instincts, styles of play, and training methods.

It’s doubtful that the community colleges would be swamped by foreign athletes. University athletes in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, a higher level of competition, do not face such quotas (except in basketball), and the athletic floodgates have not opened. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has no caps on international students. But the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association won’t budge.

Competition is good, especially in sports. Athletes in community colleges don’t need the coddling. Quotas on foreign athletes limit the growth of all athletes.

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