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Cancellation of $17-million from Ottawa threatens future of ESL training

From left, students Diogenes Santon, Margita Lucic and Slobodan Lucic, and ESL facilitators Marisol Peterson and Ron McKay during a conversational English class.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

B.C.'s minister of advanced education says he'll lose about $17-million in funding when the federal government changes how it delivers English-as-a-second-language training to adults.

Amrik Virk also says the federal government hasn't yet informed B.C. on how it plans to deliver those services to thousands of students.

He says the federal government gave the province $22-million a year for ESL training under the Canada-B.C. Immigration Agreement, and of that money his ministry received about $17-million.

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Virk says his ministry used the money to pay for ESL training in its public universities and colleges, but in April 2012 the federal government told B.C. it was going to cancel the agreement.

The provincial government then helped the institutions apply directly to the federal government for the money, but Virk says it has just learned none of the proposals were accepted.

Virk says about 9,000 students received ESL training last year, and the immigration agreement ends April 1, 2014.

"I don't want to speculate on how the federal government is going to do it, you know, which organizations, how they are going to deliver the training," says Virk.

"What we do know is that we are not going to be able to use that $17-million from the federal government to provide that training."

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