Returning Korean students recount Montreal nightmare.

Edu-Edge owner Naveen Nolan signed an agreement in India, Aug. 21, 2013, with Robert T. Mills, then director general of Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB), to market LBPSB courses overseas.

By Robert Frank With files from Joel CeausuThe Suburban

Word of Quebec’s troubled foreign student work-study programs has spread across the Pacific.

South Korean news media have reported a spate of complaints, after seven 20-year-old students recently returned home and started to speak out about what they experienced after they had paid to study in Montreal.

“EMSB Korea, a Canadian employment management partner, is a major controversy,” reported Newsis,Korea’s largest private news agency, which is similar to the Canadian Press.

 Communication specialist Michael Cohen thanked The Suburban, Dec. 11, for bringing the overseas news to English Montreal School Board (EMSB) attention the day before. He said that “EMSB lawyers have been working on it ‘round the clock” and added that “[EMSB Korea] appears to be a fraudulent organization using our name”.

However, Cohen stated that he was unaware that EMSB Korea is linked to English Montreal School Board (EMSB), as The Suburban discovered, through its designated international department contact Shim Youn Bo, whom EMSB’s own web site lists as located at its international admission office in Korea. The internet domain name—which automatically redirects web browsers to EMSB’s web site—is registered to Shim at the same electronic mail address that EMSB instructs Korean applicants to use to contact her. Cohen also suggested that in an apparently unconnected case, a bogus Facebook page styles itself as “EMSB Ukraine”.

Newsis reported that South Korean organizers “concluded a business agreement with a local educational institution to carry out the project, checked educational facilities and programs, confirmed the work place, and established a local recruitment support center. They explained that they had received promises of active employment support for Korean trainees and visited educational facilities through the training report.”

“The visa states that they can only be employed by educational institutions in the EMSB,” student recruiter Kyung Kyun Kwon told Newsis. “Only 3-4 hours of part-time work at the EMSB was possible.”

Newsis directly quoted four of the students, whose identities it protected. They said that they were told in April that they would be able to earn $12 an hour working for twelve months in Canada, but learned otherwise, once they arrived.

To survive, students said that they had to work illegally for cash in local restaurants.

“It’s called ‘under the table’ in Canada,” recalled a student whom Newsis identified as ‘Mr. C’ after he returned home to South Korea.

“The minimum wage in Canada was $10-11, but we only received $6-9,” said another student, ‘Mr. D’.

A South Korean outplacement official who visited Montreal August 12-21 last year stated that “the educational institutions where the young people were educated were not the ones originally promised” and that “they could not afford expensive dormitories”, adding that students sent to similar programs in the United States and China did not experience those problems.

 The students said that they learned the terminology for illegal-work after they arrived and discovered that the educational program which they thought they had paid EMSB for turned out to be provided by Bouchereau Language International (BLI)—a privately owned school which is not part of EMSB.

Quebec government documents list lawyer Felipe Morales as a BLI director. Morales previously served as ethics commissioner for Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB). There, The Suburban reported Oct. 29, 2014, he cleared former SWLSB chair Nick Milas of any wrongdoing in a ruling dealing with a $10,000 trip to Asia paid for by Toronto-based private firm, Edu-Edge. Edu-Edge also signed an agreement in India, Aug. 21, 2013, with Robert T. Mills, then director general of Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) to market LBPSB courses overseas. LBPSB chair Suanne Stein Day said that year that a new, separate corporation would be incorporated to market its fledgling international program on a 50:50 basis with Edu-Edge. She reassured The Suburban that the school board’s auditors would monitor the company to ensure fiscal probity. Quebec government documents show that Edu-Edge owner Naveen Nolan subsequently incorporated LBP Vocational College, Jan. 24, 2014.

Two weeks ago, Education Minister Sébastien Proulx announced that both EMSB and LBPSB will undergo a provincial audit and a police anti-corruption squad (UPAC) investigation. The same day, LBPSB issued a statement that they had “been aware of irregularities in their International Vocational Programs department” and that it had fired employees and restructured the department in the wake of an internal investigation. The following evening, LBPSB assistant director general Steve Balleine disclosed that LBPSB had contacted UPAC in May about the matter. Then, last week, both school boards posted internet notices instructing international students to pay their tuition directly to EMSB and LBPSB respectively.

EMSB chair Angela Mancini declined to discuss the matter, when The Suburban reached her on her cellphone, Dec. 10, to ask her what part the school board’s role played in the matter, how much the students paid, to whom and for what.

“I don’t know who you are and I usually don’t talk to people I don’t know,” said Mancini, though the Quebec Education Act stipulates that the chair is the official spokesperson for the school board.

International students at LBPSB have to shell out as much as $41,000 for some courses.

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