Concordia University | International students want to “break free” from their insurance plan


An association of international students at Concordia University wants to “free itself” from the educational institution’s insurance plan, which costs it nearly $1,400 annually, a peak in Canada. She estimates that she could save millions if she turned to the private market.

Posted at 8:00 a.m.

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The Press

“We currently pay $1344 per year for our insurance. This is the highest number in the country. With a private company, we estimate that we could go up to $1,096 per year,” summarizes Bhanu Kiran, an international student who is also president of the University’s Graduate Student Association (GSA).

With his peers, he estimates that the association could thus save up to 4 million over two years, if we take into account the surpluses generated by the university each year. “In concrete terms, what we are asking for is simply to have the freedom to choose our insurance plan. There are interesting offers, and we deserve to have access to these options,” insists Mr. Kiran, who represents nearly 8,000 members, of whom about 5,000 are foreign students.

His association, however, deplores the attitude of the management of Concordia University which, according to him, is not very “open” to discussing this question. “It’s quite frustrating because, very often, you don’t feel that there is a will. They are used to postponing meetings, or even canceling them, ”insists the president of the GSA.

The association claims to have “tried for years to solve the problem”, but says it has come up against a dismissal from the university, which would not like to see students leave its insurance plan. In recent weeks, the GSA has also hired a lawyer, Mr.e Félix-Antoine Michaud, in order to study the legal options available to him.

“In Quebec, there is a particularity that is not found everywhere in Canada. This is Law 32. And this law gives associations a unique role in representing students, as well as increased powers. This is what allows them to say to management: the insurance plan, we will manage it, ”summarizes Me Michaud.

He claims to have the mandate to “take all necessary steps” to enforce the rights of his clients before the courts, but specifies that “we are not yet there”. “What we are asking the University from now on is not to use the surpluses, which are calculated in millions. This money belongs de facto to the students, ”insists the lawyer, among other things specializing in labor relations.

A referendum with a strong majority

Last March, while discussions were still not progressing with the management, the GSA had organized a referendum among its members to gauge their interest in withdrawing from the university’s insurance plan. Result: nearly seven out of ten students then voted for a withdrawal from the establishment’s plan.

A meeting is scheduled for Thursday to submit the result of this vote to the Board of Governors of Concordia University. “This meeting should in principle be a formality, but what we hear is that they could challenge the right of students to use their own cover and, therefore, to assert their rights”, s” worries Bhanu Kiran.

“I don’t see what argument they could use ad vitam æternam to block the student association in its efforts. They must respect the democratic will that has been expressed,” adds Ms.e Felix-Antoine Michaud.

Concordia wants “a long-term vision”

Joined by The Press, Concordia University spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci confirms that a “request for proposals” has been made by the GSA to “choose a separate insurance company”. She maintains that the management of the establishment will continue to “work” with the student association and its members “to resolve their questions concerning the plan”.

We want to take a long-term view, with the goal of ensuring price predictability and stability across multiple student cohorts.

Vannina Maestracci

According to the spokesperson, a withdrawal of the GSA from the university’s insurance plan, however, would have “no financial impact” for Concordia, “since all funds are used for insurance purposes, including to handle exceptional individual cases not handled by the regime,” she says.

The office of the Minister of Higher Education, Danielle McCann, is simply reminded that universities have “full autonomy” in terms of insurance with regard to international students. In this specific case, “however, we invite the parties to dialogue,” says Valérie Chamula, the minister’s press attaché.

$1344

Amount billed annually to students of the Graduate Student Association of Concordia University for the institution’s insurance plan



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