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International students initially barred from downtown Victoria amid crime spike

SD61 cites safety concerns connected to a recent spate of youth-related incidents
The zones in purple outline areas the Greater Victoria School District said its international students can’t attend on Friday and Saturday nights after 5 p.m. (Courtesy of the Greater Victoria School District)

The Greater Victoria School District sent out a letter last week telling international students they can’t go to areas in and around downtown Victoria on weekend nights.

The SD61 letter, sent by international education homestay manager Shandi Clague, said students in its Victoria International Education program will be restricted from downtown, James Bay and Beacon Hill Park.

“There seems to have been an escalation in negative group behaviour and with the safety of our students and the community as our first priority, we will not be allowing students in the downtown core after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays until further notice,” the emailed letter states.

After the directive came into effect on May 14, it was later rescinded, according to a subsequent email from Clague that was provided to Black Press Media. No word was received on whether it remains in place.

While police have identified about 150 people ranging in age from 14 to 21 who have been consistently coming downtown on recent weekends, a VicPD spokesperson said last week they believe 20 or so people are responsible for most of the criminal behaviour.

While SD61 claimed ” a number” of international students are among those in the larger group identified by police, the district did not say whether its downtown weekend ban affected all of its international students.

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Victoria police Chief Del Manak said Thursday he was not yet aware of the letter and the department was not included in preparing the letter or the rationale for it.

“It’s not any one group that’s responsible, there’s youth that are coming here in large numbers, from every school district in the Greater Victoria area,” he told council during VicPD’s first-quarter update. “Are international students a part of that, I have not heard, in large numbers, if that is the case or not the case.”

Manak emphasized that while a small group is connected to the reported swarming incidents and vandalism, the majority of the youth are responsible.

Coun. Ben Isitt asked Manak to provide the school district with clarified information about the downtown incidents, saying the police department’s previous communications on the matter might have impacted the liberties of young people.

“They’re imposing this blanket ban on young people visiting the waterfront, visiting downtown, visiting James Bay,” Isitt said.

Countered Manak, “If we feel that some of our comments at some of the meetings have been misconstrued or they’re too broad, well of course we’re going to have that discussion.”

The SD61 letter stated that any Victoria International Education students found to be acting in a way that causes danger to themselves or others will be asked to leave the program.

A lawyer provided Black Press Media with a response they sent to SD61 on behalf of impacted students.

“While I understand that precautions the city and the school are taking might be necessary due to recent incidents, I would like to express how appalled we are at these restrictions on international students which, in addition to limiting the fullness of their stay experience, are, frankly, racist and discriminatory in nature,” the response reads.

Black Press Media has not named the lawyer due to his connection to an international student currently in the SD61 program. A request for comment and clarification from SD61 had not been returned by publication.

READ: Victoria police report swarms of youth flocking to Victoria to commit crimes Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.