College Boreal veterinary students in limbo as program loses accreditation

Normally at this time of year, college students are worried about final exams, but veterinary technician students at College Boreal have other things on their mind.

They learned a little while ago their program's accreditation has been revoked by the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians (OAVT).

If it doesn't get resolved, students will still get their diplomas and they'll graduate, but they won't be able to write the national competency exam.

"We got it in an email actually and it was maybe a week and a half, two weeks ago," said student Sydney Guindon. "We had no clue anything was going on. We just got it in an email and they said the accreditation was revoked."

Guindon is just a few weeks away from graduating. Feeling like this could leave her in limbo, she and a few classmates started a petition that has garnered roughly 2,000 signatures. They're calling for the program to be reinstated.

"We were surprised but disappointed at the same time because no one saw it coming. It's not something that usually happens. They don't get revoked so quickly, so it was kind of a shock to all of us including the staff," she said.

"It almost feels like grief stages," said student Celine Gratton. "You kind of go through this wave where it's like OK, it is what it is, I'm just going to finish this semester, finish strong, figure out what happens when I graduate. And then it's like, oh my god, OK, everything was just taken away from me, I'm cut below the knees."

Students will still be able to graduate and work in the field but without taking the exam, but they won't be registered with the governing body. Guindon said that makes finding employment difficult.

She's been told the school is appealing the decision of the OAVT.

"It's definitely nerve-wracking because we have what, a week and a half, two weeks left," she said.

Boreal was surprised, too

Marc Despatie, College Boreal's director of communications, said the decision came as a surprise to the school, as well.

"We've reached out to OAVT, and had a discussion with them and we were provided with our options and the decision was made that we're going to appeal," Despatie told CTV News.

The decision is expected to affect roughly 38 students this year -- 20 in Sudbury and 18 at the Ottawa campus.

Despatie said the governing body provided them with several concerns that had to be addressed, including not enough students were taking the competency exam, a lack of kennel facilities at the Ottawa campus after it had moved sites, and a lack of training on large animals.

"That's completely COVID related, that's not a permanent thing," he said. "We do provide those opportunities, we just didn't provide them this year. So maybe we can do a sort of crash course with them before they do the exam so they do have the opportunity."

Despatie said that would have to be done after the stay-at-home order ends and added they're looking at a variety of options right now.

Didn't meet standards

CTV News also reached out to the OAVT, which issued the following statement:

"As accreditation for Sudbury and Ottawa programs neared the end of their terms, per OAVT accreditation process, College Boreal’s veterinary care technician program accreditation underwent review. The programs were subsequently revoked per OAVT bylaws for failure to meet the OAVT standards for accreditation.

"We have been in contact with College Boreal regarding next steps and College Boreal has indicated they are working on an appeal. We look forward to receiving their appeal submission."

In the meantime, students said they're looking at options themselves, including transferring into other registered schools so they can complete the required exams.

That may prove to be difficult for some, as College Boreal has one of the only francophone programs in the province.

The appeal will also have to be filed quickly. The students at Boreal graduate in May and competency exams are typically held in June.