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Vancouver international student fights defamation allegation after dispute with college

Saki Takatsuki of Japan started her program in January 2022.
Saki Takatsuki of Japan paid US$28,000 to attend an international college in Vancouver contracted by a Philippines firm; she and the college are now in a legal dispute over alleged defamation and misrepresentations.

A Philippine-based education company is suing a Japanese student who came to Vancouver to study only to find herself expelled after questioning the education she was provided by a third-party international school.

It’s a case that Surrey lawyer Ryan Kusuhara says raises “curious” questions about how international education is delivered and regulated in B.C.

“It is curious that this institution under the notice of civil claim claims to be a registered corporation in the Philippines,” said Kusuhara, representing Japanese student Saki Takatsuki.

The “Concordia International University” pamphlet initially provided to Takatsuki, said Kusuhara, “gives an ordinary person the impression you’ll be receiving a Canadian education from Concordia in Canada, as opposed to simply Cloud Nine College,” which is the third-party international school Concordia contracted.

Those alleged representations from Concordia International College of Asia and The Pacific form the basis of Takatsuki’s counterclaim against Concordia International, which first sued Takatsuki for defamation.

According to Concordia’s claim, the company is incorporated in the Republic of the Philippines. It works with “local agencies in foreign countries to recruit international students,” who pay the agencies tuition fees. Cloud Nine in downtown Vancouver is the “hosting school” for the advertised two-year program in B.C. Takatsuki paid about US$28,000 in August 2021 to attend.

Students are promised to attend a U.K. university if they complete a one-year English plan and a one-year co-op plan via Cloud Nine, said Concordia in its pleading.

In January 2022, Takatsuki started her program but by September "made several complaints to Concordia regarding the program’s course arrangements, methods of teaching, and options of U.K. universities available to students,” stated Concordia in its claim.

Takatsuki was then “abusive” to Cloud Nine staff and subsequently expelled; Takatsuki demanded a refund but was denied because she had exceeded 30 per cent of the academic year — the threshold for a refund, according to the claim.

Then, according to Concordia, Takatsuki made defamatory statements online about the college that were motivated by “malice.”

Concordia’s lawyer David Chen sent Takatsuki a cease and desist letter on Oct. 14, 2022 and later filed a lawsuit against the student.

In response, Takatsuki has denied she made the defamatory statements, including from Twitter and YouTube accounts Concordia alleges were created by Takatsuki.

Takatsuki has also filed a counterclaim, alleging among other matters, not enough lectures were in-person, as promised, and U.K. university options were limited upon arrival.

The alleged deficiencies of Concordia’s offerings as compared to its advertisements are denied by Concordia.

Both sides are seeking damages from one another, and a trial is set for April, Kusuhara told Glacier Media by phone. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Takatsuki told Glacier Media the saga with Concordia has placed financial pressure on her, as the money she paid came from student loans back home. She said she has since moved to Edmonton with her partner and continues to seek education in Canada.

Takatsuki said a legal trial was not on her radar when coming to Canada.

“I still feel I don’t get anything (about) what’s going on,” said Takatsuki.

There are no claims made by or against Cloud Nine College, which is a certified institution by the B.C. government Private Training Institutions Branch.

Last July, Cloud Nine College was found to have contravened the Private Training Regulation by failing to refund tuition within 30 days of the date on which the first 30 per cent of the hours of instruction are provided, according to the B.C. government branch's website.

Kusuhara said he is still understanding how the case could shed light on how international education institutes are regulated in B.C.

Glacier Media has reached out to Concordia’s counsel for an opportunity to provide further comment on the case but had not received a response by deadline.

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