Demand Permanent Immigration Status for
Migrant Workers, Refugees and International Students

End Exploitation and Abuse of International Students

On October 20, the Trudeau government lifted travel restrictions for international students coming to Canada to study. The only condition is that they hold a valid study permit and that the Designated Learning Institution they are enrolled in have a provincially approved COVID-19 readiness plan.

Why is this being done? Over the summer it was reported that there has been a 22 per cent decline in government-issued study permits to foreign students which would affect the budgets of all universities and colleges in Canada. As governments continue to underfund public post-secondary institutions in the context of the anti-social offensive, universities and colleges have become increasingly dependent on the high tuition fees levied on foreign students.

For example, at the University of Toronto (U of T), which promotes itself worldwide as Canada's premier university, international students make up fully 30 per cent of the total student body. Most hope to remain in Canada. They contribute close to $1 billion to the university's operation, a third of its budget. For the privilege of attending U of T, an undergraduate international student pursuing a bachelor's degree in arts or science pays more than $40,000 a year while a Canadian student pays $6,200. Typically, international students attending Canadian universities and colleges pay from two to six times the tuition fees Canadian students pay for the same programs. In an interview with the campus newspaper The Varsity in February 2019, U of T President Meric Gertler said that international student tuition is priced to cover the "full costs associated with educating those students," without disclosing what those "full costs" are.

Currently students from India, China, the Republic of Korea, Brazil and Vietnam comprise the largest cohort of international students in Canada. Migrant Students United, a national defence organization for international students in Canada, notes that there are 721,000 study permit holders in Canada as well as an estimated 500,000 postgraduate work permit holders, who together contribute close to $30 billion to the Canadian economy. They are trapped in a racket that the Canadian state has created to ensure a cheap source of labour for Canadian monopolies and financial oligarchs, as well as a source of revenue for subsidizing the operations of Canadian colleges and universities. The Canadian government, along with post-secondary institutions and unregulated "consultants" around the world charge students large amounts of money for the "privilege" of studying in Canada.

When international students arrive in Canada they have to fend for themselves from day one. The rules and policies governing international students' ability to work in Canada are restrictive. In one case, Jobandeep Sandhu, a student from Punjab studying mechanical engineering at Canadore College, Mississauga Campus, was pulled over by police while driving a truck from Montreal to Toronto. That was in December 2017 when he was 10 days away from receiving his diploma. He was subsequently found to be working more than the 20 hours a week permitted. He had accumulated nearly $27,000 in fees and other school costs and was forced to work longer hours. Despite broad opposition, including a petition delivered to then-Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen signed by more than 50,000 people calling on the Canadian government to allow Sandhu to remain in Canada, he was deported in June 2019 for "breaking the law."

Statistics Canada reported in 2019 that international students who find work after graduation were found to earn less tha their Canadian counterparts six years after graduation. A 2018 survey by the Canadian Bureau for International Education found that close to 60 per cent of international students in Canada surveyed were unemployed and having difficulty finding work in fields that would enable them to accumulate enough points to apply for permanent residency. And this was before COVID-19!

As Migrant Students United, the Canadian Federation of Students and other organizations have pointed out, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, international students have been further victimized by the total lack of support from the federal government. Yet, in May this year, in order to keep fleecing foreign students, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada ruled that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, international students can study online at Canadian universities and colleges without affecting their eligibility for a Post-Graduate Work Permit.

This is unconscionable. The Trudeau Liberals have formalized the exploitation and abuse of international students in their International Student Strategy, a five-year plan (2019-2024) to dramatically increase the number of foreign students in Canada. When the plan was announced Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr noted:

"International education is an essential pillar of Canada's long-term competitiveness. Canadians who study abroad gain exposure to new cultures and ideas, stimulating innovation and developing important cross-cultural competencies. Students from abroad who study in Canada bring those same benefits to our shores. If they choose to immigrate to Canada, they contribute to Canada's economic success. Those who choose to return to their countries become life-long ambassadors for Canada and for Canadian values."

Canadians do not want international students to be exploited and abused in the name of enhancing "Canada's long term competitiveness." They do not want international students to be uprooted from the nations that raised them and brought to Canada where their basic rights are denied as they are currently in the case of the pandemic. It is an abomination to create a pathway to citizenship that is essentially rigged against the majority of international students in Canada who, even before COVID-19, were unable to find the work that would enable them to qualify for permanent residency and citizenship. The process of citizenship should begin as soon as international students arrive in recognition of the fact that they are contributing to Canada from the moment they come here.

(With files from Government of Canada, Globe and Mail, Migrant Students United, The Varsity. Photos: TML, Migrant Workers Alliance, B.S. Walters.)

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 44 - November 14, 2020

Article Link:
Demand Permanent Immigration Status for : End Exploitation and Abuse of International Students


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