International Students Rally in Toronto to Demand Rights

Migrant Students United (MSU), a national affiliate of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, held a rally outside the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada office in downtown Toronto on October 25 to demand the recognition of the rights of international students. They demanded that the Canadian government guarantee their basic rights to live, work and study in Canada and uphold the promises made to them to entice them to come to this country. Activists from the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) also participated in the action.

The main demand is for the renewal of the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) for all international students so that they have additional time to fulfill their employment requirements to qualify for permanent residency. Many of the more than 700,000 international student work permit holders are facing the reality that their work permits will expire at the end of 2020 and they will be deported because they are unable to fulfill their employment requirement to qualify for permanent resident status.

Sarom Rho, the main organizer for MSU in Toronto, highlighted the extreme difficulties that international students are facing in the COVID-19 pandemic. She pointed out that foreign students pay tuition fees two to six times that of citizens or permanent residents. They contribute billions of dollars to the economy through these high fees, and through their labour and taxes, yet have been completely ignored by the Trudeau Liberal government and deprived of any emergency financial support, health care and other basic social services. They have been left extremely vulnerable. Many are going hungry, having lost their jobs and housing, are cut off from their families, and now face the prospect of being deported. She called for an end to this abuse of international students. She put forward the MSU's four demands to the Canadian and Ontario governments:

1. Fix Rules Around Work: Make postgraduate work permits renewable so former students can complete requirements for permanent residency (PR) in the COVID-19 job market. Remove time limits and count all work for PR.

2. Give Real Access to PR: Lower the points required for PR. Ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrants.

3. Lower Tuition and Ensure Full Services: Ensure migrant students pay the same tuition fees as Canadians; Ensure full access to all services including health care, housing, scholarships, pandemic emergency benefits, in-school support and jobs; and immediate access to social insurance numbers.

4. Unite Families: Allow families to travel, and ensure work permits for family members.

Two George Brown College postgraduate students, one from Brazil and one from Poland, shared their struggles, frustrations and constant stress about their future. They expressed their determination to continue to fight for the rights of all international students and migrant workers in Canada for permanent status so that they can continue to live in Canada and contribute their talents. They called on everyone to join them in their fight for justice.

An online petition to "Fix PGWP, Ensure Status for All" can be found here.

(With files from MSU. Photos: TML.)

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 44 - November 14, 2020

Article Link:
International Students Rally in Toronto to Demand Rights


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