Thursday, July 25, 2024

Diaspora

Hundreds of international students protest in Brampton to stop impending mass deportations

DALJEET KAUR | June 21, 2024 10:36 AM

Post-Graduate Work Permits set to expire in 2024-2025
BRAMPTON, Canada: Tens of thousands of international student graduates in Canada (estimates ranging from 70, 000 to over 100, 000) are facing potential deportation orders as their work permits are set to expire in 2024 and 2025. On Saturday June 22 at 4:00 pm, hundreds are protesting in Brampton and meeting at Kaneff Park.

After international students complete their studies, they are eligible for a 1-3 year long Post-Graduate Work Permits (PGWP). On the basis of their work experience during this period, they can apply for permanent residency (PR) through select immigration pathways (e.g. Provincial Nominee Program; Express Entry; Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway). During the COVID pandemic, the federal government implemented changes to meet labour demands: temporarily lifting the 20 hour week limit on work, opening the TR-to-PR pathway, and conducting more regular draws that allowed graduates to apply for PR. However, recent years have seen PR pathways become restrictive and unpredictable, with a mounting backlog of files leaving tens of thousands of international students in crisis.

Recent policy changes by provincial and federal governments have compelled international student graduates in multiple provinces to get organized. Earlier this year, Manitoba’s Provincial Nominee Program suddenly excluded international students. International students in Manitoba protested regularly in response and successfully secured an extension of their PGWPs. More recently, students in PEI have maintained a permanent encampment in Charlottetown to similarly demand PGWP extensions and a fair pathway to PR, though they have been met with greater hostility by government representatives.

In recent weeks, international students in Ontario have gotten organized with the support of organizations such as Naujawan Support Network and International Sikh Students Association. They conducted meetings with affected international students as part of an event named “Ontario Meet” on May 18 and organized several community gatherings and rallies. They have also met with political officials1as well as the Ontario Ministry of Labour. The students have four demands: 1) Extend all PGWPs set to expire in 2024 and 2025, 2) Establish a 5-year long PGWP for all graduates, 3) End LMIA-based exploitation and 4) Ensure a fair pathway to PR (e.g. greater consistency, separation of CEC and PNP draws).

International students are experiencing immense financial distress, anxiety and depression, and uncertainty as a result of the expiring PGWPs. At least one student has reportedly died by suicide. Gursewak Singh, a member of the organizing committee of international students in Ontario, came to Canada in 2018 as an international student. He worked at the height of the pandemic as a frontline worker and now works as a carpentry foreman. Gursewak’s work permit is expiring in November 2024, just three months after his wife is delivering their first child. “I have given 6 years of my life to this country, to this community, and now the government is saying we have to leave the country, ” he says. Many like Gursewak have worked for years in Canada in trucking, restaurants, construction, security and more. They call Canada their home and say: “if we are good enough to work, we are good enough to stay.”

On Saturday June 22 at 4 pm at Kaneff Park (behind Shopper’s World) in Brampton, international student graduates, supporters, and allies from the labour movement will be marching and protesting to demand an extension of their PGWPs and a fair pathway to PR.

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