People march towards Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office in Toronto, during a rally led by current and former international students calling for changes to immigration rules during COVID-19, on Saturday, September 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

International students call for COVID-19 immigration changes in Toronto

Group is calling on the provincial and federal governments to make post-graduate work permits renewable

Current and former international students called for changes to Canada’s immigration rules on Saturday as they face a job market still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered at Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office in Toronto in the first of two events scheduled this weekend. A second event in Mississauga, Ont., is planned for Sunday.

The students say the requirements for graduates to gain permanent residency in Canada are too strict, and economic disruption from the COVID-19 crisis has made those requirements essentially impossible to meet.

Sarom Rho, an organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change who leads the Migrant Students United campaign, said the pandemic has compounded the difficulties international graduates face when entering the job market in Canada.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people in Canada have lost work and wages, but for migrant students there is an added cost,” Rho said by phone ahead of Saturday’s rally.

“Without jobs, students can’t apply for permanent residence.”

Post-graduate work permits are not currently renewable and Rho said this puts graduates who have been laid off or unable to find work during the pandemic at extra risk.

Graduates experiencing unemployment face deportation if they do not complete continuous, high-wage work before their permits expire, she noted.

The group is calling on the provincial and federal governments to make post-graduate work permits renewable so graduates struggling in the COVID-19 job market will not be deported or become undocumented.

VIDEO: Trudeau, Tam defend Canadian response times to COVID-19 pandemic

An online petition calling on the federal government to address the issues international students face had attracted more than 18,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.

It reiterates the key demands in the Migrant Students United campaign, including making work permits renewable.

“We call on the federal government to make immediate changes that support students during the new global reality we are in,” the petition reads.

It also says families of international students should be able acquire work permits, asks that tuition fees be lowered to be on par with domestic rates and says all migrants should be granted permanent status.

Rho noted returning home is not an option for many graduates who come from countries that have been destabilized by economic devastation and other crises during the pandemic.

She said delays in immigration processing times have also left current international students on study permits without social insurance numbers, leaving them unable to find work.

These pressing concerns about students’ futures could be avoided simply, Rho said.

She said the weekend’s demonstrations call for simple fixes to a “punitive” system that sets students up to fail as they work to stay in Canada after their studies.

“This could all be fixed if there were a simple fix like making the work permit renewable, and even simpler, granting status for all migrants,” she said.

Neither Freeland nor Immigration Minister Marco Mendocino immediately responded to a request for comment.

READ MORE: Ford accuses Ottawa of failing to enforce quarantine orders in Ontario

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Guest choreographer takes the ice with Mount Arrowsmith skaters

Mount Arrowsmith skating season is underway, with COVID-19 protocols in place

RCMP investigating after tires slashed in Port Alberni neighbourhood

RCMP are looking for anyone with information or video surveillance

Port Alberni writer featured at Alberni Valley Words on Fire

Vicki Drybrough’s poetry and short stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals

Tour de Rock alumni ride through Port Alberni

Event was scaled down this year in response to COVID-19

Third brewery on the way for Port Alberni

Alberni Brewing Company hopes to open in early 2021

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians not following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Shawnigan Lake’s Kubica gets 25 to life for murder in California

Former Shawnigan Lake man convicted of killing woman in 1990

Most Read