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Sikh organizations call for urgent reforms to support International students

Ottawa, April 23, 2024 (Yes Punjab News)

A coalition of prominent Sikh organizations has come together to address critical concerns regarding the future of international students and Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders in Canada.

In an open letter addressed to the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, these organizations emphasize the urgent need for reforms to safeguard the well-being and success of international students.

The letter, signed by leaders of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Ontario Gurdwaras Committee, Khalsa Aid Canada, and the International Sikh Students Association, highlights several pressing issues affecting international students and PGWP holders.

The issues raised by the organizations include:

The impending expiration of PGWPs in 2024- without the opportunity for extension, PGWP holders face uncertainties that could lead to a humanitarian crisis, with potential repercussions for their livelihoods and futures.

Endorsing the asks of petition E-4454 including the need to increase the length of future PGWPs to two and five years, respectively.

Uncertainty in the immigration system, including policy changes, lengthy processing times, and inconsistent application procedures, which contribute to instability and insecurity among international students.

Aligning work permit extensions more closely with Canada’s labor needs in specific occupations, the prioritization of Canadian experience class domestic draws and the expansion of pathways for students in skilled trades to transition to permanent residency.

Rising stigmatization and targeting of international students in Canadian society, calling for active measures to combat online discrimination, harassment, and xenophobia targeting this vulnerable group.

The full letter to Minister Miller can be read below:

April 23, 2024

Honourable Marc Miller

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

229 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister,

RE: International Students & PGWP Reforms

We, the undersigned community organisations, write to you with shared concern regarding the future of international students and Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) holders.

As representatives of community organisations engaged on different levels with international students, we believe that urgent reforms are necessary to ensure their well-being and success while studying in Canada.

Recently, on March 18, 2024, a petition (E4454) was presented in the House of Commons by Ruby Sahota, Member of Parliament for Brampton North. The petition proposed significant reforms to the validity of Post-Graduation Work Permits, extending them to two and five years respectively.

We believe this is an essential reform, considering it would provide PGWP holders with the stability and opportunity to pursue skilled and in-demand trades and careers addressing labour shortages in key sectors.

Further, we urgently draw your attention to the pressing issue of PGWP expirations expected in 2024. The expiration of PGWPs, without the opportunity for extension, poses significant risks to the livelihoods and futures of these individuals, potentially leading to a humanitarian crisis.

With the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have faced unprecedented challenges, including disruptions to their academic pursuits, limited employment opportunities, massive nationwide layoffs and financial hardships.

Many international students have invested vast resources into their education and life in Canada. They may face uncertain futures in their home countries, particularly if they have been studying abroad for safety or economic reasons.

International students also play an important role in many local economies, making their sudden exit from the workforce as a result of PGWP expirations, potentially a serious blow to many businesses. This ripple effect highlights the interconnectedness of international students with various sectors of our economy.

Our organisations engage with international students on a daily basis and provide them with various support.

We believe that government inaction regarding the PGWPs will make this significant population vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous consultants and could lead to tragic outcomes such as increased rates of suicide, and drug addiction, further adding stress to the supports we provide as well as the already strained public system in Canada.

The uncertainty within the immigration system exacerbates the challenges faced by international students. Constant policy changes, lengthy processing times, and inconsistent application procedures contribute to a sense of instability and insecurity.

International students are left in limbo, unsure of their future prospects and unable to plan for their lives beyond graduation.

We acknowledge that the 18-month extension policies were initially implemented in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19. However, considering the current economic downturn and rising unemployment, it’s unrealistic to expect employer support through LMIA for further extending work permits under the same conditions.

Therefore, we suggest a novel approach for work permit extensions through LMIA exemption codes within the International Mobility Program.

Similar to the Francophone mobility exemption code C16, which allows applicants to extend their work permits with an Offer of Employment from an eligible employer by demonstrating basic French proficiency, we propose the introduction of similar exemption codes.

These would be for individuals who achieve CLB 7 or CLB 8 in English proficiency tests and are employed in high-skilled occupations or in sectors urgently needed by Canada, such as Trades, Healthcare, Early Childhood Education, and others.

Additionally, we request an amendment to include these extensions under the C10 significant benefit category, should a new code be unfeasible at this time. This amendment would help align work permit extensions more closely with Canada’s labour needs in specific occupations.

We urge the government to prioritise the Canadian experience class domestic draws and to focus on international students already in Canada, particularly those enrolled in the sectors where we have shortage of workers.

By expanding domestic draws, the government can provide international students with additional opportunities to transition to permanent residency, thereby retaining valuable talent and addressing critical labour shortages in key sectors.

Moreover, opening up more pathways for students in skilled trades will not only support Canada’s growing infrastructure and construction industries but also ensure that international students with valuable technical skills have a clear and accessible route to permanent residency.

This targeted approach will not only benefit international students but also contribute to Canada’s economic growth and prosperity.

Finally, we are greatly alarmed to see the rising stigmatisation and targeting of international students in Canadian society. We see international students becoming scapegoats for all manner of problems faced by Canadians.

This targeting not only makes life harder for an already vulnerable group but has the potential to end in real tragedy. We must actively combat online discrimination, harassment, and xenophobia targeting international students to create a safe and welcoming environment where they can thrive.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue. We look forward to your leadership and advocacy on behalf of international students.

Sincerely,

World Sikh Organization Of Canada Danish Singh, President

Ontario Gurdwaras Committee Amarjeet Singh Mann, Spokesperson

Khalsa Aid Canada Mandeep Singh, Regional Director

International Sikh Students Association Jaspreet Singh, President

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