Charities under strain as foreign students ‘struggle’ in Canada: Report

Toronto: With international students struggling amidst worsening housing and affordability issues in Canada, charities and support groups say they are under strain and have urged the government to step up support.

With nearly 500,000 international students living in the Greater Toronto Area, Khalsa Aid’s national director Jindi Singh says charities are taking on more than their fair share of the load, Ottawa-based CBC news channel reported.

“We truly feel it’s not really our role,” Singh told the news outlet.

The Canadian branch of Khalsa Aid, helping over 8000 students struggling to access food, clothes, and shelter in cities across the country, says the government and post-secondary institutions should be doing more to support international students in need.

Jind said that the organisation has been presently receiving five calls a day from international students needing food, clothing, and shelter, especially from Brampton in Ontario province where he said that the situation is “acute”.

Since last June, Khalsa Aid has delivered over 5,000 grocery bags full of non-perishable food to students in this city, which attracts tens of thousands of international students annually.

The president of the College Student Alliance, Azi Afousi, told CBC that student unions across Ontario have reported fielding more calls about housing struggles, adding that one of her colleagues shares a house with 15 other people.

International students contribute about CA$22 billion ($16.4 billion) annually to the Canadian economy and pay four times more tuition than domestic students.

According to a September 2023 report by consulting firm Higher Education Strategy Associates, students from India alone contributed $2 billion to Ontario’s post-secondary institutions’ operating income last year, compared to roughly $1.8 billion the provincial government contributed.

“For colleges and governments to not provide wrap-around services like housing, food, and job referrals, is a “pure money grab,” Singh told CBC.

This comes even as the government has set out to cap new study permits for international students and cancelling work permits for their spouses.

However, Deepa Mattoo of Sukhmani Haven says that the cap doesn’t do anything to help the students who are already in Canada and are struggling.

While they welcomed the study permit cap, both Mattoo and Singh urged the government to put in place more support for international students who are already there in the country.

The number of international students in Canada crossed one million mark, with Indians leading the pack, accounting for 215,190 out of the 579,075 permits issued till November 2023.

In addition to the two-year study permit cap, the Canadian government also announced that it will more than double the cost-of-living financial requirement for incoming international students on January 1, 2024.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller said a single applicant will need to show they have 20,635 Canadian dollars ($15,181) in addition to their first year of tuition and travel costs.

Earlier, Canadian opposition leader Pierre Poilievre has blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for making a ‘mess’ of the country’s immigration system.

He said that immigrants, international students, and temporary foreign workers are not to be blamed for Trudeau’s “incompetence”.


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