World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.
Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada had been in talks to develop a two-tiered system to accelerate study permits for international students attending "trusted" colleges and universities. The proposed trusted institutions framework aims to incentivize schools that are meeting a higher standard in properly supporting international students through means including easing access to affordable housing. Colleges and universities anticipate that this initiative will address current processing backlogs in the study permit pipeline and better coordinate on accountability frameworks to identify colleges and immigration consultants that abuse the immigration system. The federal government is currently in consultations with a small group of designated learning institutions representing the higher-ed sector, to discuss implementation projections. IRCC also continues to liaise with provinces and territories as well as national education entities as planning unfolds.
After spending 14 days in Canada, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, has criticized Canada's temporary foreign worker program, stating that it fosters conditions akin to contemporary slavery. He noted that migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation due to their dependency on employers for work permits. Many workers, fearing deportation, are reluctant to report abuse. Obokata called for granting all temporary foreign workers a pathway to longer-term or permanent residency, as well as permits allowing them to switch employers freely. Approximately 15% of Canada's agricultural workforce consists of temporary foreign workers, according to Statistics Canada. The program faced scrutiny during the pandemic, with concerns raised about the protection of these workers. The UN official's remarks have echoed sentiments expressed by Jamaican migrant workers who likened their working conditions in Ontario to "systematic slavery”. The government has implemented a pilot program for a limited number of agricultural workers to gain permanent residency, but advocates like Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, are calling for a comprehensive, permanent program for all temporary foreign workers.
City staff are confirming that refugees and asylum seekers are being turned away due to capacity constraints facing Toronto's main shelter network. The announcement comes weeks after Mayor Olivia Chow said shelter policies enacted earlier this year that would otherwise direct shelter seekers elsewhere had been reversed. The motion put forward by Mayor Chow that was approved by council sought to ensure that anyone, regardless of status, would have access to shelter if space is available. Refugee and non-refugee shelter systems alike have been experiencing challenges in availability. City government officials continue to put pressure on the federal government to provide support through additional funding for reimbursements and increasing available rent subsidies.
As Canada's housing crisis worsens, blame has been directed towards foreign investors, zoning laws, and now, immigrants and international students. Canada's rapid population growth, largely driven by immigration, has surpassed 40 million, with a surge of over 1 million in 2022. Despite concerns raised about the impact of immigration on the housing market, housing policy expert Carolyn Whitzman argues that curtailing immigration is not the solution. She points out that the housing crisis stems from a lack of accurate data on housing needs and a deficient national housing policy formed in the early 1990s. Whitzman emphasizes that focusing on immigration deflects attention from the real issue: the absence of effective government policies. She calls for evidence-backed decision-making regarding a potential cap on international students and argues that there is not enough evidence about their strain on the housing market. Additionally, she highlights the pressing need for a national social housing program to address the crisis, which affects not only immigrants but also many other Canadian residents.