Housing crisis fix won’t come by ‘pointing fingers’ at international students, says immigration consultants in Brampton

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Published August 23, 2023 at 10:16 am

Over 60% of Indian international students live in unsuitable housing in Brampton, StatCan says

News that Ottawa is considering a cap on international student enrollments to combat Canada’s housing crisis has immigration experts in Brampton calling on the feds to stop “pointing fingers.”

Speaking in Charlottetown on Monday from the Liberal cabinet retreat, Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the government is eying a possible limit on the number of international students enrolled in Canadian post-secondary institutions.

The housing crisis is at the forefront of the retreat agenda, and a cap on international students is just one option Ottawa is looking at to ease the worsening housing crisis.

“When you see stories about the exploitation of international students with some institutions, if I can be completely candid, that I’m convinced have come to exist purely to profit off the backs of vulnerable international students rather than provide quality education to the future permanent residents and citizens of Canada,” Fraser said.

And while Fraser noted not all schools are part of the problem and cautioned against blaming immigrants for Canada’s housing crisis, his comments on a possible cap of enrollments has immigration consultants calling for more collaboration and incentives for schools that are going above and beyond to support their international students.

“Addressing this crisis requires a holistic strategy that involves collaboration among diverse stakeholders, including governmental bodies, educational institutions, and local communities,” the Brampton Immigration Consultancy (BIC) said in a release. “Pointing fingers solely at international students oversimplifies the situation and overlooks the underlying complexities contributing to the housing challenge.”

Rather than a cap, the consultancy says Ottawa could give students Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) at schools that provide adequate housing, which would allow international students residing in these accommodations to work, “fostering financial independence during their studies.”

The retreat will also see the government consider a new report co-authored by three national experts on housing and homelessness, which made 10 recommendations on specific things the federal government can do to alleviate housing pressures.

That includes eliminating federal sales taxes on the construction of housing units built specifically to be rentals, and to play a leadership role in creating a new national housing accord with other levels of government, for-profit builders and not-for-profit housing agencies.

The BIC says it has reached out to various ministers to highlight the need for housing faced by international students and is calling on Ottawa “to adopt a comprehensive perspective on the housing crisis and collaborate with stakeholders to devise sustainable solutions that benefit students and the broader community.”

Academics, commercial banks and policy thinkers have all been warning the federal government that the pace of population growth, facilitated by immigration, is making the housing crisis worse.

Hundreds of international students were facing deportation in June after applying for visas through a now-shuttered consulting company in India that reportedly gave them fake offers of acceptance without their knowledge.

Fraser, who was at that time the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, walked back the deportations “if the facts of an individual case are clear that an international student came to Canada with a genuine intent to study, and without knowledge of the use of fraudulent documentation.”

In 2014, Canada set a target to increase international student enrolment from about 240,000 to more than 450,000 by 2022. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada reported that there were more than 807,000 international study permit holders in Canada in December.

With files from the Canadian Press

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