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Canada’s deportation latest: opposition MPs call for PR for affected students

Support for international students threatened with deportation from Canada is mounting, as opposition politicians press the government for immediate solutions to the crisis.
June 14 2023
4 Min Read

Support for international students threatened with deportation from Canada is mounting, as opposition politicians press the government for immediate solutions to the crisis.

The government has promised that fraudulent acceptance letters used to gain entry to the Canadian institutions would be investigated. Affected students have been leading protests against the prospect of deportations beginning at the end of May.

The Canada Border Services Agency has been looking into “ghost” agents providing students with fake college acceptance letters to obtain study permits, which opposition politicians said was due to an “incompetent” Liberal government.

The government has insisted that affected students will have the opportunity to prove they were taken advantage of.

While it remains unclear how many students have been impacted, a government committee suggests that up to 700 students are threatened with deportation. Some students were ordered to leave Canada by June 13 but reports suggest this has been delayed.

On June 12, New Democratic Party MP Jenny Kwan stated that international students “who have been defrauded by crooked consultants should not be punished with deportation and inadmissibility based on misrepresentation”.

“They have invested everything they have for a better future… Their lives are in limbo. The Liberals can eliminate this uncertainty by allowing them to stay in Canada and build the lives they dream of,” she said.

Immigration minister Sean Fraser responded that his government is “working to develop a process” for fraud victims and innocent students will be able to remain in Canada. He had already announced on May 26 an investigation into the issue.

“We will put a process in place to allow them to prove that they were taken advantage of”

“However, to the extent that people committed fraud, or were complicit in a fraudulent scheme, they will bear the consequences of choosing not to follow Canada’s laws,” he said, adding students are dealing with serious mental health concerns due to uncertainty.

“We will put a process in place to allow them to prove that they were taken advantage of and provide an appropriate remedy for them.”

A week earlier, on June 7, prime minister Justin Trudeau told parliament that the government was “deeply aware of cases of international students facing removal orders over fraudulent college acceptance letters”.

Identifying culprits rather than penalising victims would be the focus, he said, reiterating comments made by the immigration minister.

PM Trudeau was responding to a question from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who asked whether he would stay the deportation of all students impacted and provide a pathway to permanent residency for them.

Singh’s unanimous consent proposal, that would have provided a means for the house to immediately “stay the deportation of all affected students, waive inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation and provide a pathway to permanent residency”, was not agreed in the house.

The following day, Conservative MP from Calgary in Alberta, Tom Kmiec, noted that the immigration committee had been called on four times by members of his party for action to help victims of the scam.

“Four times the Liberal and NDP MPs on the committee voted against it,” he said. The committee is scheduled to meet on June 14 to discuss the issue further.

The immigration department “did not catch” the fake college admission letters that “malicious consultants” were responsible for, Kmiec said.

“Hundreds of international students are now protesting at CBSA offices… How could this incompetent Liberal government allow hundreds of international students to be defrauded?”

Parliamentary secretary to the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marie-France Lalonde, thanked the member for the question, adding, “I think we collectively agree that this is unacceptable and we are seized with this situation that these international students are facing.”

She repeated that identifying perpetrators was the focus to “prevent them from abusing anyone again”.

“At the same time, we recognise that there may be students in this cohort who are vulnerable and who were taken advantage of. There is an opportunity for them to present their case, and we will be there with them.”

Kmiec’s question echoed statements from the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Pierre Poilievre, who is also using the crisis to attack his political opponents.

“Several years ago, a group of shady consultants gave fake admission letters to mostly Punjabi students who came here in good faith to study and be part of the Canadian family,” Poilievre said in parliament on June 6.

The “incompetent Liberal government had accepted the letters in the first place”, he claimed. “Now this government is kicking them out the country, sending them home to poverty and bankruptcies for their families.

“Why won’t this government reverse its incompetence, show a little bit of common sense and compassion and let those that came here in good faith and are contributing to our economy halt the deportation and let them apply for permanent residence.”

“We are actively looking at these reports on a case-by-case basis”

Lalonde replied again that innocent victims will “have an opportunity to demonstrate their situation and present evidence to support their case”.

“At the same time, the integrity of our immigration system remains of utmost importance. We are actively looking at these reports on a case-by-case basis, and we will make good on our commitment to helping international students,” Lalonde added.

The Ontario Federation of Labour has also backed affected students and supported protests at the Canada Border Services Agency in Mississauga.

In a letter dated June 9, Ontario Federation of Labour president Patty Coates also urged authorities to end the deportations of affected students, halt further revocations of work or study permits and ensure PR status for all those impacted.

“These students, through no fault of their own, have been targeted by unregulated recruiters who prey on young people with aspirations for a better life and educational opportunities in Canada,” Coates wrote.

The role of agents is set to be reviewed in Canada’s new international education strategy.

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