“Many of these international students sincerely came to Canada to pursue their studies at some of our world-class institutions and were duped by bad actors who claimed to be helping them in their immigration application process,” he said in a statement.
But individuals will need to prove their intent to come to Canada was “genuine and they were not complicit in fraud”.
“I want to make it clear that international students who are not found to be involved in fraud will not face deportation,” Fraser said.
“International students who are not found to be involved in fraud will not face deportation”
As many as 700 international students from India were given fake admission letters by an unscrupulous agent in that country. However, the minister said the number of cases the government is aware of is in the “dozens” but acknowledged that more affected students could be found as investigations continue.
A total of 82 were referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada process and 25 are still going through the process, he detailed. Some 57 individuals have been subjected to a removal order, with eight having already been deported.
The students used the letters to obtain a Canadian study permit. However, when they arrived in Canada the rogue agent told them their program was full and directed them to an alternate school.
Fraser says his department has struck a task force with the Canada Border Services Agency to identify the victims of fraud.
“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, I have provided instructions for officers to issue a Temporary Resident Permit to that individual,” he said.
He warned that any students who were aware that the documents were fraudulent will face deportation. “Those who were complicit in a fraudulent scheme will be held accountable for their actions and will bear the full consequences of Canadian law,” Fraser said.
The government announced that those international students facing imminent deportation will see those orders halted pending review. At least one student was expected to have been deported on June 13.
The Immigration and Refugee Board, a government agency with a mandate to resolve immigration cases, had previously ruled that students could be deported – even if a student had no knowledge of the fraud.
Karamjeet Kaur, of Edmonton, Alberta, was one such student. Her agent provided her with a letter of acceptance to Seneca College in Toronto; she only found out years later that it was fake. The board accepted her testimony that she believed the letter was authentic, but ordered her deported nonetheless.
It is not clear whether she remains in Canada.
IRCC officials will be working with educational institutions, known as Designated Learning Institutions, to better detect and combat fraud, the minister stated. “We are taking every opportunity to crack down on dishonest and fraudulent consultants who seek to abuse Canada’s immigration system and take advantage of those seeking to visit, work, study or settle in Canada.”
The announcement came as opposition MPs in parliament pressured the Liberal government to take action to protect the fraud victims.
Fraser stated that not all of the international students were victims.
“Those who were complicit in a fraudulent scheme will be held accountable for their actions”
“Other foreign nationals had no intent of pursuing higher education and used fraudulent acceptance letters to take advantage of Canada’s immigration system. Within this cohort of individuals, some have been involved in organised crime,” he said.
Conservative MP Tim Uppal highlighted that affected students have had to hire immigration lawyers to fight to stay in Canada “when they were victims of this scheme” and the government was “treating them as criminals”, during a committee meeting on June 14.
“It’s really important that when we are dealing with something as serious as a person’s ability to remain in Canada that we know the facts that we are dealing with. We undertook work to understand what was going on,” Fraser responded.
The eight people that have been deported, the minister said, will be able to come back “if they demonstrate that their intent to come to Canada was genuine and they were not complicit in fraud”.
“When we are dealing with a widespread, potentially criminal element, to people who are seeking to abuse Canada’s immigration system, I start to think about the reputational risk to the international student program more broadly,” he said.
“This is an extraordinary program that brings people to our country who make an incredible difference. We need to do what we can to protect the mental health and wellbeing of people who are going through this process, but we can’t cut corners when it comes to developing a process that will ensure we are protecting the integrity of the system.”