The program gives those living precariously in Toronto without the secure right to remain, or those awaiting the outcome of an asylum claim, the chance to attend university as domestic students, paying domestic fees.
The idea for the program started in 2015 when Francisco Rico, co-founder of FCJ, approached York University to discuss ways to help young people who visited the centre overcome their fears about their uncertain future.
As part of the Toronto Community Legacy Initiative Fund, the program was developed to address economic and social barriers for Toronto’s Latin American, South American and Caribbean communities following the 2015 Pan American Games, which were held in the city.
“This FCJ bridging program is an amazing example of how universities can work together with community partners”
York University president Rhonda Lenton told The PIE News that the first cohort of students to the program who were admitted in fall 2017 across the faculties of liberal arts, science, and media have been getting fully immersed in their courses.
“As a country, Canada relies pretty heavily on immigration and we cannot overestimate the importance of education to ensuring that we are not leaving any talent behind,” Lenton said.
‘Dreamers‘ refers to undocumented migrants brought to the US as children, who would have been offered the chance of permanent legal residency if the DREAM Act had passed. The name has been co-opted by those in a similar situation in Canada.
In 2017 the Trump Administration rescinded the DACA program that allowed for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children to remain in the country, leaving some 800,000 uncertain about their future.
Lenton said that while it is difficult to estimate the number of Dreamers in Ontario with a precarious immigration status, the figure is somewhere “in the thousands”.
“It’s difficult to imagine where this program is going to go, but as it gets more widely known we fully expect there will be increased interest from more young people,” said Lenton.
“York is very progressive in trying to find ways to utilise higher education for the betterment the public. for example, it has another program for refugees based in Kenya.
“This program is another extension of that and we are now in the process of looking for a foundation that might be able to give us additional funds to continue it,” she added.
Lenton told The PIE that funding is the main challenge as the pilot was funded by a city initiative following the Games, that will expire later in 2018.
“We would hopefully like to continue supporting the students in this pilot program. It has been so well received and it is in line with York’s commitment to bringing together a broad demographic of students and giving them access to a high-quality learning experience.”
“This FCJ bridging program is an amazing example of how universities can work together with community partners, and the aim is to be able to expand it and accommodate more students that have precarious immigration status,” she added.