International students in Canada protest against anti-immigration measures imposed by Prince Edward Island

A large protest by international students, many from India, has broken out on Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. These student workers, most of whom are recent graduates, face deportation following sudden changes to provincial immigration rules in line with the ruling elite’s intensifying anti-immigrant agitation. Canadian in recent months.

The protests began on May 9 in the face of widespread hostility from Canadian nationalists and supporters of a more restrictive immigration policy. On May 24, a number of protesters began a hunger strike in front of the building where the Prince Edward Island Parliament is located, with some even refusing to drink water for a time. The hunger strike was called off on May 31 after a meeting between protesters and Jeff Young, director of the provincial immigration office.

International students and recent graduates are protesting Prince Edward Island’s discriminatory changes to its immigration program in the provincial capital, Charlottetown. [Photo: Protest_PEI_24/Instagram]

The protest is a response to changes made to Prince Edward Island’s immigration policy in February to limit the number of immigrants, changes the government justified by citing infrastructure constraints health care and housing. The contested changes concern the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which is widely used as a pathway for international students seeking permanent residency in Canada. Of the 12,000 applications for permanent residence filed in Prince Edward Island, the province only chooses 1,590.

The changes include reducing the number of PNP applicants by 25 percent and restricting postgraduate work permits to students with qualifications in specific fields such as commercial and residential construction and health care. The provincial government reduced the number of nominations for licenses in the sales and service sector from 855 to 215. These policy changes prevented many students from extending their work permits, resulting in job losses. employment and potential deportation, even if students have graduated and worked in Canada.

The protesting students have three main demands: first, to be “grandfathered” into the Provincial Nominee Program, which would allow them to be exempt from the new regulations and continue with the old system; second, to benefit from fair draws under the PNP, without a points system, which they say is unfair to those under 25; and third, obtain an extension of their work permit to compensate for time and opportunities lost due to policy changes.

PEI Policy Changes were introduced after federal Liberal Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced in November that the target for permanent resident arrivals would be capped at 500,000 for two consecutive years. Then, in January, the federal government introduced a limit on student visa admissions to Canada, setting it at 360,000 permits. On March 21, he again announced restrictions on temporary immigration, marking the first instance where the number of non-permanent resident arrivals would be limited in the same way as permanent resident arrivals.

The situation for many international students in Canada is dire. The entire Canadian immigration program is focused on private business interests and profit. Educational institutions are increasingly resorting to attracting foreign students, who typically face tuition fees five times higher than domestic students, to compensate for government funding cuts education. Furthermore, with the increase in the profit motive in education, Canada has seen the emergence of what has been widely described as the equivalent of “puppy mills”, i.e. educational institutions offering substandard education at high prices and without appropriate support for often poor students attracted by the prospect of potential permanent residency.

In an interview given to The PIE, law professor Daljit Nirman said: “In my opinion, the chaos in several provinces, including Prince Edward Island, is due to the aggressive recruiting practices of college and university lobbyists. These institutions, motivated by profit, recruited agents with high commissions, which led to uncontrolled enrollments of foreign students. »

As the current protest highlights, international students often work in the lowest-paid sectors of the economy, and some companies rely on these workers to keep their “costs competitive.” Limited opposition to P.E.I. policy changes within theestablishment is almost entirely the work of the vultures who are used to exploiting international students for their businesses. At the annual meeting of the Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King had to field questions from concerned employers wondering what would happen if this source of cheap labor was ending. Some Liberal and Green politicians in the province have issued lip service statements criticizing the racist attacks against protesting international students.

One of the protest organizers, Rupinder Pal Singh, told CBC News: “Some people harassed us […] throwing glasses, cans, water at us while the people (who participated in the 24-hour hunger strike) were sleeping.”

Foreign students often find themselves stuck in extreme poverty with low-paying jobs. As organizers of the Prince Edward Island protest campaign pointed out, many of them were front-line service workers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, their already difficult path to permanent residency and citizenship has been made even more difficult by changes introduced by the Progressive Conservative government of Prince Edward Island, which are themselves part of a broader trend nationally.

The toughening of provincial and federal immigration policies is the consequence of a concerted campaign led by the far right, but adopted by all political parties, from the Conservatives to the “left” New Democratic Party, including the nationalist and separatist parties in Quebec. According to their false narrative, it is immigration that is responsible for the worsening social crisis in Canada, in particular the shortage of affordable housing and the dilapidated state of public health and education services, rather than the austerity in public spending imposed by all parties for decades. The ruling class and its representatives in politics and the media aim, through this aggressive campaign, to divide workers by making the more vulnerable immigrant and refugee section of the working class the scapegoat for the crisis of capitalism.

(Article published in English on June 7, 2024)

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