Columnist Tony Keller in The Globe and Mail says Canada needs to put a cap on the number of international students being admitted to the country per year.
This is in response to what he describes to be a recent deterioration of the international student immigration system, under which candidates are coming to Canada to merely work while enrolled, gain permanent residence, and eventually even citizenship.
Keller furthers his view by writing that although the overarching goal of Canada international student immigration is to benefit and enrich Canada through scarce skills and experience, the student visa system is no longer even aiming at achieving that.
The Globe and Mail piece traces this issue back to the advent of the Trudeau government, which “broke” the immigration system by allowing a “massive shadow immigration stream” of temporary foreign workers – many of who come through the student visa.
Ottawa was not alone in making this change happen, however, and essentially colluded with private industry, educational institutions, and provincial governments to award them their respective interests of minimum-wage labour, international tuition, and lower education budgets.
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Nevertheless, Keller believes Marc Miller to be recognizing the shortcoming of the system.
Referencing the Immigration Minister’s interview with CBC’s Radio’s The House last Saturday, he points out that Miller sees international student recruitment as an “ecosystem” that is “very lucrative” but has brought “some perverse effects: some fraud in the system, some people taking advantage of what is seen as a backdoor entry into Canada.”
The larger issue at hand, according to Miller, is the “integrity of the system.”
Bringing forth the example of Ontario, the column highlights how the number of foreign students rose from 46,000 to 412,000 between 2000 and 2022, with the “rise under the Doug Ford government” having been “especially vertiginous” and “especially pronounced in the college sector.”
In 2016, less than 35,000 new student visas were issued for admission to Ontario colleges, while the number in 2022 was more than 143,000.
Many of these students attend institutions that are designed for money-minting purposes rather than providing a fruitful education, with some being run by private entrepreneurs and others by entrepreneurial arrangements between public colleges and private operators; while the public institutions provide the credentials, the latter are responsible for “just about everything else.”
This, however, leads to a net loss for Canada. While the country is essentially winning every time a person graduates with a highly skilled degree and works in a field where there is a shortage of Canadian workers, it is getting crowded by immigrants working in low-skilled positions.
This leads to issues such as the housing shortage the country is currently witnessing. More than 800,000 visa students were in Canada last year, compared to less than 200,0000 a decade and a half ago; this is one of the many contributors to the housing supply-demand mismatch.
The first step to solving this problem, as suggested by the piece, is to cap the number of student visas at a number far below Miller’s current tally of 900,000.
The second step would be the creation of a system that prioritizes who receives the limited visas.
Miller’s spokesperson apparently told Keller that the “department is having ‘exploratory discussions’ about creating a ‘trusted institutions’ framework, which would look more favourably on educational institutions meeting a ‘higher standard’ in areas such as ‘international student supports and outcomes.’”
Keller also believes that Ottawa should not allow international students to work while in school, unless it is high-wage work. This would filter in students who genuinely want a Canadian education and not just the citizenship.