OCASI Statement: Equity and Fairness For International Students



Toronto / May 14, 2024 - OCASI calls on the government of Canada and the Ontario government to ensure equity and fairness for international students and their families.

The exploitation and abuse of international students has grown exponentially over the last several years. Those responsible continue to look away and do nothing as students are simultaneously treated as ‘cash cows’ and ‘scapegoats’. They are exploited for their economic potential - for the high student fees they are charged and cheap labour they are coerced to provide. At the same time, they are blamed for everything, from the housing crisis to the high cost of living, including by the very people who designed and manage the immigration program that puts them in jeopardy. The shift in international student demographics to a higher number of students from India and China has seen an equivalent rise in racial discrimination and xenophobia directed at them. Female international students are more likely to face sexual harassment and assault.

Recent federal government changes for international students such as: limits on study permits, limits on hours worked, new work permit rules for recent graduates and spouses, and an increase to the cost of living requirement, will make life harder for international students and limit their ability to gain permanent residency in Canada. These changes will not address students’ vulnerability to exploitation and abuse, the worsening conditions they face in immigration, employment and housing, or their deepening physical and mental health crisis. Neither will they address Canada’s housing affordability and high cost of living crises. But these changes, and the way they are framed in public discourse signal that international students have somehow caused these domestic emergencies.

OCASI supports international student groups’ call for an equitable and fair immigration status regularization program and access to permanent residency for future students, a cap on international student tuition increases, and workers rights protection for students and their families. International students and their families must be allowed access to federally-funded settlement and language training programs. We urge federal and provincial governments to end the exploitation and scapegoating of students by landlords, employers and recruiters.

There must also be fairness for publicly-funded post-secondary institutions that have come to rely on international student fees in the face of a government funding shortfall, both to sustain their activities as well as build facilities and expand programs to benefit domestic as well as international students. This cannot continue. We call on federal and provincial governments to make consistent, adequate and equitable education investments, rather than look to international students as a revenue source.

The sudden cut back in student visas and subsequent lower enrollment in educational institutions reportedly have a disproportionate impact on certain communities. There must be support for small and rural communities that have come to rely on international students to fill labour needs, and on other contributions they make to the local economy through the purchase of goods and services.

Most importantly, any changes must begin with justice for international students and their families already in Canada, and a fair and equitable immigration program for future migrant students.