For the past few years, there have been any number of reports about small businesses exploiting international students and workers by promising them papers in exchange for working for less than minimum wage. The situation has apparently gotten so bad that in Calgary, there are some concerned South Asians who are trying to raise awareness of the ongoing exploitation of international students and foreign workers through a petition and community meetings in northeast Calgary.
Organizers, including ethnic media outlet Sikh Virsa International and the Progressive Cultural Association Calgary, are calling for a cap on college fees and better clarity on programs for international students.
They also want the federal government’s employer sponsorship program scrapped and replaced with something that’s not open to corruption.
They say international students pay tens of thousands of dollars to small private colleges in the hope of completing a two-year program that will lead to securing a work permit, ultimately achieving permanent residency (PR) status in Canada.
But in some cases, they discover the programs they paid for aren’t even eligible for a federal work permit.
The community groups are also concerned about employers and consultants charging large sums of money for permanent residence sponsorships.
It’s a problem more common in larger provinces like Ontario but they say it’s happening in Alberta, too.
“There are over 800,000 students in Canada in the process of PR or getting work permits,” said Harcharan Parhar, editor-in-chief of Sikh Virsa in an interview.
“Many students are now moving to Alberta and it’s started happening in Calgary and other parts of Alberta,” said Parhar.
Besides high college fees, Parhar says some employers and immigration consultants ask for up to $50,000 for the promise of work permits and PR sponsorship letters, with students and workers at their mercy for years, often being paid less than minimum wage, working long hours and keeping quiet about their circumstances to avoid any problems.
“People who’ve been here a long time they understand the issues, so it’s our job as a community … to come forward and raise this issue,” said Parhar.
“When students complete their education, if they want to become PR in Canada, they should apply to the government and get something like citizenship or PR without any sponsorship. The sponsorship is the root cause of the corruption and exploitation,” Parhar said.
It is not as though the immigration department isn’t aware of loopholes being exploited, it is a political issue. No one wants to admit to a problem.-CINEWS