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Opinion: Don Curry, Will we see caps on international student numbers?

'When schools across the country are ranked by study permit totals, Ontario colleges hold 14 of the top 20 spots'
Stranded international students protest outside Canadore College

The alarm bells are starting to ring about the number of international students in Canada, and we may see some policy changes in the future.

In Ontario, the flood began when Ontario Premier Doug Ford cut domestic tuition rates for Ontario colleges by 10 per cent in 2019-20 and followed that by freezing charges at the new rate. Colleges reacted by dramatically increasing international student numbers.

Now we’re at the point where 40 per cent of all study visas in 2022 were granted to students in Ontario’s college system, Canadore College among them. According to a Globe and Mail story September 25 by Joe Friesen, “When schools across the country are ranked by study permit totals, Ontario colleges hold 14 of the top 20 spots.”

The article says Canadore College took in $131 million in tuition fees from international students, and $14 million from domestic students last year.

We see international students everywhere in North Bay, but the vast majority of them are at Canadore’s southern Ontario campuses in Mississauga, Brampton and Scarborough.

The majority of these students are from India, and with Canada-India relations in the sewer right now, I am sure college presidents and international student departments are working on strategies to diversify their international student populations. Some are likely already in the implementation stage.

In a Globe story one day earlier, by Marie Woolf of the Globe’s Ottawa Bureau, a report by Senators Ratna Omidvar, Hassan Yussuff and Yuen Pau Woo warns there are not enough permanent resident spots for the rising number of international students. Their report wants the federal government to make it clear to prospective international students that the prospect of staying in Canada permanently is highly competitive.

I met Ratna Omidvar at an immigration conference years ago. She has been involved in immigration issues for decades and knows the field well.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada forecast there will be 1.4 million international students by 2027. This year the number is approximately 900,000. With a target of 500,000 permanent resident admissions by 2025, the figures don’t align well.

The article quotes a survey that said 59 per cent of international students plan to apply for permanent residence after receiving a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP.) I don’t know who the 41 per cent of students who say they will not apply for permanent residence are. I have never met one.

The senators’ report said the federal government should stop education consultants paid by the colleges overseas from creating false hopes of permanent residence after graduation. Many are steered to private colleges which are not Designated Learning Institutes, or DLIs. Graduates of most private colleges are not eligible for PGWPs.

On top of education consultants creating rosy scenarios, you have outright scammers who are taking the students’ money and selling them a pipe dream. I know three from personal experience, and I am a small player in the immigration sector.

There’s a clown in India using my name and college registration number to defraud clients. He even posts his photo on the web. We look nothing alike.

There is another crook in Iran who claims to be my business partner. I have no partners.

Then there is a company calling itself Burlington Associates, with a fake Edmonton address, that is using my name and number to bilk clients with false employment offers.

I have registered complaints with the RCMP and Canada Border Services, as have many of my immigration consultant colleagues who experience scams more often than I do, but nothing is ever done. I have warnings on my website, but the message is buyer beware!

It doesn’t take much time on Google to figure out who is legitimate and who is not. Students interested in coming to Canada should invest the time to check everything.

That brings me to the recent news stories in North Bay that went national about students from India living in their cars and in tents.

These students are adults. What did they research before coming to North Bay? Who does not secure accommodation before coming to a new city? A media-savvy Montreal organization was involved in the protests. There was more to that story.

Editor’s Note:  Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant living in North Bay, and is a member of BayToday’s community advisory committee.