Written by: Jaymee Salisi, News Writer
On January 8, 2021 the Government of Canada announced that former international students who hold, or held, a post-graduate work permit (PGWP) will now be able to renew their permit for 18 months. This will assist PGWP holders who have lost their jobs or have had to reduce working hours due to COVID-19, and allow them to continue to pursue employment in Canada.
The pandemic has threatened job security and the chance to gain the work experience needed to apply for permanent residence. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada estimates that 52,000 graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from this public policy.
This policy was passed as a result of the lobbying efforts of the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), Migrant Students United, and the Graduate Student Society (GSS) at SFU, as well as many other student societies in Canada. The Peak interviewed former Director of Academic Relations at the GSS Rahil Adeli, Vice President of External Relations Samad Raza, and SFSS Science Representative WeiChun Kua who all worked closely on the project.
Raza explained that as the pandemic unraveled, “the government released some information and resources to help [domestic] students but there was no mention of international students.” Raza added that many international students lost their jobs, which put their PGWPs at risk because, before the policy, the permit was non-renewable. He emphasized that this initiative was “a matter of urgency.”
Adeli told The Peak that at the beginning of the pandemic, many international students reached out and informed her about what might happen to them. She and the GSS made themselves aware of their demands and decided to start by helping people with their permits.
“If Canada wants the work and the labour and the skill of international students and migrants, [ . . . ] they have to provide adequate support, especially in these hard times.”
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada states that international students contribute $21 billion annually to Canada. Kua felt that after such a contribution, it would be unfair to make international students leave the country over something out of their control. He said, “If Canada wants the work and the labour and the skill of international students and migrants, [ . . . ] they have to provide adequate support, especially in these hard times.”
Raza shared that he and Adeli were able to speak about the issue with Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Katrina Chen and Member of Parliament (MP) Terry Beech, who showed support for their advocacy. Raza noted that they tried to “make this campaign as visible as possible” by sending letters to MPs, reaching out to student unions, bringing the issue to the SFSS, and sharing on social media to gather signatures.
Adeli added that on November 24, 2020 they also worked with Migrant Students United to deliver a petition with 16,000 signatures to the Minister of Immigration, demanding renewable PGWPs and solutions to other related issues. International students and allies organized on social media and rallied at the Minister of Immigration’s office in Toronto to push for PGWPs to be renewed.
Adeli noted that all of their efforts “grabbed attention from media, different public officers, members of parliaments, [and] public figures,” which contributed to the implementation of the new PGWP policy.
The government news release states that “this new policy will help more graduates fill pressing needs like health care, technology, and more.” According to the Government of Canada, allowing immigrants to remain in Canada aids the country’s recovery by “creat[ing] jobs and fill[ing] labour shortages so businesses can thrive.”
Raza and Kua also stated that they have been speaking to different MLAs and the Minister of Education about issues such as lowering tuition fees and for international students to be given permanent status.
More information about the new PGWP policy is available on the Government of Canada website.