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International students in Canada struggling with inflation

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Vancouver –

Laughter lights up the gathering twilight at Langara College in Vancouver, where first-year health science student Jagiit Singh is chatting with friends next to the school’s fountain.

But his smile fades when he’s asked about the cost of living in Canada since moving from India last year.

Singh and his classmates say the growing financial stresses on international students cast a shadow over the new school year’s possibilities and opportunities.

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“Some people think we come here having a luxurious life, but it’s not true,” said Singh, adding that many of his friends’ parents have spent their life savings on their children’s education.

Singh said rising rent and food costs, combined with being far from home and loved ones, push many international students toward a breaking point.

Students and social advocates say international students face a particularly high burden from soaring inflation because of a series of exacerbating factors – fixed budgets, rules that limit how much paid work they can do, and exchange rate woes.

One Vancouver food bank said that three-quarters of the students on its books were from overseas.

Tuition fees, meanwhile, are up about eight per cent in 2022-23, rising to an average of $36,123 annually for an international undergraduate student. That’s slightly higher than the seven per cent inflation rate in August.

Kashish Hukku Jani, 22, a fourth-year communication design student at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, said her living costs were high from the start. Now they have soared.

“I remember my tuition back in my first year was very high. But now, with the years progressing, it went even higher. And renting in Vancouver is skyrocketing; everything here is getting really, really high,” said Jani, who hails from Gujarat in western India.

“The biggest concern for us is how we aren’t able to focus much on our studies because we are worrying so much about other things, like how much money we need for groceries, how much we need for rent.”

Her family’s income became unstable during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jani said, forcing them to dig into savings to pay for her tuition of around $9,000 per semester.

Jani said she had had a part-time job but working-hour limits meant she couldn’t keep up with the rising costs. International students who work more than 20 hours per week during school terms risk deportation.

Now Jani has had to give up her part-time work to focus on her graduation project.

International students’ financial concerns were always “running at the back of our heads,” said Jani, making it difficult to concentrate on their studies.

Many foreign students have turned to food banks to survive.

In the year leading up to June, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank registered 7,725 new clients, including 1,844 students, according to chief operating officer Cynthia Boulter. The vast majority of those, 1,377, were international students.

Boulter said the 20-hour work limit was a common reason for foreign students to seek help.

“One of the students I met two weeks ago was a pharmacist in Mexico, but because Canada doesn’t recognize that degree, she is going to University Canada West and getting a master’s in a business field. And she is struggling with the 20-hour week work limit, as most international students are,” said Boulter.

“So if she could work more, or if we recognized her degree in some way, she probably wouldn’t be sitting in front of me registering for a food bank.”

Boulter said international exchange rates between Canada and other countries has placed more international students in a “more difficult situation.”

Boulter was speaking before the recent slump in the Canadian dollar. But before that, the Canadian dollar had been steadily rising against a raft of countries’ currencies.

For instance, Canadian dollar had risen by about 25 per cent compared to the Indian rupee in five years, although it has dropped about five per cent since late August.

India is by far the biggest source country for foreign students in Canada, making up 39 per cent of this year’s 232,665 admissions so far, according to the Immigration Department.

“So it might look like in Chile, you have a lot of money, but when you convert it to Canadian money, it seems to be much less than they thought,” said Boulter.

“There was a student from Ukraine who was finding the cost of living here and the exchange rate to be so difficult, and she has burned through her savings much more quickly than she anticipated … with the changes in the dollar, with inflation and interest rates, people’s savings aren’t lasting as long as they thought, so they’re quite relieved to find us because their money is running out.”

Boulter said the food bank was working with colleges and universities to ensure students know how to get its help.

Hajira Hussain, executive director of the Richmond Food Bank, said rising food and rental costs meant many foreign students were skipping meals.

She worried that international students risked their health and academic performance in the long run.

In 2021, there were 184,350 international students in B.C., according to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

The ministry said in a written statement that the 20-hour work limit on international students was set by federal authorities.

“It’s our understanding that this is consistent with other jurisdictions, including the U.K. and New Zealand,” the statement said.

“The federal government has said that the intent of their policy is to recognize that the student’s priority is primarily to study, and working is a secondary activity.”

Rahil Adeli is an organizer and co-founder of Simon Fraser University’s Migrant Students United, a group of former and current international students who seek fair rules and equal rights for all migrants.

Adeli said it was “annoying and frustrating” to see international students treated as “cash cows” by some, and as a burden on Canada by others.

“International students are paying and contributing billions of dollars to Canada. And at the same time, you hear there is a misunderstanding that they consider international students as a burden to the Canadian system, and they say that they don’t pay taxes, which is not true,” said Adeli.

In 2020, international students brought an estimated $22.7 billion into Canada’s economy and supported 192,498 jobs, according to a government report shared by Global Affairs Canada.

Former international student Weichen Kua, another co-founder of Migrant Students United, said many international students found life was tougher in Canada than they expected.

“A lot of our students think that there’ll be lots of support for them or that it’ll be easier when they come to the country … but when we come here, we don’t feel that way,” said Kua.

“We feel very dehumanized because of all these different issues that we only find out when we arrive here. And by that time, it’s too late.”

Design student Jani is trying to stay positive.

“I’m almost graduating,” she said cheerfully, at a Vancouver coffee shop. “Hopefully, after graduation, things will be more stable.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 2, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Canada’s immigration backlog has decreased to 2.2 million – Canada Immigration News

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Published on December 9th, 2022 at 08:00am EST

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Latest data from IRCC shows reduction in the backlog of applications

New data obtained from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reports that Canada’s immigration backlog has dropped to just over 2.2 million.

In an email to CIC News, IRCC provided updated data, which is current as of December 2.

The inventory across all lines of business has progressed as follows since July 2021:

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Current Inventories

The citizenship inventory stands at 314,630 applicants as of November 30, compared to 331,401 on October 31.

The permanent residence inventory stands at 512,342 people as of December 2, compared to 506,421 as of November 3.

Also on December 2, the temporary residence inventory stood at 1,416, 125 people, compared to 1,537,566 persons as of November 3.

Therefore, there were reductions in two of the three major categories, with the biggest reduction in the temporary residence inventory.

Immigration Category Persons as of December 2, 2022
Permanent Residence 512,342
Temporary Residence 1,416,125
Citizenship 314,630
Grand total 2,243,097

Express Entry and PNP inventories

As of December 2, there are 43,326 applications for Express Entry programs waiting in the queue, an increase of over 3,500 since November 3 data, which stood at 39,589.

Among the total people applying for Express Entry programs, there has been an increase of nearly 5,000 applications for the Canadian Experience Class over the past month.

IRCC resumed holding rounds of invitations for Express Entry candidates from all programs in July this year. Draws were limited to the candidates in the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) between September 21, 2021 and July 6, 2022 due to IRCC struggling to meet its service standard of six months or less for Express Entry applications. The pause in Express Entry invitations to Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Canadian Experience Class  candidates enabled IRCC to reduce the Express Entry inventory and the department is back to its six month service standard for those who have received a permanent residence invitation since July 6.

The PNP has an inventory of 62,343 total applications (both base and enhanced combined).

Family class inventory

The inventory for all family class immigration programs has dropped slightly to 127,091 compared to November 3 when it was 128,112.

The Spouses and Partners sponsorship program is among the largest inventories among all lines of business, at 62,106, a minimal increase compared with November 3.

The Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP) has an inventory of 53,770 persons compared to 55,653 persons waiting for decisions in November.

Service standards

IRCC’s webpage that tracks the total inventory of applications shows that as of October 31, 1.2 million applications are considered backlog.

Data from September 30 showed that there were 1.5 million applications in backlog, meaning that IRCC cleared over 350,000 applications from the backlog. This comes while the number of applications in inventory has risen for permanent residency.

An application in backlog means it has not been processed within service standards. These standards provide the expected timeline, or goal, for how long it should take to process an application. The service standard is different from the actual amount of time that IRCC takes to process applications. Applications not processed within the service standard for their program are categorized as backlog.

IRCC aims to process 80% of applications across all lines of business within service standards. The service standard varies depending on the type of application. For example, a permanent residence application through an Express Entry program has a standard of six months. It is longer for other economic class lines of business. IRCC states its service standard for spousal and child family class sponsorship is 12 months.

Temporary residence applications have service standards that range between 60-120 days depending on the type of application (work or study) and if it was submitted within Canada or from abroad.

Tackling the backlog

The department reports that between January and October 2022, they produced 4.3 million final decisions for permanent residents, temporary residents and citizenship compared to 2.3 million final decisions in the same period last year.

IRCC aims to have a less than 50% backlog across all lines of business by the end of March 2023. To help meet this goal, the department began the transition towards 100% digital applications for most permanent resident programs on September 23, with accommodations made for those who are unable to apply online.

This transition also includes citizenship applications, which are now 100% online for all applicants over the age of 18. IRCC is aiming to make all citizenship applications digital by the end of this year, including those for minors under 18.

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Canada Premiers to hold virtual news conference on struggling children’s hospitals

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Canada’s premiers plan to hold a news conference in Winnipeg today as children’s hospitals struggle to deal with a wave of child illnesses.

Hospitals across the country have been cancelling some surgeries and appointments as they redirect staff amid an increase in pediatric patients.

Admissions are surging under a triple-threat of respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and COVID-19 at a time when the health-care system is grappling with record numbers of job vacancies.

In Ottawa, two teams of Canadian Red Cross personnel are working rotating overnight shifts at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in support of its clinical-care team, while some patients have been redirected to adult health-care facilities.

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A pediatric hospice in Calgary has been temporarily closed as staff are diverted to a children’s hospital.

Members of the Alberta Medical Association have sent a letter to the province’s acting chief medical officer of health calling for stronger public health measures to prevent the spread of the illnesses, including increasing public messaging about the safety of vaccines, encouraging flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and temporarily requiring masks in schools.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

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As nature talks unfold, here’s what ’30 by 30′ conservation could mean in Canada

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was unequivocal Wednesday when asked if Canada was going to meet its goal to protect one-quarter of all Canadian land and oceans by 2025.

“I am happy to say that we are going to meet our ’25 by 25′ target,” Trudeau said during a small roundtable interview with journalists on the sidelines of the nature talks taking place in Montreal.

That goal, which would already mean protecting 1.2 million more square kilometres of land, is just the interim stop on the way to conserving 30 per cent by 2030 — the marquee target Canada is pushing for during the COP15 biodiversity conference.

But what does the conservation of land or waterways actually mean?

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“When we talk about protecting land and water, we’re talking about looking at a whole package of actions across broader landscapes,” said Carole Saint-Laurent, head of forest and lands at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The group’s definition of “protected area,” which is used by the UN convention on biodiversity, refers to a “clearly defined geographical space” that is managed by laws or regulations with the goal of the long-term protection of nature.

“It can range from areas with very strict protections to areas that are being protected or conserved,” said Saint-Laurent.

“We have to look at that entire suite of protective and restorative action in order to not only save nature, but to do so in a way that is going to help our societies. There is not one magical formula, and context is everything.”

The organization, which keeps its own global “green list” of conserved areas, lists 17 criteria for how areas can fit the definition.

Most of the criteria are centred on how the sites are managed and protected. One allows for resource extraction, hunting, recreation and tourism as long as these are both compatible with and supportive of the conservation goals outlined for the area.

In many cases, industrial activities and resource extraction are not allowed in protected areas. But that’s not always true in Canada, particularly when it involves the rights of Indigenous Peoples on their traditional territory.

In some provincial parks, mining and logging are allowed. In Ontario’s Algonquin Park, for example, logging is permitted in about two-thirds of the park area.

Canada has nearly 10 million square kilometres of terrestrial land, including inland freshwater lakes and rivers, and about 5.8 million square kilometres of marine territory.

As of December 2021, Canada had conserved 13.5 per cent of land and almost 14 per cent of marine territory. The government did it through a combination of national and provincial parks and reserves, wildlife areas, migratory bird sanctuaries, national marine conservation areas, marine protected areas and what are referred to as “other effective areas-based conservation measures.”

These can include private lands that have a management plan to protect and conserve habitats, or public or private lands where conservation isn’t the primary focus but still ends up happening.

Canadian Forces Base Shilo, in Manitoba, includes about 211 square kilometres of natural habitats maintained under an environmental protection plan run by the Department of National Defence.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is a non-profit organization that raises funds to buy plots of land from private owners with a view to long-term conservation.

Mike Hendren, its Ontario regional vice-president, said that on such lands, management plans can include everything from nature trails to hunting — but always with conservation as the priority.

To hit “25 by 25,” Canada must further protect more than 1.2 million square kilometres of land, or approximately the size of Manitoba and Saskatchewan added together. To get to 30 per cent is to add, on top of that, land almost equivalent in size to Alberta.

The federal government would need to protect another 638,000 square kilometres of marine territory and coastlines by 2025, or an area almost three times the size of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. By 2030, another area the size of the gulf would need to be added.

Trudeau said that in a country as big and diverse as Canada, hard and fast rules about what can and can’t happen in protected areas don’t make sense.

He said there should be distinctions between areas that can’t have any activity and places where you can mine, log or hunt, as long as it is done with conservation in mind.

“There’s ability to have sort of management plans that are informed by everyone, informed by science, informed by various communities, that say, ‘yes, we’re going to protect this area and that means, no, there’s not going to be unlimited irresponsible mining going to happen,'” he said.

“But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain projects in certain places that could be the right kind of thing, or the right thing to move forward on.”

The draft text of the biodiversity framework being negotiated at COP15 is not yet clear on what kind of land and marine areas would qualify or what conservation of them would specifically mean.

It currently proposes that a substantial portion of the conserved land would need to be “strictly protected” but some areas could respect the right to economic development.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

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