‘The students are victims’: Stop deporting Indian students caught in fake admission letter scandal, parliamentary committee urges CBSA

An alternative approach, given the corruption among recruiting agencies and the complicity of governments and educational institutions, would be to deport them as a high profile example to highlight risks.

A more serious alternative would be for to undertake a fundamental review of our international student policies with a focus on ensuring that their focus is on quality education, not just funding, and their contribution to increasing per capita GDP and productivity should they apply for permanent residency.

But unlikely to happen given the various interests behind international student recruitment and enrolment and am sceptical that the planned hearings will amount to much:

A parliamentary committee is calling on the Canada Border Services Agency to immediately stop deporting a group of Indian international students who have been deemed inadmissible after using fake college admission letters to enter the country.

On Wednesday, the all-party immigration committee voted unanimously to ask the border agency to waive inadmissibility of the affected students and to provide them with an alternative pathway to permanent residence on humanitarian grounds or through a “regularization” program.

“These students, I’ve met with many of them, now are just in such a terrible state. They’ve lost money and they are stuck in a terrible situation. And some of them have deportation orders. Others have pending meetings with CBSA,” said MP Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic, who tabled the motions.

“So as a first step, this is absolutely essential and necessary. The students are victims of fraud and should not be penalized.”

The international students, a group estimated to be in the hundreds, claim they were duped by unscrupulous education consultants in India and were unaware that the admission letters given to them were doctored. The students only became aware of the issue, they say, when the issue was flagged by border agents after the students had finished their courses and applied for postgraduate work permits. Some cases were flagged during the students’ permanent residence application process.

The committee does not have the power to halt deportations. Its gesture Wednesday is largely a symbolic one.

The students all share similar stories: being told upon arrival in Canada that the program they’d been enrolled in was no longer available and advised to delay their studies or go to another school; some receiving their postgraduate work permits and trying to pursue permanent residence, only to find out there was a problem with their original documentation.

On Wednesday, the committee also passed Kwan’s motion to issue a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent “ghost consultants” and to ask Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and their staff to appear before the committee to provide a briefing on the situation.

Members of the committee also voted to undertake a study over two meetings into the targeted exploitation scheme faced by the Punjabi international students.

The study is set to examine:

  • How this situation was allowed to happen;
  • Why fraudulent documents were not detected until years later, when the students began to apply for permanent status;
  • The significant harm experienced by students, including financial loss and distress;
  • Measures necessary to help the students have their deportation stayed, inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation waived, and provide a pathway to permanent status; and
  • How to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

“I’ve spoken with the students, and they were very frustrated that no actions were happening at this committee. And I think they’ll be very pleased to see that things are happening now,” said Brad Redekopp, the Conservative MP for Saskatoon West.

Liberal MP Shafqat Ali agreed.

“We need to have empathy for those students and we should not exploit the situation and play politics on this issue of those innocent students,” said the MP for Brampton centre, where many of the affected students now reside. “They have gone through and are going through a lot.”

During the meeting Wednesday, the committee also approved the amendments to Bill S-245 to amend the Citizenship Act to allow Canadians to pass citizenship birthrights to their foreign-born children if they can pass a connection test to establish the family ties to Canada.

Source: ‘The students are victims’: Stop deporting Indian students caught in fake admission letter scandal, parliamentary committee urges CBSA

Chris Selley: There’s a treatment for Quebec’s  linguistic paranoia, but Ottawa is thwarting it

Of note (and given the recent StatsCan report, Unemployment and job vacancies by education, 2016 to 2022, highlighting the disconnect between immigration policy, which favours university-educated immigrants, and immigrant employment, which favours lower-skilled immigrants, not as effective as presented):

Considering every federal party essentially believes in giving Quebec whatever it wants, and considering the Quebec government’s concern over the French language surviving under the federal Liberals’ increased immigration targets, a recent report from the Institut du Québec (IDQ) paints a frustrating picture of a longstanding grievance between the provincial and federal capitals.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government wants more foreign students, especially francophones — it’s spending millions on various overseas-recruitment programs, and encouraging foreign graduates to stay in the province — but the federal immigration department is in many cases unwilling to grant them visas. “Nearly half of foreign students accepted by a Quebec university and (who satisfy) Quebec’s conditions are still refused a student visa by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC),” IDQ director-general Emna Braham and chief economist Daye Diallo report.

The refusal rate for applications from African nations — a major source of francophone students — is a whopping 72 per cent, compared to a 19-per-cent refusal rate for Asians and 11 per cent for Europeans. For no good apparent reason, the refusal rate is lower across the board for Ontario-bound foreign students — fully 20 points lower than Quebec’s for African applicants.

IRCC explained to the IDQ its reasoning: It’s afraid the foreigners won’t leave after they graduate.

But … Quebec doesn’t want them to leave, and the rest of Canada shouldn’t want that either. A prosperous, confident and confidently francophone Quebec is something we all want, and given the province’s lacklustre birthrate and unique skepticism of bilingualism, francophone immigration might be the only way that’s likely to happen.

“There is a real need to clarify the objectives and to put in place procedures that will ensure that the right hand talks to the left hand,” the IDQ’s Braham told The Canadian Press. Too right: The CAQ government and the IRCC are essentially playing different sports on the same pitch. A ministerial directive to the IRCC bureaucracy could be as simple as, “for heaven’s sake stop rejecting so many Africans.”

Alas, the IRCC bureaucracy is not well known for taking orders. It’s not well known for much except saying “no” to people in the most Kafkaesque ways imaginable. And it should come as no surprise that African applicants to Quebec — and therefore francophone applicants — are taking it on the chin. IRCC is internationally notorious for denying visas to tenured professors from African nations wishing to attend conferences in Canada. Why would it be any less suspicious of their students?

Still, it’s exasperating to see Ottawa block an avenue toward real progress in Quebec — a route out of the anti-religious and linguistic paranoias that have come to dominate nationalist politics over the past 15 years. Those paranoias have combined to create a sort of demographic gridlock: The CAQ government wants all future immigrants to speak French before they arrive, for example, but there are only so many francophones who want to emigrate to Quebec, and many of them are very religious. Many, though certainly not all, are Muslims. Few will want to jettison their faith and culture en route to Canada like an oversized bottle of shampoo.

That will always rankle the miserable arch-paranoiacs who currently drive this agenda — the ultra-nationalist voices who dominate Quebec City talk radio and the Quebecor newspapers’ comment pages. “They want immigrants and their children to think and dream in French. And even that isn’t enough,” Quebec journalist Christopher Curtis tweeted very eloquently this week. “They want them to make a show of loyalty, to remove their hijabs and turbans, to hate Trudeau like they do, to feel antipathy towards Ottawa the way they do.”

Sidelining those paranoiacs is a generational project that, polls suggest, Quebec’s younger generations will embrace. (It’s certainly not just immigrants that annoy the nationalist miserabilists. They also can’t stand the way most young white Quebecers speak French, or the way they vote, and to the great extent the youth aspire to bilingualism, the way they dream.) Accepting more young francophone immigrants — as many as possible — can only help.

It’s already happening, despite IRCC. “A growing number of foreign students settle in Quebec once they have obtained their degree,” Braham and Diallo note. “The number of post-graduation work permit holders tripled between 2015 and 2022. … The number of new permanent residents who graduated from a Canadian institution also tripled. … And these new permanent residents are integrating into the labour market better than before, the result (in part) of prior experience on Quebec soil.”

Good news. But in the meantime, other things are happening. Profoundly stupid things.

On Thursday, Montreal and other Quebec municipalities posted new rules prescribed by Bill 96, the pointless anti-Anglo crackdown law that only a couple of Quebec Liberal MPs could find the gonads to oppose.

In order legally to browse your garbage-pickup calendar or adult-swimming schedule in the language of Wolfe, you must now tacitly attest to being an “individual with whom (the municipality) communicated solely in English prior to May 13, 2021”; or a person “declared eligible” by the Ministry of Education to attend public school in English — excluding “children of foreign nationals living temporarily in Quebec,” naturally; or an Indigenous person; or an immigrant, but only one having arrived within the previous six months.

You know what won’t help Quebec move on from this unfortunate paranoid period? That laughingstock idiocy. Nowhere else in the world is like this. Quebec needn’t be like this. If Ottawa won’t push back, it could at least force IRCC out of the bloody way.

Source: https://apple.news/Aopv1ZeK0SmqU09IXj1BkJQ

Ottawa is doing little to eliminate discrimination against French-speaking African students: More data and less rhetoric please

Unfortunately, we do not have enough transparency and data to assess whether this discrimination is evidence-based or not. And of course these arguments do not question the fundamental value and, in some cases, lack thereof, of the ongoing increases in international students and two-step immigration:

The fact that Immigration Canada discriminates against Black students from French-speaking Africa is something researchers and observers of Québec and Canadian politics have been documenting and denouncing for years. 

Once again this month, we learned from a study by the Institut du Québec (IDQ) that the federal government is refusing half of the applications for study permits to foreign students who were selected by Québec and accepted by a Québec university. This figure increases to 72 per cent for African students.

Denunciation of this discrimination, and of the federal government’s inaction on it, goes far beyond the circle of immigration experts. Leaders of French-language higher education institutions, political actors and civil society are now speaking out as well. 

As researchers in the fields of political sociology and the sociological and ethnological study of nationalisms and interethnic relations, we are interested in social transformations in Québec and Canada, as well as social representations of immigration. 

On a global scale, this discrimination sends a very bad message to Canada’s partners in the Organisation internationale de la francophonie. At the Canadian level, it has an impact on the vitality of institutions in francophone communities outside Québec

At the Québec level, it has an impact on the vitality of programs in regional colleges and universities. At the Montréal level, it also has an impact on the vitality of French language higher education institutions and, in particular, on the capacity of the Université du Québec to fulfill its social mission. 

Québec has done its homework

This situation was well known when the Liberal Party of Canada became a minority government in 2019. It was also known when the same government won again in 2021, still as a minority government. The data just published by the IDQ are indisputable: the situation continued in 2022. 

Although there have been modest improvements in some places, this has not reversed a stubborn and persistent underlying trend. The data show that despite warnings, denunciations and investigations by many journalists, Immigration Canada is still dragging its feet. 

The Québec government has not always been immune to criticism in this area. The immigration reform piloted in 2020 by Simon Jolin-Barrette drew criticism for a variety of reasons. One of these was a change to the Québec Experience Program that slowed, if not hindered access to citizenship for foreign students studying in Québec. 

Québec’s new immigration minister, Christine Fréchette, has been much more far-sighted, informed and pragmatic. Her promise to reorient the Québec government’s immigration policy is in tune with the higher education community. These circles have long recognized the importance of offering a fast track to citizenship for students who have gotten work experience through their studies, internships and the networks they developed in Québec. 

Immigration Canada’s inaction is incomprehensible

This shift by Québec’s Minister of Immigration, Francization and Integration is in line with the informed opinions of Quebec’s higher education institutions. It also brings hope to Montréal’s French-language higher education community, which has been complaining for several years that it is not competing on a level playing field with English-language institutions of higher learning. 

The latter operate in a completely different market than French-language universities. Since the removal of the ceiling on fees for foreign students, English-language higher education institutions have been earning significantly more revenue than French-language institutions. Many actors in the education sector have denounced how this systemic inequality reduces the attractiveness of French-language institutions, and in particular, the ability of the Université du Québec network to fulfill its mission of academic and social integration. 

Faced with this major change in direction by the Québec government, the inaction of Immigration Canada is all the more incomprehensible. 

After Sean Fraser blamed his department’s discriminatory practices on algorithmic errorssubcontracted the work of its officials to the McKinsey firm, acknowledged a problem of systemic discrimination within its own organization and promised to address this problem, the 2022 figures from his department show the same misfires and the same discriminatory practices as in previous years. 

In an embarrassing moment, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister was asked to defend his record. The slight increase in acceptances that she mentioned does not meet the legitimate expectations of students whose applications have been accepted by a Québec institution. 

Minister Fraser no longer has the legitimacy required

Ottawa must draw conclusions from this new data. If the Trudeau government were not championing the fight against systemic racism in every forum, it might be possible to overlook this lack of credibility on the part of its minister. But at this point, federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Fraser no longer has the legitimacy to retain this file.

The failure of the Liberal Party to act on such an important issue for Québec and Canada’s francophone communities is regrettable. It casts a shadow over the important success of the update of the Official Languages Act, the passage of which was rightly celebrated by both federal and Québec governments. 

If we want to celebrate the new version of the Official Languages Act, we must be consistent and provide access to French-language higher education institutions to all students who want to contribute to the vibrancy of Canada’s francophone communities. 

We should be pleased that the Québec government got this message. It is more than regrettable that it is taking so long for Ottawa to understand it.

Source: Ottawa is doing little to eliminate discrimination against French-speaking African students

Canada’s costly housing market leaves international students open to exploitation

No questioning, of course, of whether or not Canada should set levels for students, along with temporary foreign workers, to reduce housing and other pressures. Or whether the government should review existing designated learning institutions (DLI), particularly private colleges, given their recruitment practices:

Skyrocketing rent prices in Canada’s major cities are leaving more and more people struggling to find an affordable place to live. National conversations about the housing crisis often overlook a growing segment of the population that is extremely vulnerable to housing discrimination, rent gouging, rights abuses and sexual harassment: international students

Canada had more than 807,000 international students in 2022, around 40 per cent of whom come from India. While all these students need housing, many face discrimination in the rental market. Tania Das Gupta’s ongoing research into Punjabi newcomers in Canada has found that some landlords discriminate against international students based on gender and ethnicity. 

Discriminatory ads

An online search for rentals shows many ads for properties that are available to international students. In addition, many ads are aimed at Indian students with landlords seeking tenants who are vegetarian or from particular regions of India. 

The wording in the ads seems innocuous, but many can be discriminatory and prey on international students. Landlords often demand large upfront payments. And international students are often sought because their relatively recent arrival in Canada and temporary migration status means they are less likely to complain. 

Housing as a human right

Even though these ads violate the Ontario Human Rights Code, they continue to be posted on public websites. The code defines the right to be free from discrimination in housing as “not only the right to enter into an agreement and occupy a residential dwelling, but also the right to be free from discrimination in all matters relating to the accommodation.” 

Das Gupta’s ongoing research features in-depth interviews with students and service providers. Respondents have shared that many live-in landlords tend to infantilize and over-monitor them. Others, especially female international students, have experienced sexual harassment and assault as well as sexual exploitation.

A 2018 survey at McGill University found that 38.6 per cent of international students experienced sexual harassment and 23.6 per cent experienced sexual assault

Sub-standard, illegal and overcrowded housing

Accommodation aimed at international students can often be sub-standard, over-crowded and unsafe. Many often lack fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and have pest infestations. Many secondary units in single-family homes, like basement suites, are built without permits and not to code. 

Brampton, Ont., a city where many Indian international students reside, had a vacancy rate of 0.8 per cent in 2019, which is well below the minimum of three per cent considered acceptable. It is no wonder then that Brampton has an estimated 50,000 illegal units. 

This is dangerous and can lead to tragic outcomes. In January, an international student in Cape Breton, N.S. died in a fire in an overcrowded international student house. In December 2022, Cape Breton University advised international students to defer coming to Canada because of the shortage of suitable accommodation.

Another common issue with housing for international students is overcrowding. With rental costs increasingly unaffordable, many students are renting single rooms with others. Some online ads even offer a room with only one bed that is to be shared with another tenant the student does not know. One ad on Kijiji stated: “looking for 1 Indian girl to share one room with another Punjabi girl.”

Screenshot of an ad on the website Kijiji for a shared room in a house in Brampton, Ont. Author provided

Stories of landlord harassment and wrongful evictions are common across Canada. These incidents combined with the costly rental market mean that homelessness is a common experience for students. A 2018 study found that more than 31 per cent of post-secondary students experience some type of homelessness

While the study did not focus on international students in particular, Das Gupta’s ongoing research shows that homelessness is common with stories of some students sleeping in their cars because they cannot afford rent.

Ending the culture of exploitation

A recent CTV W5 investigation exposed how international students at Cape Breton University and other Canadian post-secondary institutions are strategically recruited because they pay significantly higher tuition fees than Canadians.

The extreme nature of the crisis at the university led students to speak out and advocate for the rights of international students, including raising awareness that complaining about human rights abuses, sexual assaults or other crimes will not hurt their chances of staying in Canada.

But such advocacy can only go so far. Structural changes by governments and post-secondary institutions are required and municipalities need to better regulate illegal rental units. And importantly, international students eager to voice solutions must be consulted and heeded.

Source: Canada’s costly housing market leaves international students open to exploitation

Australia: Uncapping work hours forged ‘Ponzi scheme’ in student visas

Uncapping student work hours, as the Canadian government recently did, will likely generate further abuse by education agents and immigration consultants:

The Morrison government’s allowing people on student visas to work unlimited hours created a ‘Ponzi scheme’ that was exploited ruthlessly by some education agents, an international education conference was told on 19 April, writes Julie Hare for AFR .

The move also heaped pressure on the Department of Home Affairs, which is trying to process a backlog of one million visas, with the more complicated ones linked to questionable applications being shunted to the back of the queue, said Labor backbencher Julian Hill. Speaking at an international education conference, Hill said it was clear the Morrison government’s decision to uncap work hours was irresponsible because it “distorted student choice and corrupted the market”.

Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, described the uncapping of work hours as creating a ‘Ponzi scheme’ in student visas. Before the removal of caps, international students were restricted to working 40 hours a fortnight.

Source: Uncapping work hours forged ‘Ponzi scheme’ in student visas

Paradkar: Dear immigrants: Coming to Canada? Here’s what you’re really in for

While a bit overboard, all too accurate given the various changes to ease business restrictions on temporary worker permits and limits on employment time for international students:

Hello, new immigrants. Most of you are likely coming to Canada in search of a better life and better opportunities than in the lands you leave behind. The good news is that many of you will find a job. Some of you will even be well-paid. But more than a few will find your dreams of stability and comfort seriously challenged.

For those who take on the vast majority of jobs Ontario is looking to fill — in restaurants and in bars, in truck transportation, construction, nursing homes — you’ll first have to survive the savageries of capitalism and xenophobia.

As Canada opens its doors to half a million immigrants annually — about half of whom will land in Ontario — we say welcome, today’s newcomers. But do you know what you’re in for?

Canada has historically benefitted from immigration. Many immigrants, particularly higher skilled ones, have also benefitted by coming here. But this round of gate-opening reveals the truth about Canada’s economic immigration policy. It’s designed in the interest of a stronger economy, which serves, first and foremost, not the majority of immigrants, who will be channelled into unskilled, often temporary jobs, but those at the top.

What Canada wants, but is not saying out loud, is a servant class; a vast army of workers prepared to accept the low-paid jobs no one else wants. And given how the economy is structured along with our poor preparedness to receive these newcomers, it’s clear we want to keep them in that position.

The current immigration push continues a centuries-old tradition of worker exploitation in the Americas. When European settler attempts to enslave Indigenous populations failed for various reasons, indentured servants arrived in the 1600s to care for the vast lands the earliest settlers had got, bought or stole.

Then came chattel slavery, itself created because the elite capitalists realized free labour by commodifying humans kidnapped from afar was more profitable than cheap wage labour.

When, some 200 years later, Britain abolished slavery in most of its colonies in the 1830s, this continent experienced a “labour shortage,” like the one today. That led to Britain importing indentured or bonded labour from colonies such as India, particularly on its plantation islands.

Then, as today, “labour shortage” didn’t mean there was a lack of human bodies to do jobs that build societies. Nor did it mean there was a lack of skills to do them. Then, as today, it meant something about the shifting dynamics of demand and supply.

A higher demand for labour shifts power toward workers, who agitate for better wages and working conditions. Flooding the market with a supply of workers swings that shift in power back to the owning class.

Today’s immigration push comes with baked-in economic disenfranchisement. Temporary work in precarious jobs leaves workers vulnerable to abusive working conditions.

Much like the West Indian Domestic Scheme of the 1950s and ’60s, when Canada sought Black Caribbeans to be domestic workers, the floodgates are opening today through initiatives such as the Temporary Youth Worker Program and the Federal Skilled Trades program, and via colleges and universities, which are taking increasing numbers of international students.

According to Statistics Canada, a vast majority of Ontario’s job vacancies right now — 60 per cent — require a high school graduation or less, many needing less than one year of experience.

The Federal Skilled Trades program doesn’t require candidates to have secondary education but it will prioritize those with a certificate or diploma or degree. That means many economic migrants will be overqualified for the jobs being asked of them, but they will come, perhaps hoping they’re at least getting a foot in the door.

Once in, however, these immigrants will have been slotted into the jobs Canadians won’t do for the wages being offered.

The overt racists and xenophobes also grease the wheels of this exploitative system.

If employers see labour as robotic capital-making units, xenophobes, easily made insecure by “outsiders,” keep immigrants bracing for attacks on their very existence, leaving them grateful for the crumbs, told their deplorable circumstances are a result of their not working hard enough or their supposed inferiority.

The economy is structurally built to see full employment — everyone having a job — as a problem.

A seventh straight month of job gains and near-record-low unemployment of five per cent is leading economists to predict that the Bank of Canada might well raise already high interest rates in coming months to “cool the economy” and inflation.

In this way of thinking, rising wages for, say, an average grocery worker in Canada, who earned $18.97 per hour in 2022 is a threat to the economy. But grocery magnate Galen Weston earning $5,679 an hour is not.

This thinking is why employers freely blamed programs such as Canada Emergency Response Benefit — that offered about $500 a week to those who lost income due to COVID — for “spoiling” workers.

Far better to call a person earning $500 a week, and not wanting to work for less than that bare minimum, lazy than pay them higher wages.

Perhaps the new immigrants coming in to rescue our economy, including those who have to remain jobless in service of this country, might be thanked in other ways? Maybe they’ll be housed relatively easily? Not have to worry about finding good schools for their children? Or have a safety net should they fall ill?

No such luck. Provincial parsimoniousness has already extended to defunding education, defunding health care and not building enough or affordable houses on land already earmarked for homes.

Politicians and their owning class friends are eyeing for-profit education and for-profit health care once the current systems are squeezed to the point of hopelessness. Large developers, quite coincidentally, bought precisely those thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive and protected Greenbelt land that Ontario’s premier opened up to build housing.

Yes, developers will need construction workers willing to work for less than a decent wage, if they hope to pad their profits. Instability in foreign lands fostering desperation can be a wonderful boon.The very rich benefit mightily from boosted immigration in other ways, too. More people means more consumers and buying food is non-negotiable. Ka-ching, that sound of cascading coins, is an inadequate metaphor to capture the surge in sums of money for people like Weston, whose family’s net worth is about $8 billion US.

We — as a nation — either need to be better prepared to receive newcomers or, failing that, be honest and say: Welcome, newcomers — welcome to your new life of multi-dimensional suffering.

Source: Dear immigrants: Coming to Canada? Here’s what you’re really in for

ICYMI:Canada extends international students’ work permits for 18 months. ‘We’re seeing that the same crisis is repeating over and over,’ critics say

Of note, side effect of backlogs:

International graduates with expired or expiring work permits will be able to extend their work authorization in Canada for another 18 months, under a new immigration measure announced Friday.

Postgraduate work permit (PGWP) holders who qualify for the program will soon be contacted with information about logging into their online account to opt in and update their file, starting April 6.

A PGWP is typically not extendable, but similar policies have been implemented twice during the pandemic to allow international graduates to stay and work in Canada as many ran out of status and were unable to pursue permanent residence amid significant immigration backlogs.

Those with expired work permits both in 2022 and 2023 will be able to restore their status, even if they are beyond the 90-day restoration period, and will receive an interim work authorization while awaiting processing of their new work permit application.

“We need to use every tool in our toolbox to support employers who continue to face challenges in hiring the workers they need to grow,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said.

“We want to continue to hang on to that talent in Canada, not just to fill gaps in the short term in the labour force, but to ensure that we’re meeting the long-term needs of the economy.”

The federal government’s 2022 PGWP extension program wasn’t without flaws. Permit holders were initially told their authorization would be processed automatically, without them having to do anything. However, many did not receive the needed documents and ran out of status to legally stay and work in the country.

“Lessons learned from that process have been applied as we implement a similar one. The new public policy will allow anyone who was eligible under the 2022 initiative to apply for an open work permit and to restore their status,” the immigration department said.

Yogesh Tulani, whose PGWP would expire this month, said some unscrupulous consultants and lawyers — and some employers — are taking advantage of students who are on the edge of losing status by charging them hefty fees for a job offer and the Labour Market Impact Assessment they would need to obtain a closed work permit and stay in this country.

“You’re asked to pay a large sum of money, which ranged from anywhere between $8,000 to $35,000, which is unethical and illegal,” said the 23-year-old, who graduated from Georgian College in 2019 and now works as a pest-control technician in London, Ont.

Advocates said Fraser needs to make the PGWP permanently renewable to better protect vulnerable students from abuse and exploitation.

“We’re seeing that the same crisis is repeating over and over again. How many more times are we going to have to fight for permanent renewability?” asked Sarom Rho, an organizer for Migrant Students United at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Rho also urged Fraser to resume the Canadian Experience Class program, which most international graduates use to transition to permanent residence based on their work experience and education credentials acquired in the country.

The draws for the program have been suspended for nine months and the delay has contributed to international graduates’ immigration limbo, leaving some unable to get permanent residence while their legal status is running out, said Rho.

“Many current and former migrant student workers will be facing the same crisis in January of 2024,” she warned.

Canada, like most countries, has faced significant labour and skill shortages in the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the special measures are an attempt to keep current workers in the labour market.

International students and graduates have become a main source of temporary migrant workers in Canada. Those enrolled in a post-secondary program can work during their studies and are eligible for a PGWP that lasts for up to three years.

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, there were 807,750 international students in Canada at all levels of study last year, up 43 per cent from five years ago. Indian students accounted for 40 per cent of the overall international enrolment, followed by Chinese students, at 12 per cent.

At the end of 2022, more than 286,000 international graduates were in Canada with a valid post-graduation work permit, immigration officials say.

About 127,000 PGWPs expire this year, though about 67,000 PGWP holders have already applied for permanent residence and won’t need to extend their work permit through this initiative.

Source: Canada extends international students’ work permits for 18 months. ‘We’re seeing that the same crisis is repeating over and over,’ critics say

Ontario colleges move to protect international students, before and after they come to Canada

Needed, but the whole system incentivizes recruitment and the funding that provides to public and private institutions and any consultants involved:

In the face of growing concerns about the treatment of international students in this country, publicly funded colleges in Ontario are bringing in a new set of rules meant to protect those coming from abroad to study.

The rules will apply to, among other things, the information and marketing given to prospective students and the training of those recruiting them.

The new standards come as international students have increasingly raised concerns over the Canadian education they’re being sold and the hard financial and employment realities they find upon arriving here.

“There was a real need for greater clarity in the information we give them at the start of the process, when they’re with us and when they leave and have to navigate work permits and all that sort of thing,” Linda Franklin, president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, told the Star.

“The motivating factor for us is making sure that our international students are well taken care of.”

The 12-page standards of practice for international education cover different areas — from program marketing and admission; to requiring recruiters to complete a recognized training program; to comprehensive orientation and post-graduation services to assist international students’ settlement.

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, there were 807,750 international students in Canada at all levels of study last year, up 43 per cent from five years ago. Indian students accounted for 40 per cent of the overall international enrolment, followed by Chinese students, at 12 per cent.

More than half of those international students study in Ontario and an increasing number are enrolled in provincial colleges, because their programs are generally cheaper and shorter than universities, which let the students obtain work permits — and potentially permanent residence — sooner.

A provincial government audit found international students represented 30 per cent of the total student enrolment of Ontario’s public colleges and that their tuition fees amounted to $1.7 billion and 68 per cent of Ontario public colleges’ total tuition fee revenue in 2020.

Twenty-three of the 24 members of Colleges Ontario have signed on to begin the compliance process immediately. All are expected to be compliant with the standards by June 2024 through a review process. Seneca College did not sign on because it’s going to put out something similar for both its domestic and international students, said Franklin.

There had been no rules to guide the sector in serving international students. The new protocols help set minimum industry standards and tougher enforcement guidelines.

“Some colleges are doing some things better or differently than others. It would be important to standardize that so international students had a really clear sense of what the offering was when they came to Ontario, no matter which door they chose to walk through,” Franklin said.

As the international student population grew, she said, it started to attract some unscrupulous recruitment agents who have provided misleading information to prospective students.

“So if they were being directed into programs that didn’t have as clear a labour market outcome as they wanted, that’s a problem. And it’s a problem for Ontario’s economy as well,” Franklin said. “One of the things we wanted to be sure of (was) our agents were well trained as they were representing us on the ground in India particularly, but in every other country that we operate in that students were getting clarity around the offering.”

Colleges that signed on to the standards are required to ensure their marketing materials are consistent with the law and not misleading, including “not guaranteeing any academic, immigration or employment outcome,” to help students make informed choices.

Administrators must provide accurate information about student responsibilities and student life in Ontario, including the types and cost of accommodation and work opportunities while monitoring the performance of their recruitment agents.

Under the new rules, orientation and welcoming initiatives are to be offered to international students both prior to and following arrival, including information about housing and residence options; health, safety and mental well-being; learning assistance resources; immigration pathways and processes; and post-graduation support.

An institution is required to terminate contracts with any education agent who has been involved in any “serious, deliberate or ongoing conduct that is false, misleading, deceptive or in breach of the law,” the guidelines said.

These standards also extend to private colleges in so-called Public-Private College Partnerships, or PPP, where taxpayer-funded colleges provide curriculum at a fee to private career colleges, which hire their own instructors to deliver the academic programs. Graduates from the for-profit private colleges then get a public college credential.

As of June 2021, 11 of the 24 Ontario public colleges were partnered with 12 for-profit private career colleges, with a total of more than 24,000 international students enrolled under these arrangements — up from 14,698 in 2018.

The 2021 provincial audit found that some of these partnerships did not uphold enrolment requirements and that their quality assurance and student support processes could be strengthened.

Franklin said it’s important that the private partners are part of the process and being held accountable to ensure international students are welcomed and their interests are protected and well looked after.

“There’s a lot of value propositions right now for international students to choose Canada, and we would never want to put any of that at risk by suggesting to them that we are less than any of those things,” she said.

“Our brand in the world and the continuation of our standing as a safe, welcoming, great place to be is at stake in all of this. We’re very mindful of that.”

The new rules will be incorporated this summer into the existing audit for compliance by the Ontario College Quality Assurance Services, an oversight body of credential validations and quality standards within the sector.

Source: Ontario colleges move to protect international students, before and after they come to Canada

Trudeau pushing softer approach to temporary visas, less focus on risk of overstaying

Would be nice if we actually had published data on the number of visa overstays to inform policy and monitor extent of issue (USA reports on overstays). Some progress in recognizing impact of immigration on housing…:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s pushing Canada’s immigration system to soften its approach to processing visa applications and put less focus on the risk of visitors overstaying their short-term visas.

“We’re also trying to do a better job around temporary visas,” Trudeau said Friday.

“The system — I’ll be honest — is still based around, ‘Prove to me that you won’t stay if you come,’ right?” he said, arguing that it is easier for applicants to “convince” immigration officials to grant them visas if they have “a good job and a home and a house and a good status back home.”

On the other hand, people who are strongly motivated to be in Canada for family reasons could be seen by officials as more likely to overstay, he suggested: “If your mom talks about how much she loves you and just wants to be there (in Canada), and you’re there all alone, that’s scary.”

Trudeau made the remarks Friday during an hour-long meeting with about 25 Algonquin College nursing students in Ottawa. Many of them told him they are international students, and a handful mentioned visa issues.

During a question-and-answer session, one international student recounted being hospitalized for seven months and feeling isolated. She told the prime minister her mother had tried twice to get a visa to come visit her, but both applications were rejected.

Trudeau responded that it is vital for Canadians to have faith in the integrity of their immigration system. But he also suggested that he had asked Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to take a less defensive posture when issuing visas.

“We have to stop saying ‘Well, it would be a bad people, a bad thing, if these people were to choose to stay,'” Trudeau said. “Our immigration minister, Sean Fraser, is working very, very hard on trying to shift the way we look at immigration and make sure that we’re bringing people in.”

The prime minister told the student that the Immigration Department made the wrong call in deciding not to admit her mother.

“It would seem unfair to Canadians and to all sorts of people if there was a back door. These are all the things we’re trying to balance,” Trudeau said. “But I absolutely hear you. Your mom should have been able to come and see you.”

Trudeau added that the federal immigration system is challenged by Canada’s need to fill labour gaps and by numerous crises abroad that are causing people to flee their homes.

Trudeau also said Ottawa has to do a better job helping immigrants thrive. Otherwise, he said, Canadians’ warm feelings toward immigration could chill.

“An anti-immigration party would have a hard time succeeding in Canada, because so many Canadians understand how important that is,” Trudeau said. “We need to protect the fact that Canadians are pro-immigration.”

For example, he said there must be enough housing stock for newcomer families to establish themselves without breeding resentment among the Canadian-born population. But he suggested immigration could also help solve that problem.

“There’s a labour shortage in the construction industry and building houses. So as we bring in more people who can build houses, we will solve some of the housing shortage,” said Trudeau.

“There are solutions in this. Part of it is shifting the attitudes. Part of it is also just improving our ability to process (applications) using proper digital means and computer means.”

Fraser’s office confirmed that work is underway to look at how Ottawa issues visas for relatives of people already in Canada.

“Reuniting families is a pillar of Canada’s immigration system,” the minister’s spokeswoman, Bahoz Dara Aziz, said in a statement. “We continue to be guided by principles of fairness and compassion, and work to explore all avenues possible in bringing people together with their loved ones.”

Canada’s visa denials and processing delays have made global headlines in the past year, with citizens of developing countries finding themselves unable to attend global conferences hosted in Canadian cities.

This week, the International Studies Association went public with its struggles to get visas for hundreds of people set to attend a Montreal conference next month.

Despite presenting plane tickets, income data and evidence of funding they received to attend the conference, many attendees, including panelists, have been denied on the grounds that they can’t demonstrate a likelihood of returning home when the event is over.

The issues follow an uproar last year over the denial of visas for multiple African delegates to the International AIDS Conference, also held in Montreal, which had some accusing Canada of racism.

Data updated Tuesday show that visa applications take an average of 217 days to process for people based in Britain. It’s 212 days for people in France.

While citizens of those countries don’t need visitor visas to come to Canada, academics from many developing countries who are based in Paris or London do need a visa to attend a conference Canada.

The Immigration Department did not respond to the concerns until after The Canadian Press published an article Wednesday.

“IRCC works collaboratively with organizers of international events taking place in Canada to help co-ordinate processing of temporary resident visa applications for delegates or participants to Canada,” spokesman Jeffrey MacDonald said in an email.

“We are committed to the fair and non-discriminatory application of immigration procedures. We take this responsibility seriously, and officers are trained to assess applications equally against the same criteria.”

The department said the complexity and accuracy of information in a visa application can influence how quickly IRCC processes it, in addition to the staffing and resources of offices that handle the requests.

But the department also noted that the processing times it posts online are often not “reflective of reality.”

That’s because the estimate is based on how long it took officials to process 80 per cent of applications in the previous six to eight weeks. Those include long-backlogged cases.

“Processing times can be skewed by outliers, in particular applications from our older inventory that were previously on hold for a long period of time and are now being processed,” MacDonald wrote.

“Once this backlog of applications is cleared, we will start to see processing times more reflective of reality.”

Source: Trudeau pushing softer approach to temporary visas, less focus on risk of overstaying

How fraud artists are exploiting Canada’s international education boom

Good long but disturbing read, highlighting the complicity of governments and institutions, particularly private colleges, in such exploitation. Tighter eligibility and monitoring of DLI status for private colleges needed:

… For more than a decade, the feds have been pitching the world’s young people on a pie-in-the-sky vision of the Canadian Dream, branding the country as a land of tolerance, opportunity and first-rate education.

In 2012, the federal government declared its intention to double the number of international students to 450,000 within the next decade. The following year, the government committed to an ongoing annual expenditure of $5 million, largely to be spent on advertising and promotion: glossy promotional videos, higher-ed fairs and online marketing. In 2016 it launched the EduCanada website and brand (tagline: “A world of possibilities”), plastered with feel-good messaging about Canada’s cultural diversity and welcoming nature. And in 2019, the government announced nearly $150 million in spending over five years, including $29.5 million for targeted digital advertising alone.

These efforts have paid off enormously. The federal government estimated that in 2018, international students spent $21.6 billion on tuition, accommodation and other expenses—an economic infusion supporting 170,000 domestic jobs and exceeding the impact of major exports like lumber, auto parts and aircraft. At that point, foreign students contributed nearly 40 per cent of tuition revenues at Canadian universities. Those numbers may well be higher now; as of 2022, international student enrolments in Canada surpassed 600,000, far exceeding the government’s 2012 targets.

And well-known public institutions aren’t the only schools benefiting from the boom. As the cohort of students travelling to Canada has swelled, so has the number of small, private-sector colleges emerging to capitalize on them. Many operate out of inauspicious-looking storefronts, strip malls and office parks, where they specialize in short-term programs with clear paths to the workforce: accounting, secretarial studies, IT support, truck driving.

And their numbers are growing fast. In Quebec, those include 48 non-subsidized private colleges in 2022, up from 28 in 2015. (Non-subsidized schools are similar to for-profit career colleges found in other provinces.) The number of study permits issued to international students in the province has more than doubled from 4,900 between 2016 and 2018 to 11,500 between 2019 and 2021.

The international student explosion of the past decade has created fertile ground for shoddy schools and fraud artists. “Money drives these schools, not education,” says immigration lawyer Ho Sung Kim.

Meanwhile, education agents—like the one who recommended M College to Nisha—are funnelling students straight into these schools. According to global education organization ICEF Monitor, as many as half of international applicants to Canadian schools use recruiters. Universities and colleges pay recruiters a commission for each student, typically 10 or 15 per cent of first-year tuition, and sometimes more. (Students themselves generally don’t pay recruiters directly.) Yet the industry remains essentially unregulated, as do recruiters’ relationships with the fast-growing private college sector. According to Montreal immigration lawyer Ho Sung Kim, this is why so many business people are interested in the industry: “Money drives these schools, not education.”

Will Tao, an immigration and refugee lawyer in Vancouver with a special interest in international students, says agents and recruiters often peddle misinformation about the quality of schools. While there are respectable private colleges across Canada, he says, the international student explosion of the past decade has created fertile ground for shoddy schools and exploitative operators.

And when things go awry, students pay the price. In 2015, provincial regulators shut down Fraser Valley Community College, a private college in a strip mall in Surrey, B.C. The government had received dozens of complaints from students about misleading promotions that guaranteed jobs after graduation, plus promises of high-quality facilities the school didn’t have and tuition refunds the college allegedly refused. The government decided the institution could no longer be trusted to comply with regulations and revoked its registration.

In 2020, the Ontario Provincial Police charged owners and employees at the Royal Institute of Science and Management in Markham, Ontario—another storefront career college—with fraud, forgery and other offences. Police allege that the college recruited students to apply for a government funding program to help pay for tuition. The students then simply handed the money to the college and received a diploma without attending any classes.

But little in recent years can match the debacle that Nisha—and hundreds of other students—endured. The story of M College isn’t just about one failed school. It’s about a booming international education machine that’s commodified the hopes and dreams of young people, mostly from the Global South. It’s an industry that has been aggressively stoked by Canadian governments—which have done little to protect students when things go terribly wrong.


Caroline Mastantuono is a woman with a knack for both the slow burn and the big swing. In 2004, Mastantuono, then 41, was a support staffer in Montreal’s sprawling Lester B. Pearson School Board, which serves students in grade schools, high schools, adult education centres and adult vocational schools throughout the city. It’s the vocational programs—like auto mechanics, hairdressing and accounting—that are the board’s biggest money-makers, with tuition in some cases topping $18,000.

In 2004, Mastantuono—who did not respond to interview requests sent to her lawyer—received a promotion from the board, putting her in charge of a new international student department. Her mandate was to boost international admissions to those vocational and adult education programs. In 2012, she partnered with a Toronto businessman named Naveen Kolan, who ran a student recruiting company called Edu Edge Inc., which focused on students from India. The partnership soon bore fruit: between 2010 and 2016, the number of international students enrolled in the board jumped from seven to 777, supercharging the department’s revenue from $91,000 to $5.5 million.

“What happened with the students in India is a tragedy. I spoke with one girl who tried to end her life twice in January of 2022,” says Alain Tardif of the law firm McCarthy Tétrault.

Then, in the spring of 2014, Mastantuono’s daughter Christina, who worked on her staff, came to her with a problem: some students were being denied Quebec Acceptance Certificates because they didn’t have enough money to cover tuition. In June, Mastantuono and Kolan allegedly gathered the department’s staff and laid out a creative solution: they would create false receipts of tuition payment. The false receipts were kept secret from students and submitted to the provincial government. Edu Edge then billed the board a recruiter’s fee for 81 forged chits, representing a total of $1.65 million in tuition.

Soon, another alleged scheme came to light. Two staffers in the department began noticing that a numbered company in British Columbia was being credited for recruiting students who the employees knew had applied independently. The pair started digging and found that the company was registered to Kolan’s wife. In total, 25 students were falsely linked to the B.C. firm, which received $119,000 in fees from the school board between 2014 and 2016.

By then, the board’s finance department, as well as its chair and its assistant director, were asking questions. An internal investigation, which concluded in 2016, found that Mastantuono “lacked transparency” in regards to her department’s activities and its financial arrangement with Edu Edge. She and her daughter were both fired, and the minister of education and higher education ordered an audit of the board’s international program. That December, the Quebec government’s anti-corruption squad launched a parallel investigation that found evidence of fraud, fabrications, use of forged documents and abuse of power at the Pearson board. The investigation was code-named “Projet Pandore.”

For the Mastantuonos, this was just a temporary setback. By March of 2017, Caroline had leveraged her knowledge of the international student market to launch a new recruiting firm: Rising Phoenix International, or RPI. She hired her son, Joseph, along with Christina. The new RPI team travelled to China, the Philippines and Mexico on recruitment trips and signed deals with private and public colleges in Quebec, Ontario, B.C. and New Brunswick. In 2018, as president and CEO of RPI, Caroline took part in the Canada-India Business Forum in Mumbaias a member of the Canadian delegation, a trip that included photo ops with Justin Trudeau, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and celebrity chef Vikram Vij.

By 2020, the Mastantuonos had also taken over operations of three private colleges. There was M College, Nisha’s would-be alma mater, which the family itself founded. It was licensed by Quebec’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education in 2019. The family purchased two other schools: CCSQ, with one campus in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil and another in Sherbrooke. And there was CDE College, also in Sherbrooke. RPI had already served as the schools’ recruiters, drawing the vast majority of students from abroad, almost exclusively from India. There were well over 1,000 students at the colleges, and only six were Canadian. Joseph Mastantuono was named president of all three schools.


In January of 2020, Ravneet Kaur Mand stepped off a city bus on Curé-Poirier Boulevard West in Longueuil, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, across from Montreal. It was her first day of classes at CCSQ—and immediately, she was confused. The neighbourhood was mostly residential, and the building at the college’s address looked like a plain three-storey walk-up. My apartment building is bigger than this, she thought. Ravneet checked Google Maps on her phone again.

It was no mistake. She made her way inside, which was just as dispiriting. With the exception of a cafeteria in the basement, there was nothing more to the school than bathrooms and a few classrooms with desks, chairs and laptops. Her family was paying $30,000 for her to attend the college’s two-year medical office specialist program, which Ravneet found through a recruiter in her small hometown in Punjab. Once she saw what the college had to offer—an unresponsive administration, mediocre facilities and an educational experience generally unworthy of her steep tuition—she became convinced that her recruiter was financially incentivized to get her to enrol by exaggerating its prestige and the quality of its facilities.

Each year, Quebec’s advisory commission on private education releases a report that evaluates conditions at private colleges across the province. According to its 2020–21 report, only three of the 14 teachers at CCSQ in Longueuil were technically qualified to teach, and turnover was extremely high—the average level of seniority was one year. At CCSQ in Sherbrooke, only one teacher was qualified. Both colleges were warned to stop overcharging for tuition or other services. A provincial inspection at CDE in 2021, meanwhile, revealed that several classrooms were overcrowded. By most accounts, CCSQ’s sister school, M College—the one Nisha virtually attended—wasn’t much better. Located on a busy thoroughfare in the borough of LaSalle in Montreal, it was housed in a nondescript office building nestled among a rotisserie chicken joint, a mattress store and a pair of car dealerships.

Even as students like Ravneet and Nisha were plowing through their underwhelming studies at the RPI schools, the alleged schemes and frauds at the Pearson board were about to come roaring back for the Mastantuonos. After nearly four years of digging, the Projet Pandore investigators concluded their work. In late November of 2020, Caroline and Christina Mastantuono were arrested and charged with fraud. The pair stepped aside from their RPI roles and pleaded not guilty. (Kolan, who’d seemingly vanished, turned himself in two months later. He also faces fraud charges and has pleaded not guilty, and did not respond to a request for comment sent to his lawyer.) That was just the beginning of what would turn out to be a very bad 12 months for the family—though most RPI students were completely unaware of the mounting troubles.

When Caroline and Christina were arrested, RPI was still expecting $10.6 million in financing from TD and the Business Development Bank of Canada to cover the purchases of CDE and CCSQ. After the arrest, the financing was cancelled. Then, during the first two weeks of 2021, the province’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education stopped processing study permit applications from M College and CDE (along with eight other Quebec colleges, unrelated to RPI) while it investigated questionable recruitment practices, among other problems. In retrospect, the family appears to have been aware of a looming financial reckoning: in March of 2021, Caroline Mastantuono gifted a lakefront house she owned in the Laurentians, valued at $750,000, to a family trust—a move that protected it from creditors.

In November of 2021, Caroline came back aboard as RPI president. At the end of that month, students received emails insisting that they had to pay their fees by early December—not January, as they’d previously been told.

Ravneet, who’d already paid her tuition, watched as stressed-out classmates and friends scrambled to secure funds and navigate bank limits on transfers. “I still don’t know how they managed,” she says. The students were perplexed by the colleges’ sudden need for immediate tuition payments.

Things became clear in early January of 2022, when Joseph Mastantuono, president of the colleges, emailed students to inform them that they had filed for creditor protection. (CDE and M College filed the previous day.) He blamed the financial troubles squarely on the pandemic: the cost of delivering new laptops to students abroad, getting the campuses COVID-safe and a drop in enrolment due to travel delays. He said the college would work with a court-appointed monitor, which would oversee the finances. Students close to graduating would continue. Everyone else would be on “extended pause.”


After 10 months of studying day and night, sometimes 12 hours straight, Nisha wrapped up her final exam in August of 2021 at home in India. All that was left was to get her study permit, still only approved in principle, and travel to Canada to complete an internship.

Only moments after finishing the exam, an email popped into her inbox from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Her heart sank: her permit had been rejected. The agent who reviewed her application wasn’t satisfied that she’d leave Canada at the end of her stay and didn’t think that the proposed studies—now nearly completed—were consistent with her previous education and qualifications.

Nisha was beyond confused. Neither of these problems were raised in the first stage of the process, when she received her approval in principle. How could the same country that accepted her, and took her money, refuse her almost a year later?

Her first priority was to get a refund from M College, which had previously told students that even in the event of a study permit rejection, they could get their money back, minus administrative fees. Through the summer and fall, the college put her off, citing COVID-related processing delays. When RPI applied for creditor protection, she finally realized that her money was gone for good unless the schools could find a new buyer willing to refund her.

More than 500 other students in India were in a similar situation: their tuition was paid but their study permits or visas had been rejected. About 125 of those had received an approval in principle for their study permit, just like Nisha, and had been studying online for more than a year, with every expectation that their permits would be approved.

Hundreds more were still waiting on their paperwork, or were already studying in Canada, only to find those studies indefinitely paused. All told, approximately 2,000 current or prospective students were affected. Panicked and angry, the RPI students organized protests in Canada and India to raise awareness. They wrote to MPs across the country, especially those with Punjabi backgrounds, like Jagmeet Singh, MP Anju Dhillon from LaSalle, and MP Sukh Dhaliwal from Surrey, B.C.

In February of 2022, they met with the law firm McCarthy Tétrault, which the court had appointed to represent them in the insolvency proceedings. The lawyers’ goal: to ensure affected students got their study permits or visas extended or approved, or received a refund of their fees.

McCarthy Tétrault reached out to the federal government. When no answer came by mid-March, the firm petitioned the Superior Court of Quebec to extend the students’ Quebec Acceptance Certificates and study permits and reconsider student visas for students still in India who had been rejected. The application was dismissed in mid-April; the judge ruled that he couldn’t compel the provincial and federal governments to do what McCarthy Tétrault was asking. Instead, the firm would need to apply to the federal court. According to Alain N. Tardif, a partner at McCarthy Tétrault, that’s a much more complex and expensive undertaking.

To Tardif, Nisha’s case was among the most critical of all. The government had granted her permission to study, only to snatch it away after she’d paid tuition and almost entirely finished her studies. She and her family stood on the precipice of financial catastrophe due to the failure of the RPI schools. According to the McCarthy Tétrault team, the federal and provincial governments were partly responsible for the financial fallout.

“What happened with the students in India is a tragedy,” says Tardif. “I spoke with one girl who tried to end her life twice in January of 2022. Victims of fraud always believe that it’s their fault, but there’s nothing they could have done. The federal government told them to pay those fees in advance. The students keep telling us to get a court order so they can be reimbursed, but what they don’t understand is the money is gone.”

The province’s responsibility—and its culpability—began long before students even paid their fees, adds Tardif. Quebec’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education signs off on which colleges become designated learning institutions, which are approved to enrol international students. The ministry signed off on CCSQ and CDE after the Mastantuonos acquired them—despite a 2020–21 report by Quebec’s advisory commission on private education that flagged financial problems, such as the family’s inability to demonstrate that the colleges had sufficient funds for adequate operations.

But there was another clear red flag the government overlooked, adds Tardif. If one of the permit holders or directors has a judicial record that demonstrates issues that could impede their ability to run an educational institution, he says, the ministry can revoke their permit. That didn’t happen after Caroline and Christina Mastantuono were charged with fraud.

“The first shortcoming is the Quebec government allowing these colleges on that list,” he says. “They had warning that there were issues with the ownership, there were issues with insolvency. Those colleges should not have been on that list.”


Today, Ravneet lives with three roommates in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood. After struggling to land the internship she needed to complete her program, she found a placement as a technician at a pharmacy. She’s now been approved for a post-graduation work permit, allowing her to stay in Canada for the time being.

Despite everything, she doesn’t have a problem with recruitment agents in general. “Recruiters translate all this English information into Hindi and Punjabi, which is especially helpful for the parents, who often aren’t very educated,” she says. But she does have a problem with agents getting big commissions for pushing certain schools, and students paying the price.

Manitoba is the only province to regulate recruiters. In 2016, it introduced legislation requiring schools to properly train recruiters and review the information they provide to students. It outlines ethical standards for recruiters and requires schools to terminate partnerships with recruiters when those standards are breached. In 2017, the provincial audit on the Mastantuono situation made 15 recommendations to improve the way international student programs conduct business, including accrediting recruiters. No action was taken. Then, last February, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration made a similar recommendation, suggesting that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada introduce new regulations to govern recruiters, working with provinces, territories and schools to enforce ethical behaviour.

Last June, CDE, CCSQ and M College were transferred to the privately owned Cestar College of Business, Health and Technology. Cestar has operated in Ontario since 2007 without incident, and the acquisition allowed enrolled RPI students, like Ravneet, to finish their studies. Still, the collapse of the schools made many students skittish—about Montreal, about Canada and about private colleges.

Varun Khanna, who’s 32, moved to Canada from India in 2015 to attend a private college. Today, when he’s not busy running the small trucking company he owns, or studying mobile application development at one of Montreal’s public colleges, he volunteers with the Montreal Youth Student Organization. He co-founded the organization in response to the RPI collapse, advocating for South Asian students.

“The headlines in Punjab right now are discouraging people from applying to Canada, because they’re going to be defrauded. That’s very, very bad publicity.”

He says that he’s heard many stories of recruiters telling students they won’t be able to get into a particular well-known college or university and directing them to private institutions instead. Some may be good, but others turn out to be little more than a few floors, or a few rooms in a cheap office building, with underpaid teaching staff. The RPI colleges fit that bill. After the disaster there, he says his organization is recommending students go to public colleges and universities—“just to be safe.”

Caroline and Christina Mastantuono, and Naveen Kolan, are standing trial early this year on charges of fraud stemming from the Pearson school board case, but the outcome will have no bearing on the fate of the RPI students.

Tardif would like the federal government to contribute to a fund for them—it would be the right thing to do, as well as a small step toward rehabilitating Canada’s image abroad. “Our reputation in India is damaged by this,” he says. “The headlines in Punjab right now are discouraging people from applying to Canada because they’re going to be defrauded. That’s very, very bad publicity.”

Nisha wishes someone had given her that kind of warning. “It was my dream to come to Canada, to become something,” she says. “But it would have been better if I’d never applied.” For a while, Nisha just wanted a resolution, in the form of a refund, or entry to Canada. If the school won’t pay us back, then it is the responsibility of the Canadian government to allow us to complete our education, she would tell herself. We’re not criminals; we’re students. Even months after the Superior Court of Quebec dismissed McCarthy Tétrault’s application, she retained some hope.

Now she knows there will be no Canada and no money. Some other Indian students who’d been in similar situations have since managed to gain entry to Canada. Others have found the money to start over again in a new program, at a new school in a new country. There are few people left who truly understand everything she’s gone through.

Nisha’s family doesn’t speak of the financial strain of remortgaging the family home; they want to protect her, and they want her to forget her terrible luck. Their faith in her remains unshakable.

She’s doing her best to turn a profoundly negative experience into something positive—not just for her, but for others. She’s tutoring friends, and friends of friends, in English, on a volunteer basis. At any time, she has 10 or so students between the ages of 18 and 30, across India, taking her classes online, all people who can’t afford the cost of traditional language classes. She wants to help them improve their English and pass their language proficiency exams so they can eventually do what she couldn’t: study abroad and build a new future for themselves.

Source: How fraud artists are exploiting Canada’s international education boom