ICYMI: Hongkongers are coming to Canada by the thousands. Some fear they won’t be able to stay

Of note. Strong case for flexibility:

It was through pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 that the couple met and eventually started their life together.

Now, they fear they’ll be imprisoned if they return.

The two have been living in Ontario for more than a year, thanks to an open work permit program that Canada started last year, specifically for Hong Kong residents.

But with the program needing to be renewed in February, the pair say they’re worried there is no pathway for them and others in their situation to remain in Canada once their work permit expires in 2024.

They’re hoping the Canadian government will extend their stay.

“We are lucky we were not both arrested,” said the 28-year-old woman of their time in Hong Kong. The couple requested anonymity due to concerns about their safety should they have to return.

“We were marked by the Hong Kong police already,” she said, explaining the police “marked” their identifications when they were caught putting up pro-democracy posters once.

Legislators are among those joining the chorus now asking the federal government to extend and expand the program in question. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, about 12,800 people had been granted work permits through the program as of June 30.

The pressure comes as increasing numbers of Hongkongers are looking to get out of that city due to concerns about the government’s curtailing of civil liberties — with Canada being one of the favoured destinations.

Hong Kong residents have used the open-work permit to get out of the city as the local government enacts the will of the Chinese Communist Party by arresting pro-democracy activists.

Since the National Security Law was imposed by Beijing in 2020, hundreds of democracy activists have been arrested. Thousands of residents have left Hong Kong, heading to a variety of destinations, including the United Kingdom and Australia.

Figures provided by IRCC show a massive increase in the number of people applying to come to Canada via various streams, including study permits and work permits, since Beijing’s grip began tightening on Hong Kong.

From 2016 to 2021, applications ballooned from almost 6,000 to more than 29,000a year. As of June of this year, 18,000 applications had been received.

Canada’s work permit offered some Hong Kong residents a “lifeline.”

The couple that spoke to the Star applied for the program the day after they were married. Only one of them was eligible thanks to a job offer from an Ontario boutique. It was the only way they could both leave Hong Kong quickly and safely, they say, and they arrived in Canada in July 2021.

Other streams of the program aren’t an option for them now.

The open work permit requires the applicant to have graduated from post-secondary within five years of applying. The woman cannot apply for a stream that would give her a path to permanent residency because that five-year period has subsequently passed for her. Her husband did not attend a post-secondary institution.

“We are eligible for the work permit, but we are not eligible for the permanent residence,” the woman said, “this is kind of ironic.”

Advocates for Hong Kong democracy activists say Canada should extend current permits and expand the program so that more potential targets of the Hong Kong authorities can find refuge in Canada.

Katherine Leung of Hong Kong Watch says she is concerned there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place for when the program expires in February of next year.

“If it’s not extended, the scheme ends,” Leung said.

Meanwhile, there are still many hoping to get out of Hong Kong, and the program’s requirements are too narrow, particularly the requirement to have graduated within five years, critics say.

Though other countries have programs of their own meant to help Hongkongers, Leung said many residents of the city have no program they can access to leave.

“A lot of those facing charges for protest-related offences do not qualify for the scheme,” she said. “Often these are normal people who have contributed a lot to the pro-democracy movement.”

Last month, 19 MPs and senators signed a letter asking Ottawa to expand the open work permit. The letter also suggested adding a “human rights defender” category to the scheme. It urged giving those using the program access to the same mental health and career training as other refugees.

Toronto-area Liberal MP John McKay signed the letter.

“These folks could use a few visa breaks,” McKay said. “These people have been tremendous assets to the country.”

He said under the current environment it’s hard to imagine the Canadian government won’t act to help those seeking refuge through the program.

In a response to whether the program will be expanded, IRCC told the Star it is monitoring the situation.

Also monitoring the situation is the young couple who sacrificed the life they knew to fight the rise of authoritarianism in Hong Kong.

Relieved and grateful to have been granted a lifeline to Canada, they say they now only want to stay.

“We are not planning to go back anymore,” the woman said. “We don’t want to be in prison.”

Source: Hongkongers are coming to Canada by the thousands. Some fear they won’t be able to stay

Quebec closes immigration pathway offered by unsubsidized private colleges

Overdue. Federal government should consider same given similar abuse occurring elsewhere in Canada:

Quebec is planning to close a pathway to immigration available to international students who attend unsubsidized private colleges.

The new rules, announced Tuesday by the provincial government in collaboration with Ottawa, will go into effect for those enrolling after September 2023. 

Only those who have completed a study program in a public or subsidized private college will be able to get a work permit. 

The possibility of a work permit was a major selling point for unsubsidized colleges, which charge as much as $25,000 annually in tuition. 

In Quebec, the number of students from India in particular has skyrocketed, from 2,686 in 2017-2018 to 14,712 two years later. Most of them attend private, non-subsidized colleges.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Xii2p/1/

Reporting by CBC News has shed light on poor management at some of the colleges. In the case of three colleges that suddenly shut down last year, many students have still not had their tuition reimbursed and others were left in legal limbo.

A 2021 report by Quebec’s Ministry of Higher Education revealed shortcomings around recruitment, commercial practices, governance and teaching conditions at 10 private colleges.

Changes meant to address ‘integrity issues’

Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet and Ottawa Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a joint statement the change aimed to “address gaps brought to light” by the investigation regarding “certain unsubsidized private colleges.”

According to the statement, it will “ensure that Quebec is not used as a gateway for settling permanently in Canada. In the other provinces, international students who have followed an unsubsidized program of study generally do not have access to this work permit.”

In an interview, Boulet said there were issues with the “integrity” of the system.

“We will harmonize with what is done everywhere else in Canada,” he said. 

“Unsubsidized private schools used this post-graduation work permit to recruit [and] attract people who benefited from our school system, then went elsewhere in Canada,” he said.

He added that “international students are a tremendous assets socially, culturally and economically for Quebec society as a whole.”

‘We did nothing wrong,’ college head says

Private colleges were quick to denounce the decision. The National Association of Career Colleges issued a statement saying it was disappointed by the decision, arguing such colleges play an important role in the province and the country as a whole.

“Our industry has, for many months, tried to engage the Quebec government to understand their questions or concerns pertaining to the post-graduate work permit and find workable solutions together,” said Michael Sangster, the CEO of the association.

Michael McAllister, director general of Herzing College in Montreal, said his institution, which was founded in 1968, is among those being punished for the problems at a select number of colleges. 

“We did nothing wrong and we’re getting penalized,” he said. McAllister would have liked to work with the provincial government to come up with a plan that helps meet the province’s labour shortage and recruit more international students who speak French.

Harleen Kaur, who is originally from India, has been advocating on behalf of students and said she feels international students are also being blamed for the poorly run colleges. 

She said the province could have instead made sure colleges are better regulated instead.

“I think the government needs to communicate with the colleges and look deeper into this,” she said.

The change comes more than a year after the release of the province’s report on the private colleges and only days before the National Assembly session wraps up for the summer ahead of the Oct. 3 election.  

Martin Maltais, an expert in higher education policy and a professor at Université du Québec à Rimouski, said the move was a simpler, quicker way to address the problems with unsubsidized private colleges, in lieu of more complicated legislative reforms.

“That’s probably the fastest way to act and and have results,” he said. 

Source: Quebec closes immigration pathway offered by unsubsidized private colleges

And in Le Devoir, with more emphasis on the hardship of students:

Plus de 500 étudiants originaires de l’Inde, qui ont payé jusqu’à 15 000 $ pour faire des études au Québec, affirment avoir été floués à cause de la « négligence » des gouvernements du Québec et du Canada. Ayant épuisé leurs recours juridiques et politiques, leurs avocats tentent désormais d’alerter l’opinion publique sur cette situation qu’ils estiment révoltante.

Ces 502 jeunes Indiens regrettent amèrement d’avoir fait confiance aux publicités décrivant le Canada comme un paradis pour les étudiants étrangers. Ils ont payé à l’avance leur première année de scolarisation au Québec, comme l’exige Ottawa — même si cela contrevient à la Loi québécoise sur l’enseignement privé —, mais le gouvernement fédéral a refusé de leur accorder un permis d’études.

Pour comble d’insulte, il leur est impossible d’obtenir un remboursement : trois collèges privés où ils s’étaient inscrits n’ont plus aucune liquidité et se sont placés sous la protection de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers des compagnies.

« Immigration Canada a détruit mon avenir. Je me demande pourquoi j’ai choisi le Canada pour faire mes études », dit en soupirant Nisha Jindal, une étudiante de 28 ans qui s’était inscrite en éducation à la petite enfance au Collège M, ayant pignon sur rue à Montréal.

Elle a accordé une entrevue au Devoir depuis la ville de Badhni Kalan, au Pendjab, dans le nord de l’Inde. Cette dynamique jeune femme affirme que son rêve d’étudier et de s’établir au Québec a viré au cauchemar dans des circonstances obscures.

En novembre 2020, Nisha Jindal a commencé ses études en ligne après avoir payé à l’avance la somme de 14 852 $. Il s’agit d’une facture considérable pour une famille indienne : son frère a réhypothéqué l’appartement familial pour permettre à la jeune femme de venir étudier à Montréal.

Dix mois plus tard, en août 2021, un gros nuage a assombri l’avenir de Mme Jindal : Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada a refusé de lui accorder le visa qui devait lui permettre de venir faire à Montréal son stage d’éducatrice à la petite enfance.

Raison invoquée : son parcours scolaire en Inde ne lui permettrait pas de mener des études collégiales au Québec. En vertu d’un système mis en place par le Canada en raison de la pandémie, la jeune femme avait pourtant eu l’autorisation de commencer ses études à distance — ce qu’elle a fait avec assiduité, tous les jours de 15 h à 2 h, à cause du décalage horaire entre l’Inde et Montréal. Elle avait aussi obtenu son certificat d’acceptation du Québec.

« J’ai accepté de payer à l’avance ma scolarité parce que je faisais confiance aux gouvernements du Québec et du Canada. Je le regrette tellement ! Tout le monde nous a abandonnés », laisse tomber Nisha Jindal. Elle reproche à Québec de l’avoir mise en lien avec un établissement qui n’a pas livré les services pour lesquels elle avait payé.

Elle et 501 autres étudiants ne peuvent ni terminer leurs études ni se faire rembourser les milliers de dollars payés à l’avance. L’entreprise Rising Phoenix International, qui possède le Collège M, le Collège de l’Estrie et le Collège de comptabilité et de secrétariat du Québec, à Longueuil et à Sherbrooke, s’est placée sous la protection de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers des compagnies.

Les dirigeants de Rising Phoenix font face à des accusations de fraude et d’abus de confiance en lien avec le recrutement d’étudiants étrangers.

Une entreprise de Toronto, Cestar, a offert de racheter les collèges de Rising Phoenix, non sans controverse. Selon nos sources, une décision du ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur du Québec est attendue d’ici la fin du mois de juin.

Alain N. Tardif, avocat chez McCarthy Tétrault, estime que cette histoire entache la réputation du Canada dans le monde. « Le gouvernement oblige les étudiants étrangers à payer une année de scolarité à l’avance et, quand tout s’écroule, il ne répond pas », dit-il.

La firme d’avocats a eu le mandat de représenter les étudiants indiens touchés par la restructuration de Rising Phoenix International en vertu de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers. Les avocats ont tenté en vain de forcer Ottawa et Québec à prolonger les visas ou les certificats d’acceptation pour des centaines d’étudiants indiens inscrits dans les collèges de Rising Phoenix. La Cour supérieure du Québec a refusé cette demande.

À défaut d’accorder ou de prolonger les permis d’études, les gouvernements devraient rembourser les étudiants indiens pour des cours qu’ils n’ont pas obtenus, fait valoir Alain N. Tardif. « Pour les étudiants indiens et leurs familles, c’est une tragédie de perdre 15 000 $. Ils vivent beaucoup de détresse », dit-il.

La facture totale réclamée par les 502 étudiants s’élève à 7,5 millions de dollars. Une somme considérable pour les étudiants de l’Inde — où le salaire annuel moyen est estimé à 2434 $ —, mais plutôt anecdotique pour le gouvernement d’un pays riche comme le Canada, fait valoir l’avocat.

Plus de permis de travail postdiplôme

Interrogé sur le sort de ces 500 étudiants laissés à eux-mêmes, Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada n’a pas répondu aux questions du Devoir. Sans commenter l’octroi des permis d’études, qui est une compétence fédérale, le ministre de l’Immigration, Jean Boulet, a toutefois donné plus de détails sur une nouvelle mesure négociée avec son homologue fédéral, Sean Fraser, qui coupera l’herbe sous le pied aux 49 collèges privés non subventionnés du Québec.

En date du 1er septembre 2023, le permis de travail postdiplôme ne sera désormais octroyé qu’aux étudiants issus des collèges subventionnés. Jusqu’ici, les étudiants de collèges privés non subventionnés avaient droit à ce permis de travail après avoir effectué de très courtes formations d’environ 900 heures, comme des attestations d’études collégiales (AEC) ou des diplômes d’études professionnelles (DEP), pouvant coûter jusqu’à 25 000 $.

Des médias, dont Le Devoir, avaient d’ailleurs révélé les nombreux problèmes liés à la piètre qualité des formations dans ces collèges de même que leurs stratagèmes douteux concernant le recrutement, ce qu’avait confirmé le ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur au terme d’une enquête qui avait mis au ban dix collèges, en majorité anglophones.

En entrevue, le ministre Boulet n’a pas nié l’impact de sa décision sur ces collèges. Mais il estime que « ça s’imposait ». « On ne pouvait pas tolérer ce type de stratagème permettant à une personne d’arriver au Québec et, après une formation de courte durée, d’avoir un accès automatique à un permis de travail », a soutenu le ministre, en soulignant que bon nombre de ces étudiants s’en allaient en Ontario ou ailleurs au Canada. Selon lui, il ne s’agit pas de punir les collèges anglophones. « C’est le stratagème qui est visé. » Il a par ailleurs rappelé que le Québec est la seule province canadienne qui permet l’accès au permis de travail postdiplôme au terme d’un programme non subventionné.

Source: «Tout le monde nous a abandonnés»

For many young Hong Kong graduates, Canada’s new routes to immigration have turned into a dead end

The impact of the five-year limit, designed to encourage younger immigrants:

When the Canadian government invited Hong Kongers to apply for a work permit that Ottawa designed solely for people from the territory, plumbing engineer Kay Pang applied as soon as he could.

The open work permit allows Pang to travel anywhere in Canada to look for a job, but he recently learned that the document — contrary to what the government had promised in February — won’t expedite permanent residency for everybody from Hong Kong. In truth, people who graduated in 2016 or earlier are not eligible.

His realization comes as authorities in Hong Kong, where freedoms have been increasingly restricted since last year, prepare to enforce a law that, according to the Hong Kong Bar Association, could allow them to block people from entering or leaving the territory as of Aug. 1.

However, the bar association’s interpretation of the new law is disputed by the city’s security bureau which says the change is aimed at stopping asylum seekers from coming to Hong Kong and is allowed under a global aviation agreement.

“It’s really sad for me,” said Pang, who graduated from City University of Hong Kong in 2016, about the new challenges on his road to permanent residency. He had planned to come to Vancouver next January to look for career opportunities in robotics engineering.

New paths to permanent residency

Hong Kongers were allowed to apply for the open work permit from February. The permit allows them to spend up to three years in Canada to gain enough work experience here in order to apply for permanent residency.

At the initial announcements in November and February, no details were given about how recently potential applicants for permanent residency would need to have graduated.

On June 8, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino unveiled more details. There are two new paths to permanent residency exclusively for Hong Kong residents who recently graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution (“Stream A”), or recently graduated from a Canadian or foreign institution who are working in Canada (“Stream B”).

Applicants via Stream B must hold a degree, diploma or graduate credential obtained in the past five years, on top of at least one year of full-time work experience or 1,560 hours of part-time work in Canada in the past three years.

Many graduates eyeing immigration to Canada with an open work permit prefer Stream B to Stream A, because they don’t want to spend money going back to school.

But if their degree was awarded in 2016 or before, they face not being able to meet the requirements for permanent residency via that stream.

‘Why would you just shut the door?’

Pang, among more than 28,000 people graduating from Hong Kong post-secondary institutions in 2016, applied for an open work permit in March. But even if he landed in B.C. and got a job now, it wouldn’t leave him enough time to get the necessary one year of full-time work experience before his degree becomes ineligible.

Hong Kong software developer Edward Wong is in a similar situation. He received an open work permit in May and booked a flight ticket to Toronto, with plans to settle there, in September.

But Wong, who graduated from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2016, also faces being ineligible for permanent residency.

He said he doesn’t understand why Immigration Canada has created this additional hurdle.

Source: For many young Hong Kong graduates, Canada’s new routes to immigration have turned into a dead end