By Jack Copple
The ongoing exploitation of international students and workers in Canada is boiling over in Peel region just outside of Toronto. Fifteen students, supported by the Naujawan Support Network (NSN), are battling deportation orders handed down by the Canadian government. To protest the unjust treatment the students and workers have received at the hands of the Canadian state, a 24/7 protest was started Monday, May 29 in front of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) office in Mississauga.
The 15 students, all of whom have lived in Canada for several years, are just some of a group of 150 which the government is saying have to leave the country. These include Lovepreet Singh, whose deportation is scheduled first and slated for June 13. According to CBSA, the students entered the country under false pretenses, fraudulently providing the government with doctored admission letters.
The truth, however, is that the students themselves are all victims of fraud. While the particularities of the cases differ slightly, each student was scammed into providing fees and tuition money to individuals posing as “immigration consultants,” who in fact were just fraudsters looking to steal money from international students looking to come to Canada.
The fraud was convincing though, and the false letters of offer were comprehensive enough to even convince CBSA of their legitimacy. It often wasn’t until the students tried to report to school that the fraud was discovered. At this point, schools notified CBSA who imposed charges of misrepresentation on the students.
The deportation orders fly directly in the face of the purported stance of the federal government, with Immigration Minister Sean Fraser saying the government was only interested in criminals, not victims. Now, the students, NSN and their supporters are calling on the government to do what’s right – stick to their word and stop punishing victims of fraud.
The first deportation, slated for June 13, is aimed at international student and worker Lovepreet Singh. Singh, who has been living in Canada since 2017, came as a student but found after his arrival that his documents were a forgery. Singh makes the point that, “if I knew my offer letters were fake, why would I shoot myself in the foot by reporting myself to [CBSA] by trying to attend the school?”
After discovering the fraud, Singh attended school elsewhere while the CBSA investigated his case. Having now finished his schooling, he has been working in Canada and has applied for permanent residency status. However, CBSA now claims that his visa was always fraudulent – regardless of the fact that he did in fact study during his time here.
This Kafkaesque immigration bureaucracy and work legislation pushed by the Canadian state have the purpose of disciplining and exploiting workers across the country. This is first done by hyper-exploiting international students and workers who come here for a better life or education. The system incentivizes abuse of their rights, precarity in their work, and wage theft – much of which goes unreported and uninvestigated.
This downward pressure on wages and conditions then allows other businesses to lower wages and intensify exploitation for all workers including Canadian citizens, in order maintain market competitiveness. Addressing the exploitation of international students and workers is therefore of paramount importance to the working class across Canada, as ending it would help secure a higher living standard for all.
The Naujawan Support Network regularly runs protests, demonstrations and direct actions against employers who have been caught in illegal exploitation like wage theft. To date, they have been able to recover over $500,000 in stolen wages from employers. With results like these, it is no wonder they are making great strides in organizing their community in Peel.
The labour movement in Toronto and across the country stands to learn much from the success of the direct action taken by NSN. To change conditions for working people in the country, the labour movement needs to support and form connections with NSN and other community solidarity organizations to form broad alliances which can confront corporate power and advance and win policies that put people and the planet before profit.
To support the international students facing deportation, readers can head to the 24/7 picket line at 6900 Airport Rd. In Mississauga, ON. For updates on the campaign, follow Naujawan Support Network online.
[Photo: Twitter @NSNPeel]
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