How new harsh policies affect education, cross-cultural experience, and Canada’s diverse landscape
Photo via ApplyBoard.
As if it wasn’t hard enough to be an international student in Canada, the federal government is now further preventing international students from entering and working in the country where they came to seek a better life.
When I began writing this piece, I wanted to highlight the issue with the new regulation capping the amount of international students entering Canada and the cap on hours that international students are permitted to work. The federal government announced on Dec. 7 that international students would only be allowed to work 20 hours per week, reverting back to a previous policy implementation. From November 2022 until December 2023, the federal government temporarily lifted the 20 hour per week mandate that allowed international students the opportunity to increase their income. Currently, international students already in Canada will be able to work more than 20 hours per week until the end of April 2024. The announcement also comes with a much harsher financial burden for incoming students. International students applying to study in Canada will now need to show that they have access to $20 635 instead of the previous requirement of $10 000, a limit that has been in place for nearly two decades.
As an international student myself, these recent policy changes have prompted me to question my future in Canada. The combination of reduced intake, taxing financial requirements, and limitations on working hours jeopardize the future of those hoping to make a difference, receive an education, and seek a better quality of life in Canada.
The consequences of these new policies extend far beyond the academic world and affect international students’ career opportunities. Studying abroad presents international students with opportunities to gain practical work experience, valuable and transferable skills, and insight into the global workforce that are specific to the Canadian labour market and may not be available elsewhere. Canadian institutions provide diverse learning environments, enhancing language proficiency and pathways for immigration that allow for a transition from a student to a permanent resident. By limiting work hours, the government is effectively curbing opportunities to learn, work, and gain exposure to real-world challenges and experiences. This can further affect the Canadian job market as certain jobs, experiences, and valuable skills that are in demand can be fulfilled by international students and other overseas skilled workers.
For many international students, Canada is appealing due to its promotion of diversity, inclusivity, reconciliation, and commitment to foster cross-cultural interactions. By restricting access to a (supposedly) culturally accepting space, Canada and its residents lose opportunities to gain insightful perspectives that international students bring from various cultural backgrounds and experiences. This can lead to a decrease in cultural events and activities, loss of cultural diplomacy, and diminished global ties.
Additionally, students may seek employment in potentially unsafe working environments to cope with financial struggles brought on by the government’s policy on financial capability. Coupled with limited work hours, international students may feel pressured to take illegitimate or unsafe jobs, leading to exploitation, harm, and subsequent legal issues. They may also experience emotional and psychological distress as a result of a lack of work opportunities.
In late September, a South Asian grocery store in Windsor, Ontario, received 400 applications for seven available positions. In an interview with CBC, the owner said that a majority of them were international students, and many were experiencing a financial crisis.
This influx of job applications highlights the real world implications and the subsequent challenges faced by international students in Canada. The overwhelming response from predominantly international students, reflects a negative pattern of financial struggle among this community. This underscores how international students require comprehensive solutions and reliable support systems and a need to address their unique economic circumstances amidst their pursuit for a future in Canada.
These new policies restrict access to a future international students have a right to pursue. Canadian policymakers need to reconsider how these decisions impact the future of their country’s cultural exchange opportunities, professional growth, and reputation as welcoming and accepting as well as the safety and well-being of international students. By committing to support international students, the government can affirm its stance as a global leader in education, cultural exchange, and a mosaic of students and immigrants pursuing their future goals as well as their families and friends.