College teachers’ strike causes uncertainty amongst international students

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Wed, Oct 18: A severely protracted strike could lead to extra costs, legal troubles. Mark Carcasole reports – Oct 18, 2017

Uncertainty is growing amongst Ontario’s college students.

The 12,000 teaching staff approaching their fourth day of strike action said they are prepared for a long stay on the picket line; causing their students concern over the possibility of an elongated semester, if not a longer school year altogether.

Among those most concerned are international students. Tens of thousands of whom attend the province’s post-secondary institutions every year.

READ MORE: Faculty at 24 Ontario colleges on strike

“It puts us in a very uncomfortable or uneasy position,” Jamaican student Kabrena Robinson said.

Robinson is currently in her fourth year studying journalism at Humber College. Outside of school she spends her time honing her craft at the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper.

If the school year is somehow extended, she said staying in Toronto to complete her studies could be quite costly. From added months of rent, to an extension of her student visa.

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WATCH: WATCH ABOVE: Ontario college faculty go on strike

“We’d have to extend, possibly, our work permits too,” she said.

“A lot of us have internships to do and if we do co-ops we have to get permits for that. So that would cost a total of almost $300. For a student who is working part-time because we’re only permitted to work a certain amount of time during school hours, that’s going to be difficult for us to manage.”

Jamaican student Kabrena Robinson worries about the repercussions the Ontario college strike will have on her as an international student.

It’s an issue the Canadian Federation of Students said often gets missed, with most of the focus placed on Canadian-born students.

“Our international students are paying three to four times more than domestic students,” Nour Alideeb, the Federation’s Ontario Chairperson said.

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“If they don’t fulfill certain requirements, it allows the government to remove that visa and actually send them back home.”

Teachers have been clear since the start of their strike, they realize the bind they are putting students in.

“I have the deepest sympathies for them in terms of trying to figure this stuff out over the next few weeks. We want to be back at the table, we want to be back in the classrooms,” the Chair of OPSEU’s College Faculty Bargaining Team JP Hornick said.

READ MORE: Ontario college strike temporarily halts apprenticeship programs

She assured students that “in the history of the college system, there has never been a time when the students have lost their semester or their year due to a faculty action.”

Hornick said students should encourage their schools to get back to the bargaining table.

Once the strike is over — however it’s resolved — it’s up to school officials themselves to figure out a way to make sure international students are caught up and meet all their legal deadlines.

Kabrena’s visa doesn’t expire for about a year, but given the possibility of a lengthy walkout, she said the uncertainty is a major frustration.

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“(International students) don’t know what’s going to happen and we want to be in a position where we’re comfortable and we know what to do going forward.”

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