There are growing calls for Canada to stop the deportation of an international student who worked too much.
On Monday, Global News told the story of Jobandeep Sandhu, an international student from Punjab, India who was arrested and could soon be deported for working more hours than was allowed under his study permit.
The story has also prompted demands for changes to the policy that led to Sandhu’s pending deportation — a policy that advocates have called both “arbitrary” and “unethical.”
“It’s ridiculous that we’re treating international students as criminals for working too hard,” said Sofia Descalzi, incoming chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.
“The federation is opposed to any sort of deportation of international students based on financial needs or based on the fact that a student was working too hard just to make ends meet,” she said.
At the time of his arrest, Sandhu was working full time as a truck driver and just 10 days away from finishing a diploma at Canadore College in Mississauga, Ont., to become a mechanical engineering technician.
Foreign students in Canada are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours a week “off campus” without breaching the terms of their study permit.
But with his parents facing financial pressure back home and the high cost of tuition mounting — roughly $27,000 in international student fees — working full time was the only way he could afford to stay in school, Sandhu said.
‘Differential’ tuition fees are a problem
According to Descalzi, high costs — along with universities’ and colleges’ growing reliance on these fees to fund education — are the main source of the problem for students like Sandhu.
She also says the government can’t expect international students to pay three or even four times as much in tuition fees as Canadian students while at the same time limiting the number of hours they’re allowed to work.
“We’re seeing differential (tuition) fees going up every single year across the country,” she said.
“(And) we’re using people that want a better life and who come here and that are already sacrificing so much to make up for the shortfalls of our provincial and federal governments that should be funding post-secondary education.”
But according to the government, the primary focus of study permit holders in Canada must be to study.
The government also says the 20-hour limit on work ensures foreign students complete their studies while allowing them an opportunity to earn some money and gain valuable experience.
Petition to stop deportation
It’s not only student groups that have rallied behind Sandhu since word of his arrest and pending deportation spread.
Syed Hussan, co-ordinator at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change — a group that supports non-permanent residents living and working in Canada — contacted Sandhu and has helped set up an online petition calling on the government to let him stay.
As of Friday morning, the petition had nearly 40,000 signatures.
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“One of the largest pools of migrant workers in the country is people who are international students and are essentially low-wage, precarious, part-time workers who study and then generally leave the country,” Hussan said.
“We’re calling for justice for Jobandeep and to ensure that he’s able to stay.”
According to Hussan, Sandhu isn’t just an international student — he’s a worker who should have rights.
He calls the 20-hour work limit placed on international students a “random number” and says it opens the door to potential abuse from employers, such as forcing international students to work for cash and to accept less than minimum wage.
Since launching the petition to keep Sandhu in Canada, Hussan says he’s heard from hundreds of international students concerned about their own working conditions.
Deportation rescheduled for June
After his arrest, Sandhu was given a report by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) that said he was “inadmissible” to Canada because he had worked too many hours for his study permit.
He was then ordered to buy a flight home to India and leave the country no later than May 31.
But on Tuesday, during a scheduled meeting with the CBSA, Sandhu says he was told the ticket he bought was no good because it had a layover in Dubai.
According to Sandhu, the CBSA told him he needed to buy a new flight without a connection and gave him until June 15 to leave.
The government provided no update on Sandhu’s application to remain in Canada as a temporary resident, which was filed by his lawyers in January.
“My understanding is that it is still in progress,” said Mathieu Genest, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.