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by Nandika Ravi

According to One Voice Canada, many students work illegally in Canada to be able to support themselves and their families back home. Due to which, they end up becoming victims of labour exploitation. And the plight female students from low income families, is much more concerning, as they get exposed to crimes such as sexual abuse.

Student advocate Jaspreet Singh said that, many international students are exposed to a variety of work-related abuse as they’re new, lonely and lack accurate information about the new country and its laws.

“International students  are very vulnerable  and sensitive, once education is over,  job is the hardest to find. to be able to get PR in Canada Immigration consultants give them an employer to get a job that gives them LMIA  and  the consultants takes 35,000-40000 dollars  from the students and pay commission the employer.”

According to Jaspreet, changes in some laws that protect international students, have helped ease labour exploitation to a certain extent.

“Changing the rule of PR has made a big difference in reducing exploitation, such as the new TR to PR program.”

“However previously we have seen consultants tell students it is difficult to get PR in Ontario, so if they chose to go to another province, this process would cost around CAD 10,000-15,000$.  However if they wanted in Ontario it will be CAD 35,000-40,000$. Students paid this to the consultant just to get a job in restaurants such as Subway.”

Students then end up in a jobs they don’t like, in a new country, paying off student loans and other debts, leading to physical and mental strain.

“A student who works at a maximum of sixteen dollar per hour, how can he/she can pay this 35,000 dollar fee?”

“This is why students suffer from mental illness and depression, anxiety,” Singh added.

Gagandeep Singh who is now on a work permit, got his first job at a trucking company without an employment contract, that paid him around CAD 26/per hour. After two days of training, Singh started driving the truck all by himself but ended up quitting his job just after a month.

“I was supposed to get my first paycheck on June 15, a month after my job, but two days before they had started making excuses. The truck was so bad and unequipped that it didn’t drive faster than 70 km. So, I decided to quit.”

Despite serving notice at the trucking company, calling and following up with the owner for his salary, Gagandeep never ended up not getting paid for his work.

The ‘Naujawan Support Network‘ are a of group of professionals who help international students fight for their rights. Simran Dhunna, an organizer at this Support Network said,

“We have seen that there is a lot of fear in the new students who come. If we don’t stop the employers from doing such wrong things then mental illness will increase  in international students.”

“We have meetings every week for youth who are on student visa or on work permit.”

“We hear about each other’s pain and two weeks ago in the first meeting a student came to us and he was not paid by his employer. He was very sad but when he saw that the community was with him and he felt good,” Dhunna added.

Harminder Dhillon, lawyer told OMNI News that cases of international students being harassed by their employer has become a common issue these days.

“Due to lack of money they have to work but student Visa allows only 20 hours to them then they don’t have any livelihood then they have to work for cash and also for PR they have to go to employer, who trouble them and international students are very vulnerable,” said Dhillon.

According to Dhillon, students have a variety of options in terms of labour exploitation and do not need to be discouraged. In addition, Harminder Dhillon believes that the community needs to take action, to safeguard the rights of these international students

“It’s very hard to hold someone’s salary here, if someone does not pay your salary you go to the Labour Board they will help you.”

“You don’t even need go to the court, there is no need to hire a lawyer and no fees there. The inspector guides you there, then decides how much you salary you get.”