Justin Tang The Canadian Press “The use of fraudulent acceptance letters has been a major concern for my department this year and continues to pose a serious threat to the integrity of our program” of Canada’s international students, Miller said Friday.
The federal government is prepared to crack down on questionable post-secondary institutions that recruit foreign students if the provinces are not up to the task, Immigration Minister Marc Miller warned on Friday.
Miller made the remarks as he announced new rules to combat fraud and “bad actors” in the international student program, following an investigation this summer into more than 100 cases involving fake acceptance letters.
Provinces are responsible for accrediting schools that can accept international students, which includes both public universities and colleges, as well as private institutions.
In his final months in office, former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser raised concerns about the number of private colleges located in malls and other locations that rely on tuition fees foreign students, but who, in some cases, offer a meager range of courses in return.
Several immigrant rights groups, including Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, have highlighted cases of exploitation of students by some of these institutions.
Mr. Miller said Friday that the international school program has created an ecosystem “riddled with perverse incentives” that is very lucrative for institutions and for provinces that have underfunded their post-secondary schools.
« The federal government is stepping up and opening its arms to our provincial and territorial partners to make sure we are all doing our jobs properly,” Minister Miller said during a news conference at Sheraton College in Brampton, Ontario.< /p>
“If this work cannot be done, the federal government is prepared to do it. »
The Immigration Department has identified 800,000 active study permits at the end of 2022, an increase of 170% over the past decade.
« What we are seeing in the ecosystem is one of a search for short-term gains, without worrying about long-term difficulties. And we must reverse this trend. But it will take time,” he argued.
Ontario, in particular, has “challenges” in accreditation of post-secondary intuitions, but that is not the only issue. Miller did not elaborate on what those other challenges are.
The Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities did not respond to specific questions, but said in a statement that the government provincial “will again request a meeting with the new federal minister to discuss the planned changes once they have been communicated to the ministry.”
Sarom Rho, an organizer with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said “underground colleges” are sometimes associated with public institutions. However, even those can be exploitative, she said.
She said she worked with a group of students who paid their tuition in advance to the one of these institutions, but were asked for more money just weeks before course registrations began.
“The school said, 'Well, if you don't have money, you can go home, earn some and come back,'” Ms. Rho said Friday.
She said that the federal government must be responsible for accrediting colleges and universities that accept foreign students.
“They are aware of the substandard nature of these institutions, these unusual private colleges,” said she declared.
Also Friday, Miller announced new rules regarding the federal government's jurisdiction to combat fraud and “bad actors” in the international student program.
His department plans to establish a system to recognize postsecondary schools that have higher standards of services, supports and outcomes for international students, in time for the upcoming fall semester.
Standards could include adequate access to housing, mental health services and a lower ratio of international students to domestic students, Miller said, although the criteria have not been finalized.
Details on how exactly recognized schools and institutions will benefit from the new system will be published later, the minister said. As an example, he said applicants to these schools would be given priority when it comes to processing their study permits.
“Our goal here is to punish bad actors to ensure they are held accountable for their actions, and to reward good actors who provide adequate results for the success of international students,” the minister explained.
The details of this system will be important, said Ms. Rho, especially since students are often afraid to express themselves due to their precarious status in Canada.
The department also seeks to combat fraud by verifying acceptance letters for international students from colleges and universities.
This additional verification is a response to a scheme dating back to 2017 in which agents immigration authorities issued false acceptance letters to bring foreign students to Canada.
In June, the ministry established a task force to investigate cases associated with this phenomenon. Of the 103 cases reviewed so far, approximately 40 percent of the students appeared to have participated in the scheme, while the rest were victims.
The task force is still investigating another 182 cases.
“The use of fraudulent acceptance letters has been a major concern for my department this year and continues to pose a serious threat to the integrity of our program” of international students from Canada, Miller said. adding that foreign students are not to blame.
The new rules are a welcome development for the National Association of Career Colleges, its president and CEO said in a press release Friday.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with the federal government to improve our international student system by building greater trust and security, supporting Canadian communities and ensuring that Canada's immigration programs are student-centered,” said the CEO. Michael Sangster.