Canada Calling: Amid dwindling support for immigration, Canada planning to scale back international student intake

This week’s “Canada Calling” is more of a “Canada Not Calling Anymore.” Or, at least, not at the rate it has been calling of late. Under pressure to tackle the burgeoning housing crisis, the Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government is pivoting to rein in the international student program. Approximately 800,000 foreign students were admitted to Canada last year, further stoking an already out-of-control housing rent fire.

The Toronto Star reported on Friday an internal letter by Universities Canada revealing that the immigration department – IRCC – aims to bring the number of study permits issued each year to “more sustainable levels.” What are those levels? Well, the letter suggests a rollback to at least two years ago. In 2022, Canada issued study permits to approximately 550,000 foreign students.

In Canada, education is a provincial matter, but immigration belongs to the federal department. While provinces have been complicit in letting colleges, often operating from strip malls, enlist foreign students unchecked – critics say the federal government bears responsibility too, as it issues visas.

Beginning later this year, under this proposal, IRCC would put a cap on the number of students a province can admit.

The letter, according to the Star, states that the allotment system is a “two-year stopgap measure” until the government can overhaul the international education program.

Festive offer

The federal government’s hand on this issue has been forced by rapidly dwindling support for immigration in the country. Canada has long prided itself on being one of the most welcoming places on the planet. However, the virtual floodgates opened in the last few years, combined with high-interest rates and a chronically short housing supply, has prompted Canadians to begin questioning the policy.

And not just ordinary Canadians; economists, banks, mainstream media talking heads are also openly stating that the numbers are too high. Government officials agree, but they blame their predecessors. In one comical instance, Housing Minister Sean Fraser pointed out that the growing population – especially the rapidly rising numbers of foreign students in the last couple of years – was putting pressure on housing. Fraser himself was the immigration minister when the said growth took place.

Indo-Canadian Kochhar becomes deputy minister in immigration department

Meanwhile, Punjabi-Canadian Harpreet Singh Kochhar has been named the new deputy minister in the immigration department. Senior bureaucrat Kochhar transitions into this role from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, where he served as the president.

Kochhar, an alumnus of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, is a distinguished bureaucrat who has held various high-profile positions in the past. He served as the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada from 2021-2023.

A deputy minister in Canada is the senior-most bureaucrat in a department.

(Daksh Panwar is an Ontario-based journalist and broadcaster. Twitter: @Daksh280)

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