In January 2017, the then President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, banned the entry of people from predominantly Muslim countries into the US.
In response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lauded Canada as an open and welcoming nation.
But some criticized Trudeau’s #WelcomeToCanada tweet, calling it a virtue sign and saying it offered false hope and perpetuated a fraudulent portrayal of Canadian immigration practices.
Despite Trudeau’s words of welcome and the general public’s perception of Canada as a friendly and welcoming place, many people trying to immigrate to our country find themselves facing distinctly unpleasant realities.
Canadian universities host thousands of visiting students every year. According to a report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, many of them come from low- and middle-income countries to bring diversity, talent and knowledge to communities across the country, as well as help create an economic boon. Huh.
The report highlights the enormous impacts of severe delays in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Between 2016 and 2020, more than half a million people were turned down for study permits in Canada.
Many of these exceptional individuals were already qualified and accepted into major programs and often sponsored under Canadian research grants and scholarships. These bright minds probably chose to continue their studies elsewhere or not at all. Refusal of IRCC study permit and visa is a tragedy for them and a great loss for Canada.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, processing times for international student permits have more than doubled. Instead of the standard 60 days, students in some regions experience delays of more than 200 days.
These delays are also occurring for those already living and studying in Canada, who are only applying for standard, acceptable and encouraged postgraduate work.
Read more: Canada’s changing coronavirus border policy exposes the precarious situation of international students
Students from low- and middle-income countries such as Nigeria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are facing extraordinarily long delays, revealing patterns of systemic discrimination and racism.
In particular, 69 percent of African students from francophone countries were rejected, compared to an average refusal rate of 41 percent for students from non-African countries. The denial rate was even higher for students from Ethiopia (88 percent), Ghana (82 percent) and Rwanda (81 percent).
Students purposefully admitted to Canadian universities – often as part of strategies that align with government immigration strategies – find themselves suddenly faced with irrational visa rejections and delays.
This causes them great harm, creates and increases inequality. People living in under-served areas of the world with fewer processing centers face long travel distances to Canadian authorities to provide required biometrics and often duplicate documents deemed “expired” before their applications are processed. to bear the exorbitant cost.
Persistent inequality, discrimination
Members of the University Advisory Council of the Canadian Global Health Association, which represents 25 member universities across Canada, find that persistent inequalities and discrimination are affecting their ability to participate, support and engage with scholars around the world. Huh.
During a recent discussion on the effects of visa delays and denials on students and postdoctoral fellows, our members described an opaque and unpredictable system, including discriminatory visa denial for students from low- and middle-income countries. This is in stark contrast to those seeking entry to Canada from high-income countries such as the United States or Australia.
The inconsistency of the IRCC makes it impossible to predict or advise applicants, creates pressure on the system through wasted time and repeated efforts and severely affects the research programs of top Canadian researchers, within universities and out.
For undergraduate students and fellows already studying in Canada, delays are creating fear and anxiety, and restricting freedom to travel because of the risk of being denied re-entry.
Long waits for responses from the IRCC threaten their income and access to basic benefits such as health and child care, because without valid visas or study permits, universities cannot process their scholarship or employment payments.
The toll on the Canadian research ecosystem cannot be underestimated, not to mention the crippling effects on people left in the precarious and life-altering limbo while they cast their fate into an unpredictable, unknown bureaucratic decision-making process. that are understood only by those who wait to be determined by them. inside the system.
Canada should do better.
While the IRCC has undertaken employee training and other initiatives to address racism and prejudice in its ranks, evidence suggests that there is still much work to be done.
Given Canada’s history of racism and discrimination in its immigration policies, there is a need for greater transparency and accountability than is currently in place to ensure equitable policies and practices.
call to action
As co-chair of the Canadian Association for Global Health University Advisory Council, we fully support the 35 recommendations presented by the Standing Committee on Citizens and Immigration in its May 2022 report.
We echo the urgency of the report and add our voices to the call:
- the elimination of openly anti-African racism in existing processes;
- transparency about decisions and reasons for refusal;
- Creation of an urgent mechanism to provide grace periods to students and postdoctoral fellows already in Canada, while the backlog in IRCC has been resolved.
International students are not only ideal candidates to immigrate to Canada, they are also vital to Canada’s prosperity.
Canada is facing more than a million job vacancies and a shrinking population. The Standing Committee’s report makes clear that successful integration and retention of international students, including rural and remote areas, is critical to combating Canada’s demographic decline and bridging the labor shortage, including meeting the federal government’s French-speaking population targets. Is.
As Canada prepares to host the International AIDS 2022 conference in Montreal – convening more than 20,000 scholars, activists and students from around the world – our global reputation is becoming one of bureaucratic red tape and closed doors. We can and should do better.