Toronto

International students call for COVID-19 immigration changes in Toronto

A rally led by current and former international students calling for changes to immigration rules during COVID-19 will be held in Toronto today.

Demonstrators gathered outside Chrystia Freeland's office in the 1st of 2 events scheduled this weekend

The group is calling on the provincial and federal governments to make post-graduate work permits renewable to ensure graduates struggling in the COVID-19 job market will not face deportation. (Michael Cole/CBC)

A rally led by current and former international students calling for changes to immigration rules during COVID-19 was to be held in Toronto on Saturday.

Demonstrators planned to gather at Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland's office in the first of two events scheduled this weekend.

A second event in Mississauga, Ont., is planned for Sunday.

The students say the requirements for graduates to gain permanent residency in Canada are too high, and economic disruption from the COVID-19 crisis has made those requirements essentially impossible to meet.

Sarom Rho, an organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change who leads the Migrant Students United campaign, said the pandemic has compounded the difficulties international graduates face when entering the job market in Canada.

Two of the protesters at Saturday's rally holding signs demanding more funding and permanent status for international students whose work permits are affected by the pandemic. (Michael Cole/CBC)

"During the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people in Canada have lost work and wages, but for migrant students there is an added cost," Rho said by phone ahead of Saturday's rally.

"Without jobs, students can't apply for permanent residence."

Grads facing unemployment risk deportation

Post-graduate work permits are not currently renewable and Rho said this puts graduates who have been laid off or unable to find work during the pandemic at extra risk.

Graduates experiencing unemployment face deportation if they do not complete continuous, high-wage work before their permits expire, she noted.

The group is calling on the provincial and federal governments to make post-graduate work permits renewable so graduates struggling in the COVID-19 job market will not be deported or become undocumented.

An online petition calling on the federal government to address the issues international students face had attracted more than 18,000 signatures as of Saturday afternoon.

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