Indian international students who say their future in Canada is at risk through no fault of their own have been camped outside a Canadian Border Services Agency building in Mississauga in protest for more than a week.
Among them is Lovepreet Singh, who says he’s supposed to be deported in less than a week, on June 13.
Singh came to Canada in 2017 to attend Lambton College’s Mississauga campus, he says. Part of that process included hiring an immigration agent to help him through the hoops of applying to a Canadian school and immigrating to the country, he says, which resulted in an offer letter he used when entering the country.
But when he got to Canada, all he found was confusion. Singh says the college told him he wasn’t showing up in their system.
The reason for that and his deportation, he says, is that the agent allegedly gave him a fake offer letter.
“[My family] sacrificed their whole life savings to sponsor my education here and after five, six years … I’m facing deportation,” he said. “My dream is shattered.”
He tried to move on, getting a new study permit and completing a course at a different school in Montreal. But even after getting that second study permit, he says he was told he would be deported because of the allegedly fake offer letter he used when coming to the country.
He says it’s been years since he tried reaching his immigration agent, whose contact he no longer has.
Singh is joined in his protest in the parking lot by about 15 other international students who he says are victims of the same practice but have not yet had it officially determined they will be deported.
In March, the CBC’s The Fifth Estate reported on the issue and other students who were affected.
Singh says his protest isn’t just about him.
“There are many students suffering in silence,” he said. “This is about the rights for [the] whole international students community.”
‘I believe that he was a victim of fraud’: NDP MP
Jenny Kwan, the NDP’s federal critic for Housing, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, has taken up Singh’s case. Kwan says she believes he was a victim of fraud and says the number of students she’s heard from who were impacted by similar practices is growing – though she did not provide the exact number of students she’s spoken to.
On Wednesday night, the federal committee on immigration passed a motion calling for pending deportations to be stayed, according to a tweet Kwan posted. The committee will also begin a study into “the targeted exploitation scheme faced by 700 Punjabi international students,” the motion reads.
Next, the committee will invite Sean Fraser, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Public Safety of Canada, as well as departmental officials, to attend the committee and provide a briefing on the situation, Kwan said. Then the committee will make recommendations to the government.
“It is so unbelievable that you have these unscrupulous immigration consultants taking advantage of people,” Kwan said in an interview with CBC Toronto.
“Not only taking their money and not delivering what they said they would, but also destroying peoples lives and dreams.”
She said she has raised Singh’s situation with Fraser.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Fraser’s department said they could not comment on individual cases.
“We are actively pursuing a solution for international students who are facing uncertainty due to having been admitted to Canada with fraudulent college admission letters,” Sofica Lukianenko said in an email. The department did not commit to pausing deportations of students who might be impacted by false letters.
In 2018, the department launched a letter of acceptance verification project, said Lukianenko, where officers can send letters of acceptance if they have concerns about one while processing an application.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) told CBC News there are a number of active Immigration and Refugee Protection Act investigations into cases of misrepresentation. The act is federal legislation regulating immigration in Canada.
“Persons who misrepresent themselves and/or use fraudulent documentation to seek entry to Canada or to remain in Canada are contravening the IRPA and risk being removed from Canada,” Maria Ladouceur said in an email.
The immigration department is responsible for reviewing study permit applications, Ladouceur added.
More than 100 students tricked, says advocacy group
One of the organizations in touch with affected students is the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. Sarom Rho is an organizer with the alliance.
“More than 100 international students were tricked by education recruiters, and many of them have already had hearings that deemed them inadmissible for permanent residences,” she said.
WATCH | The Fifth Estate’s investigation, Sold A Lie:
She says the students are being punished for no fault of their own.
The alliance is calling for a halt to all the deportations as well as permanent residency for all impacted students.
It’s also calling for the creation of a program that grants permanent resident status to all undocumented people and waives inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation – which is what’s impacting the students who allegedly received fake offer letters.
For his part, Singh said he’s also protesting in the hopes that potential international students don’t face the same fate he did upon arriving to Canada.