On Tuesday November 7, a press conference was held in Panciteria, a Filipino restaurant in Stony Plain Road. There were three students who shared their experiences. It was attended by couple of media outlets as well as approximately twenty-five of their schoolmates.
The press conference was focused on the issue of former temporary foreign workers that are currently on the student permit. According to Migrante, A Filipino Migrants’ Advocacy Organizatio, “Since 2014, and prior to the December 2016 changes in the immigration policy, many temporary foreign workers lost their work permit because of the 4 in-4 out rule and LMIA denials”. The organization in their background document said,“many of these workers went to seek help from Immigration agent and consultants. They were advised to become an international student to be able to stay. And many took on that advice and enrolled to private schools to extend their stay. And to access the Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP)”
A former temporary foreign worker who spoke at the event Jonah Falgui said, “My father had consulted one of his friends, an immigration consultant with regard to my status. She recommended that in order for me to stay in Canada I should get a Study Permit. She suggested Solomon College and JUST Solomon College.” Reading from her prepared speech she claimed, “That is where all the problem started. First month of school, rumors were starting about the eligibility of school for PGWP. On the first day of school, I spent almost $9000 with $2500 for books that are non-refundable. We could have bought it online where it is cheaper. I took a chance with the consultant recommendation just to have the opportunity to stay here”.
Another speaker, Connie Monana, a former caregiver talks about how much she has to pay. “I spent over $16,000 and my employer help me with the funds because she wanted me to stay”. Monana was frustrated on how the school was not straightforward with them on the school’s eligibility for Post Graduate Work Permit Program. “I am a good worker and I pay my taxes and contribute to Alberta. Now I don’t know what will happen to us”, she added.
In an emotional speech, Edeline Royo said “I gave full trust to my agent because I know that they are always updated with the laws of Canada”. “I am here and I want my stories and my classmates’ be heard that we are mislead by our agents and school. I don’t want to be an illegal here that’s why I did what my agent told me. I only have seven moths to stay. I don’t want to be back to zero. I don’t want to fail my children to be with me here and dreaming of the bright future for us”
In Migrante’s Facebook page, there were claims that students should have done due diligence in researching to find out about these schools. However these students were quick to reply. JomLabongray, one of the student leaders of the group said, “we are not stupid. We did our research. For one, the IRCC website is not easy to navigate. Our school have a DLI but it’s still not eligible, it was just later on that we found out that it’s the Alberta government that accredit schools”. “And the other thing is, the reason that many of us hire an immigration consultant is precisely because we trust that they are professional in doing their job. That’s what were paying them thousands of dollars for” Labongray added.
DLI is an accreditation by the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for a school to become a Designated Learning Institute. That means that these schools are eligible to accept foreign students. However, it’s the Alberta Ministry of Advanced Education that lists the schools that can be part of the Post Graduate Work Permit Program. In an emailed statement to CBC, Samantha Power, from the ministry of Advanced Education said that “Eligible programs include degree, diploma, and certificate programs at publicly-funded post-secondary institutions, and Ministry-approved degree programs at private institutions,” this makes the schools that the students go to not eligible.
The future for these students is unclear. Jonah ended her speech saying, “Hopefully with what we are doing today, the Government will look into our problem. I do believe that there is no problem a human being cannot solve if they give their all to it. That is what we are doing today- we are giving our all on this. This is our last card. I love this country. It has given me a lot of opportunities that I can’t get in the Philippines. Minister Ahmed Hussein said he wants to see 1 million new immigrants between 2018-2020. I would love to be a part of that. We are already here in Canada”.