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‘Blaming immigrants for bad policies’: Canada’s international student cap met with criticism, frustration

Canadians are criticizing PM Trudeau's government for scapegoating new immigrants for an 'inequitable' system leading to a housing crisis

Canadians are stepping up for international students after the federal government announced new measures limiting the intake over the next two years along with restrictions on work permits for incoming students and their spouses.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller announced Monday the Trudeau government will slash the number of undergraduate study permits to be issued in 2024 by 35% in comparison to 2023, resulting in approximately 360,000 visa approvals only.

The development comes in the wake of growing criticism among the Canadian public over the impact swathes of incoming international students are having on the housing market.

"We've got two years to actually get the ship in order," Miller said Monday. "It's a bit of a mess and it's time to rein it in."

Miller’s announcement was met with both criticism and applause as Canadians were divided over the new measures either not being enough or appearing to shift blame to international students instead of the government’s “bad policies.”

“The question isn’t whether capping the number of international students will really improve housing affordability in Canada; the question is, who’s next?

“Once you start blaming immigrants for the bad policies created by an inequitable system, it can be hard to stop,” posted Calgary journalist Ximena González on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Others joined in singing praises for the “exploited class” while alarming the public that the new measures could be misconstrued, resulting in emboldening “anti-immigrant sentiment.”

Pierre Poilievre takes down ‘incompetent’ Justin Trudeau as he defends international students

The Conservative Party leader slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his “endless and nauseating virtue signalling” when asked by reporters during his press address if capping the intake of international students by the federal government is the right move.

“We had the most successful immigration system in the history of the world here in Canada,” told reporters Monday.

“And along came Justin Trudeau.” Poilievre added.

"International students and temporary foreign workers are not to blame for his incompetence. He is to blame," the opposition leader said defending study permit holders.

‘Pressure alleviated’: Housing Minister Sean Fraser addresses the study permit caps

Minister Sean Fraser spoke with reporters in Montreal where the federal cabinet is meeting over the next three days before the Parliament returns on January 29, with specific focus on housing and affordability issues.

Fraser was asked about the kind of impact the new caps on incoming international students will have on Canadian housing prices to which he responded saying the measures will help relieve pressure in some areas.

“There are certain pockets of the country that have seen significant increase in population growth as a result of institutions taking on more students than they can handle,” Fraser said.

“I anticipate, as you see, in some of those communities fewer students that may come to Canada as a result you may see some pressure alleviated.”

International students welcome the new caps on incoming batch

While there has been increasing criticism over the newly announced measures, some of the international students welcomed the government’s recent move in hopes that it will open up more employment doors for current students instead of doubling the pressure on the job market.

“As we know that the current job market at present is not optimally positive for new students in the market, having a limitation on the admissions will help government, to stabilize the situation by improving the overall infrastructure in the country, which would eventually help raise the number of jobs in all fields in the market,” Toronto School of Management graduate Akhilesh Reddy told Yahoo Canada as he begins to explore new job avenues after nearing completion for a second course at Canadore College.

“There are limited number of jobs when compared to the number of people in the market,” added the international student hailing from India.

Another recent graduate, Jordan Bhalla, shared a similar sentiment but also worried what the new measures could mean for his sibling who starts at a Canadian college in 2024.

“I wonder how this impacts my brother’s chances of growing in Canada considering the age-old Canadian dream seems to no longer exist,” Bhalla told Yahoo Canada.

How are the new laws limiting for international students?

As per the newly brought in measures, open work permits will only be available to spouses of international students in Masters and Doctoral programs.

The spouses of international students in other levels of study, including undergraduate and college programs, will no longer be eligible.

Starting September 2024, potential students will no longer be eligible for a postgraduate work permit if they attend a private college licensed to deliver the curriculum of an associated public college.

As part of more changes incoming, the length of study will no longer determine the duration of postgraduate work permit. Short programs, like a one-year program, will be eligible for a three-year postgraduate work permit.