During these unprecedented times of corona, Canada Federal government introduced measures to support international students and temporary foreign workers facilitating access to CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit). It was announced in the early weeks of lockdown itself to encourage them to stay in Canada during this difficult time. The directive was sent to Employment and Social Development Canada who are tasked with reviewing and approving the CERB benefits.
Canada has roughly 5 lakhs Punjabis and around more than one lakh Punjabi students making approximately 1.4% of Canada population. Many of Punjabis were able to avail the CERB announced by the Justin Trudeau government.
The CERB provided temporary income support of CAN$500 a week and will continue doing so for 16 weeks to those international students and temporary foreign workers who have stopped working due to Covid-19, but wait, there is more to it. Although this benefit is welcome news, none the less they need to meet other eligibility criteria also. These residents should not have voluntarily quit the job and should have earned not less than $5000 as minimum income in the year 2019 or in 12 months prior to the date of application. Temporary foreign workers need to have Social insurance number and should be living in Canada.
“Seeing that investment cover several different areas, short, medium, and long-term, I think it’s really hard to not celebrate that,” says Clancy McDaniel, Executive Director of Students Nova Scotia.
For international students, temporary relaxation is also granted, they are allowed to work more than twenty hours but as the working is almost closed amid raising toll of the corona, this facility could not be availed earlier.
The colleges and universities are also guiding students to avail benefits. The University of British Columbia is providing information to international students about health insurance and options for financial assistance available through the institution.
With these adequate student-focused COVID -19 support measures, only 20% of the International students are benefitted and the rest of them have to use their GIC money to survive. Living in Canada is a big-budget affair for such students. Students usually stay in sharing while hiring a basement. In spite of this, the shared room rent per head can emerge up to 20,000 Indian rupees. A huge percentage of students are worried about meeting financial obligations. Many rely on employment during the summer months to help support their education and pay their tuition fee coming autumn. At this crucial time, International students representative for the Canadian Federation of students is also actively observing the situation.
Cape Briton University president David Dingwall is calling for the government to offer more support to international students.
It has been seen that immigrants, International students, and temporary foreign workers are making important contributions as front line workers in health care and other essential services. Their effort have been appreciated.
“We know and value their efforts and sacrifices to keep Canadians healthy and ensure the delivery of critical goods and services.” Marco E.L. Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship quoted.
Viewing this it becomes all the more important to support immigrants who find themselves in difficult financial circumstances. Various student representative bodies have called for the Canadian government to extend the measures and add more for those students found ineligible in these programs. Canada Migrant Rights Network has filed a petition calling for more benefits to International students, and for the concern and priorities of migrant students to be properly addressed.
The government’s response to this public health crisis is appreciated but much more is needed to be done.
By Rashmi Sharma