Kamloops Counselor Bill Sarai is putting a motion forward seeking the Federal Government to temporarily adjust the cap on international student working hours. If passed on August 30th, the bill would increase the number of working hours from 20 hours to 30 hours for international students in his city. Counselor Sarai is hoping that his bill will be picked up by other municipalities across B.C. as a way to combat growing labor demands and help students with the cost of living increases.
Counselor Sarai isn’t the only one demanding increased international student working hours. The Canadian Federation of Students is also calling on the government to waive the 20-hour work restriction for international students.
At a time when inflation is at a 30-year high, many people across the country are struggling, and international students are especially hard hit. International students typically pay significantly higher tuition fees compared to domestic students. However, international students are restricted from working more than 20 hours per week. This adds strain for students to be able to afford both their tuition as well as their living expenses.
At a time when labor demands are at an all-time high, one immediate solution would be to turn to the international student population who could fill necessary roles that are in high demand across Canada. At the same time, it would help those students to pay essential bills at a time when some are forced to choose between finishing their studies or returning to their home countries.
Kamloops bill is said to piggyback off of bill M-44 which among other aims, hopes to provide pathways to permanent residency for temporary foreign workers, including international students, with significant Canadian work experience in sectors with persistent labor shortages.
Sarai was quoted as saying “There is two sides to this, the students want to work, and the industries need them and until we get back to some kind of normalcy where those jobs are filled on a regular basis this is a lifeline we need to throw them.”
Universities, independent organizations, and provinces are also doing their best to assist students. Many organizations and universities are offering programs for international students to help combat rising costs and to help them afford basic necessities. UPEISU launched an emergency funding program back in 2019 where students can ask for $250 to $750 to deal with unexpected situations, such as loss of income for example.
Provinces are also doing their best to assist international students. Quebec is planning to cut tuition fees for eligible international students from about $20,000 to $3,000 CAD per year. While the program has a number of restrictions, it would help qualified students be able to better afford to support themselves while studying.
The province of Saskatchewan also has an emergency bursary targeted at vulnerable students attending publicly-funded post-secondary educational institutions in Saskatchewan. The bursary is intended to provide emergency assistance with rent/housing, food, medicine, emergency travel, etc. Students wishing to apply for assistance should contact the student financial aid office at their institution to determine if they are eligible. The amount will be based on need and individual circumstances.
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