Community leaders discuss the exploitation of international students, which includes sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and overcrowded residential units.
September 16, 2021 (3 Minute Read)
(Photo Source: ontariocolleges.ca – Pre-pandemic)
Baldev Mutta is the CEO of Punjabi Community Health Services, and Sharon Mayne Devine, is the Executive Director of the William G Davis Centre For Families. The two community leaders made a shocking presentation at Brampton City Council last week related to the exploitation of international students.
They both described the lack of financial capacity of international students studying in Ontario. Not having financial sustainability has led to labour exploitation, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, drug abuse and trafficking. It was also highlighted that this exploitation of international students has led to mental health issues, drug abuse and suicide.
Some international students are in crisis, unable to pay rent, food and their next semester’s tuition fees. Baldev Mutta states that many students are forced to cram themselves into basement units due to lack of housing supports provided by the educational institutions. Upon arriving to Canada, some international students are vulnerable due to their lack of knowledge of the English language, and, are isolated with no social or campus supports.
There was also explosive accusations. Baldev Mutta stated, “It is very interesting in our discussions with the top brass at Sheridan College, that Sheridan College refuses to acknowledge that there is any kind of problem with their students. So whenever we gave them cases, they have always pushed back and said these are not our students.”
Sharon Mayne Devine continued, “This is something that has blown me out of the water…we can’t do it on our own”.
Coincidently, the senior leadership of Sheridan College was at the same Council meeting delegating about their proposed $150 million campus expansion. The delegation was asking the City for a $2.5 million investment towards their capital build planning. This included Dr. Janet Morrison, President and Vice-Chancellor of Sheridan College who heard the presentation and the pleas of both Mutta and Devine.
Dr. Morrison was given the opportunity to respond to the allegations towards Sheridan College. She responded, “I am going to object strenuously to the assertion that there is no empathy or compassion at Sheridan for the lived experiences of our international students. I think that does a tremendous disservice to the faculty, to the staff, and to the senior leaders in our learning community.”
In defending the action of Sheridan College, Dr. Morrison then described the comprehensive support being provided to international students and their active involvement in partnership with multiple community agencies that provide additional off-campus community support. She also reference that the senior leadership at Sheridan has ongoing dialogue with the Student Union, whose Board includes representation from enrolled international students.
The following week, Dr. Morrison delivered a detailed presentation to City Council of the ongoing support Sheridan College provides to their international students. The presentation highlighted direct student support, which included: $2.2 million in COVID emergency bursaries, immigration workshops, 1,560 hot meals (over 7 months), $69,750 worth of distributed grocery cards, 642 mental health/counselling appointments, pre-arrival orientation to Canada via virtual workshops, and Free tutoring and English language support. Dr. Morrison did conclude that the issues are systemic and are not isolated to one institution or another.
When contacted by the Bramptonist, Councillor Rowena Santos commented, “Public post-secondary institutions are hosts to a large number of international students in Brampton. For example, Sheridan at 6,000+ international students and Algoma University at 400+ international students. These learners are our residents and as a Councillor, I have received numerous concerns related to student housing, mental health issues, human trafficking, and inappropriate behaviour in local neighbourhoods. Respected community agencies like PCHS and Indus provide important support services to international students and in their delegation flagged serious issues and have shared that they feel ignored by existing post-secondary institutions in Brampton.”
She continues, “Our agencies, the region and the city are bearing the brunt of the issues while post-secondary institutions make millions of dollars on tuition fees from international students. I hope that our post-secondary partners who have requested or received funding from the city, will now listen and be part of a collaborative solution instead of patting themselves on the back as problems get worse. There must be acknowledgement that true collaborative action must be taken.”
“Everyone seems to take from the International Student and very few seem to give or support. These vulnerable young people are often taken advantage of by landlords, employers and a patchwork of poorly considered policy across government at many levels”, says CEO Of Indus Community Services, Gurpreet Malhotra, “It is imperative that our Post-Secondary Institutions of all types work with our Civic Leaders and Community Agencies to find solutions together and collaboratively challenge others who need to change their approach. The future strength of our City, its economy and its resident’s well being is being tested and our next steps will make a major difference to our communities.”