‘Extend Covid-19 emergency benefits to international students’: An appeal to Canadian PM

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The Canada Emergency Student Benefits programme or CESB, announced by Trudeau last month, is targeted at Canadian students.(Bloomberg)
A leading Indo-Canadian organisation has written to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, appealing to him to extend emergency benefits announced during the Covid-19 pandemic to international students, including nearly 200000 from India.

Students from India comprise the largest contingent from abroad in Canada, with over 2 lakh from among the nearly 6.5 lakh. However, a large number of them have been stranded in Canada after restrictive measures were announced in March and colleges and universities closed while returning to India was not an option due to the lockdown in their home country.

However, the Canada Emergency Student Benefits programme or CESB, announced by Trudeau last month, is targeted at Canadian students, meaning citizens and permanent residents. Canada India Foundation or CIF, a leading community group, has expressed its “dismay” over the exclusion of international students from within the purview of the programme, in a letter sent to Trudeau.

“The federal government must include international students to come under the ambit of the CESB because their circumstances are materially not different from those of local students,” CIF chair Anil Shah said. The support announced will run from May to August and will provide CA $ 1250 to post-secondary students and recent graduates, with that amount increasing by CA$ 500 for those with dependents or those with disabilities.

However, Indian students may be suffering from neglect since they can no longer earn any income as many retail establishments are closed. Such students are allowed to work for 20 hours a week to support themselves. “There is no way out because they can’t return home,” CIF stated in the letter.

The number of Indian students coming to Canada has increased in recent years, at almost 350 per cent over the figure for 2014.

Satish Thakkar, CIF’s national convener said, “Financial contribution of international students in Canadian economy around $22 billion, and it supports over 170,000 Canadian jobs, by supporting them at this very critical time will encourage future flow of international students from all over the world.”

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