Support international students in B​.​C. amid COVID-19

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is escalating at an unprecedented rate. The borders are being shut down, and there are now over 6,000 cases across Canada.  British Columbia has already recorded seventeen deaths, and the number of new cases is rising.  

Amid the contagion, hundreds of thousands of international students across Canada are left vulnerable. While the Federal and B.C. governments have announced a stimulus package to support citizens, it is silent on assistance and funding for more than 155,000 international students in the province.

Most of us who work part-time in the hospitality, tourism, retail, and food industries are facing massive job losses with the pandemic causing disastrous effects on the economy. A number of international students have reported being let go from their jobs of only 20 hours a week, while still needing to pay for their tuition fees, their rent, their food, and especially for B.C., their own healthcare.

There are more than 570,000 study permit holders in Canada, and, in 2018, international students in Canada contributed an estimated $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supported almost 170,000 jobs for Canada’s middle class.

International students who come to Canada with a dream of making it here are in a dire situation. With the country being shut down, they face further uncertainty and isolation.

We have little or no access to basic and medical services, no access to childcare, and no support network. International students are losing their jobs, and worse, they are now barred from getting their families here, and those who have left for spring break are no longer allowed entry.

We appeal to the Federal and Provincial governments to take action now and support us, regardless of our immigration status. We want a strong, definite plan of support in terms of the following:

  1. Financial aid and temporary relief plan for thousands of students losing their jobs    SEE UPDATE BELOW
  2. Increased hours for international students working in sectors stated above (as Australia has done); we should be allowed to work to support ourselves
  3. Cancellation and reimbursement of medical insurance premiums
  4. Reentry for students who have left Canada for their spring break  IMPORTANT UPDATE BELOW - UPDATED MARCH 26 2020
  5. Reunification with immediate family members flying from outside Canada  SEE UPDATE BELOW

We are suffering the same misfortune as everyone in the country but we feel very much alone.

We believe we deserve this support regardless of our immigration status.

We are here, we want to stay and be committed citizens of Canada. This is our home now too. 

This plea is being made on behalf of staff, volunteers, and the wider membership of the Here Magazine organisation, a not-for-profit supporting newcomers and immigrants to Canada.

UPDATE: Regarding calls to action #4 and #5 above

MAR 26, 2020 — Travel exemptions IN PLACE. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada post update.

MAR 23, 2020 — Travel exemptions not yet in place. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada post advisory.

MAR 20, 2020 — Canada provides update on exemptions to travel restrictions to protect Canadians and support the economy

MAR 20, 2020 — 

Canada's Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed on Friday (March 20) that international students and temporary foreign workers are permitted back into the country.

Freeland said those with valid work and student visas returning to and arriving in Canada will be respected at the border. Upon entry, they will be asked to isolate for 14 days.

Blair said border officials will consider the essential nature of the travel, as non-essential travel, both internationally and domestically, is discouraged.

Please refer to this clip of this morning's press conference, which you may choose to use when arriving at border.
Link to the press con (start at 1:31:48):

UPDATE: Regarding call to action #1

MAR 26, 2020 — Canada's Covid-19 Economic Response Plan

International students and temporary foreign workers may be able to access financial aid through these new support streams.