All international students need security checks

  • National Newswatch

The continuing lack of security checks for all international students is putting Canadians at risk.The recent disclosure by the Federal Minister of Immigration that 700 international students are facing deportation following the discovery that forged acceptance letters from educational institutions were used to enter the country raises questions about how carefully—if at all—these students are vetted before coming to Canada. This concerning situation is made worse given the fake enrollment scam came to light after a public tip rather than an investigation by the government itself.A number of these suspicious students have been identified by the Canada Border Services Agency as not attending university or college but involved in criminal gangs. Since at least 2018, the Canadian government has been aware that student visas were being used to move gang members into Canada.In 2022, over 800,000 international students came to Canada: an increase of almost a third in one year. In addition to recognized universities and colleges, there has been a surge of new colleges and schools that seem to exist to take advantage of our weak admission rules for international students. This rapid and free-wheeling admittance can have real life impacts on Canadians.As reported in my hometown newspaper, the Guardian, at 9 a.m. on September 11, 2021, a young woman walked into a Staples store in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and spoke to an employee about buying a desk. After a discussion, she walked away and continued shopping in another aisle. She was followed by the employee and sexually assaulted. The employee was in Canada under a study permit issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The international student was charged and pleaded guilty to sexual assault.In this case, the international student sexually assaulted a young woman, he pleaded guilty and received a conditional discharge rather than a criminal conviction. Thus, he would not have to leave Canada before completing his studies at the University of Prince Edward Island.Since this was not the first case involving someone on a study permit who committed a sexual assault but didn't receive a criminal conviction, citizens are wondering if the threat of deportation and therefore having to leave their studies is being used as a “get out of jail free card.”According to media reports, the woman has paid a high price for the sexual assault. She quit her job, suffers panic attacks and is fearful of being in stores and near strangers, while the international student gets to finish his degree.The question is: why is it not mandatory that all applicants for study permits be required to pass a criminal background check prior to the student visa being issued? Are we really only relying on the honour system to ensure criminals aren't slipping through the cracks, or the gut instincts of immigration officers to follow up with individual applicants?Obviously, the vast majority of international students coming to Canada are not committing offences. Indeed, they are contributing to the diversity and success of our country, but we must ensure that both Canadians and newcomers are protected by implementing and maintaining proper checks before these students come to Canada.Foreign nationals who committed crimes should be deported, and our court system – particularly our judges – need to be aware that security checks are not done on most of the students before they come to Canada.The deportation issue is obviously a problem for some of our judges, as it is an additional penalty in that a criminal conviction may result in removal, but the safety of Canadians, and those who abide by Canadian law during their temporary stay here, should be the priority.As the Federal Minister responsible for immigration recently stated:In general, applicants for a study permit are not required to provide a police certificate as part of their application. Applicants should check country-specific requirements for more information. Nonetheless, if the immigration officer processing the application deems it necessary when reviewing a prospective student's application, they will ask the applicant for a police certificate.Evidently, the process outlined by the Federal Minister highlights massive security gaps in the present system that is not working to protect Canadian citizens nor the legitimate international students who come here to study.Percy Downe is a Senator from Charlottetown.