Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity to honour the diversity within our workforce, which has been pivotal in shaping Canada’s labour landscape. From the early Chinese immigrants who worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway to the present-day Asian-Canadian workers we work alongside with.

Unions have played a role in advocating for the rights and well-being of all workers. Through collective bargaining, unions have fought for fair wages, safe working conditions, and equal opportunities, creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all. Unfortunately, inequality and exploitation remain in Canada. The exploitation of Asian immigrants persists is our country’s policies towards international students, many of whom are suffering under the weight of an unfair system that profits off young people who are working hard to better their lives.

International students play a significant role in Canada’s economy. They contribute financially through tuition fees, living expenses, and cheap under-the-table labour. This economic contribution often comes at a cost to the students themselves.

One aspect of exploitation lies in the high tuition fees international students are charged compared to Canadian citizens. These inflated fees, which are often four times what citizens pay, create financial strain, especially when the currency exchange (Indian rupee to the Canadian dollar) is taken into account. This forces desperate students to work long hours in low-paying or under-the-table jobs to sustain themselves. This situation is exacerbated by limited access to social services and healthcare, leading to a vulnerable and precarious existence for many international students.

The reliance of universities on international students as a source of revenue can sometimes overshadow their rights and well-being. This can manifest in inadequate support services, a lack of affordable housing options, and challenges in obtaining work permits post-graduation. All these factors contribute to a system where international students are exploited for their financial contributions while facing significant barriers and challenges.

Drawing parallels to the past, we can see similarities in how immigrant labour was utilized to build Canada’s infrastructure in the early 1900s. Immigrants were often paid low wages, faced harsh working conditions, and had limited access to rights and protections. Their labour was essential for Canada’s development but came at a great human cost.

By highlighting these parallels, we can raise awareness about the need to address the exploitation of international students in Canada. This includes advocating for fair tuition fees, improved support services, better working conditions, and pathways to permanent residency for those who wish to stay in the country after completing their studies. It emphasizes the importance of community and helping those who need us to stand up and advocate for them.

Respectfully submitted by,

UVAE Human Rights Committee