Editorial: Does Canada treat international students fairly?

By Saifullah Muhammad,

Every year, the country – and the community of Kitchener-Waterloo – benefit from the arrival of thousands of international students from around the world.

For the most part the relationship is mutually beneficial. Canadian educational institutions benefit financially and culturally from international students coming to study here, and many students also get the academic and cross-cultural experience they have left home for.

However, the price of getting a Canadian education for some students can be more costly than many of them expect.

Given the immense benefit these students – and future contributors to the labour market – bring, more should be done to help support them while they are here and in their quest to find work in Canada.

According to the University of Waterloo Facebook page, there are more than 62,000 new students this fall going to the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College.

According to Anita Couto, the manager of international strategic enrolment at Conestoga College, 7,000 international students are studying this fall across all Conestoga campuses in a variety of programs, both full-time and part-time.

Canada, too, has welcomed a huge international student population this year.

New data from the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) shows the number of international students in Canada reached a total of 494,525 by the end of 2017 in all levels of study. This represents a 17 per cent increase over the previous year, and a 34 per cent increase between 2014 and 2017.

Many of these students have come from China, India and South Korea.

International students contribute approximately $15.5 billion to Canada’s economy, which supports 170,000 Canadian jobs.

In return, some international students say they could benefit from additional resources and support.

In a recent story on Spoke News, two international students who attend Conestoga College spoke about the unique challenges they face such as tuition increases, shortages of available housing, timely transportation, scholarships and jobs after graduation.

One student who spoke to the online news site said he was struggling to find housing and felt stretched by the high cost of transit.

International students have access to all the same services as all other students such as counseling and employment services.

But as newcomers, they could benefit from extra support when it comes to housing, transportation and the opportunity to work during and after their studies.

Upon completion of their studies, many go on to obtain post-graduate work permits, which allow them to apply their education in the Canadian labour market.

A growing number of international students intend to apply for permanent residence in Canada and eventually, Canadian citizenship.

They are statistically proven to be among the best candidates for immigration due to their high levels of quality education which is recognized by Canadian companies, and their experience working and living in Canada – which speeds up the integration process.

But oftentimes, students are unclear of their options post-graduation.

Thus, more could also be done to build awareness amongst international students about Canada’s immigration pathways and inform students about cost-effective settlement supports to facilitate their integration process after their studies. Without additional supports, Canada could risk losing both the students and its reputation abroad.


VIDEO: Waterloo Region honours victims of New Zealand mosque shooting

By Saifullah Muhammad, Spoke News

Hundreds of residents and a number of organizations from across Waterloo Region gathered at Kitchener City Hall on Friday for a vigil in honour of the victims who were killed and injured at two New Zealand mosques.

The Coalition of Muslim Women organized the event, which began at 6 p.m. Members from all three levels of government, as well as members of different faith communities, addressed the gathering.

Blog News

Video: D8 wins the KDSL Indoor Men’s League championship

By Saifullah Muhammad,

Source: Spoke News

After a competitive season, the D8 soccer club became the 2019 Indoor Men’s League champions of the Kitchener and District Soccer League (KDSL) on Tuesday night.

The KDSL has been in operation since 1975. Historically, the league has operated with a first or premier division and a second division.

Most teams are located within or around Kitchener, Ont., as well as other nearby cities, such as Stratford, Cambridge, Guelph and other smaller towns from the area.

Blog News

Audio: Scores of recent immigrants attend Global Skills Conference

By Saifullah Muhammad,

More than 150 internationally trained professionals and other immigrants participated in the 11th annual Global Skills Conference in Kitchener on March 6, where employers from across Waterloo Region provided information and were looking for skilled workers.

The theme of the conference this year was “Making Connections.”

The conference was an opportunity for participants to grow in confidence in networking with employers and to learn about businesses in Waterloo Region.

The conference was held at the Kitchener Crowne Plaza hotel.

For more information and job opportunities, visit Canada Immigration Partnership website.

Articles Blog

OPINION: Is global population decline a real problem?

By Saifullah Muhammad,

For years we have been told by scientific elites and United Nations reports that a growing planetary population will soon overwhelm the earth’s resources. As the population grows, more and more lands are allocated for urbanization, taking up resources that could be used for agriculture. On top of this, the wastes and pollution resulting from human activity speed up the degradation and deterioration of resources.

The Global Footprint Network estimates that the current population requires resources equivalent to that of over 1.6 Earths. Moreover, the UN projects that our population may balloon to upwards of 8.5 billion by 2030.

However, a growing number of demographers are sounding a different kind of alarm. They argue the global population is headed for a steep decline.

Canadian social scientist Darrell Bricker and journalist John Ibbitson, the authors of Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline, make the provocative argument that, in roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline, dramatically reshaping the social, political, and economic landscape. Once that decline begins, it will never end.

Amidst warnings of overpopulation, such a trend might seem like a good thing, especially for the environment. However, they argue that declining population will also lead to massive economic upheaval, with fewer people available each year to buy houses and cars and baby strollers, and fewer taxpayers available to support the health-care needs of an aging population.

For most of history, population decline has been the result of catastrophe — environmental events, famine or disease. Now, however, fertility rates are falling for a different reason: people are choosing to have fewer children.

Bricker and Ibbitson argue that the planet faces not a population bomb, but a population bust.

“We polled 26 countries asking women how many kids they want and, no matter where you go, the answer tends to be around two,” Ibbitson said in a new interview with Wired. “The external forces that used to dictate people having bigger families are disappearing everywhere. Also, that is happening fastest in developing countries.”

They also address that a smaller global population will bring with it many benefits: fewer workers will command higher wages, the environment will improve, the risk of famine will wane and falling birthrates in the developing world will bring greater affluence and autonomy for women.

However, enormous disruption lies ahead, too.

“We can already see the effects in Europe and parts of Asia, as aging populations and worker shortages weaken the economy and impose crippling demands on health care and social security, they explained. “The United States and Canada are well-positioned to navigate these coming demographic shifts successfully – that is, unless growing isolationism leads us to close ourselves off, just as openness becomes more critical to our survival than ever,”

Bricker and Ibbitson also assert that, to combat depopulation, nations must embrace both values, though the first is difficult and the second, for some, may prove impossible.

On the other hand, Harvard University Graduate School of Design research professor Richard Forman and professor of sustainability science at Arizona State University Jianguo Wu wrote a call for global and regional urban planning approaches. They say that existing communities are built in the wrong places; that those places should have been allocated for nature and agriculture. Most settlements began on good agricultural soil near a body of fresh water and natural vegetation, they wrote in Nature.

Regardless of which side people take on the issue — whether we are headed for overpopulation of Earth or a declining population that will produce its own upheavals — more research and consultation will be needed in the years to come. The future of the planet will depend on it.

Blog News

Video: Commemoration marks second anniversary of Quebec shooting

By Saifullah Muhammad,

This week marked the second anniversary of the horrific attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec (CCIQ). The Coalition of Muslim Women K-W and people from diverse communities honoured the memory of the six Muslim men brutally murdered and 19 others injured on Jan. 29, 2017, when a gunman entered the mosque and opened fire on worshipers after evening prayers.

Source: Spoke News

Blog News

Local environmental groups call on citizens to speak up against Bill 66

By Saifullah Muhammad,

Ontario Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe challenged hundreds of concerned residences in Kitchener to speak up about the climate crisis and to protect their children and their future.

“Climate change is here now — and it is going to get worse,” Saxe said at an event on Jan. 15 titled, “Steward of Our Future: Protecting What We Love” at the Kitchener city hall. The event was organized by Divest Waterloo, in partnership with Faith and the Common Good, the Centre for Public Ethics at Martin Luther University College, and the Grand River Environmental Network (GREN).

There has been a lot of controversies recently regarding Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s proposed Bill 66, also called An Act to Restore Ontario’s Competitiveness, which includes a proposal to close the office of Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO).

This office was created by an all-party committee in 1994 as an independent office to hold ministries accountable for their decisions that affect the environment.

If the bill is passed in its present form, it will amend several of Ontario’s workplace laws, including legislation put in place to protect Ontario’s waters and green spaces.

“Cancellation of green programs hurt 752 clean energy contracts. We need an international lawsuit because we do not own our laws…. Ripping up energy contracts significantly impacts many Indigenous communities in Ontario. We are also actively subsidizing fossil fuel use,” said Saxe.

“This is about defending what we love. You do not have to be in a faith community to see that,” said Lucy Cummings, executive director of Faith and the Common Good.

Kevin Thomason, vice-chair of GREN, asked the audience to play a role in creating a safer environment and talk to local and provincial officials about the bill and how it could affect them.

“We need to stand up and come together now.

Local municipalities that have passed a resolution opposing the Bill 66 are the City of Cambridge, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, the City of Kitchener, the Township of Wellesley and Wilmot Township. Two more municipalities — the Township of Woolwich and the Township of North Dumfries — must still deal with the issue.

Blog News

Foreign affairs minister underlines importance of journalism to democracy

By Saifullah Muhammad,

OTTAWA — Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a conference here yesterday that the protection of journalists and the functions they perform are key to the proper function of civil society.

A free media, Freeland said, is critical to holding politicians to account.

“Democracy is about a much broader set of institutions, including a vibrant and vocal civil society and very much including journalists,” she said. “I am absolutely convinced, not only by the theory but by lived experience, that knowing that we have to face the questions of journalists — that we’re not going to be allowed as politicians, as a government, to grade our own work — it keeps us honest.”

Freeland made the comments to an audience of community-based representatives, media, government officials and diplomats on Wednesday at the National Arts Centre, where she moderated a panel discussion.

The event was hosted by office of Human Rights, Freedom, and Inclusion (OHRFI), in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The gathering came just one day after Time magazine named a group of journalists who have been targeted for their work as Person of the Year. They included the slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince who was killed two months ago at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Besides Khashoggi, Time’s honorees include the staff of the Capital Gazette newspapers in Maryland, where five people were shot dead in June; Maria Ressa, the founder of Rappler, a news start-up under attack by the authoritarian president of the Philippines; and U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar after reporting the massacre of Rohingya people.

At least 52 journalists were killed globally this year, according to Rachel Pulfer, one of the four panelists, and executive director of Journalists for Human Rights.

“The press is the custodian of the social contract between state and society. Increasing attacks on journalist force society to ask a critical question,” Pulfer told the crowd.

Freeland was also joined by Brendan de Caires, executive director for PEN Canada, Raheel Raza, the president of Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and Rachel Vincent, the director of advocacy and media for Nobel Women’s Initiative. All four panelists focused on freedom of expression and the protection of journalists.


Government officials, community leaders honoured for helping to end the Rohingya crisis

Audio Blog by Saifullah Muhammad,


The Appreciation Dinner was hosted by the not-for-profit organizations Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative (CRDI) and Burma Task Force (BTF).


Right groups call on Bangladesh not to force Rohingya return to Myanmar

By Saifullah Muhammad

Toronto – Since the late 1970s, policies of genocide and ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s forces has resulted in five separate waves of mass exodus by the country’s Rohingya minority. Over time, the international community–including Canada and the United Nations–has been outspoken about not forcing these Rohingya survivors of genocide back into the same conditions they fled.

Many of these Rohingya migrants fled to nearby Bangladesh, prompting the country’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to put forward a 3-point proposal regarding the crisis. These proposals address the root of the problem faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar and point to issues that must be resolved before any repatriation process can begin. First, she proposed ending discriminatory laws against the Rohingya, along with the reinstatement of full citizenship for them. Secondly, Myanmar needs to prove that the Rohingya will not face the same violent persecution if they return to their homeland. That means (for starters) the establishment of an internationally protected safe-zone. In the same vein, all Rohingya concentration camps must be closed and all Rohingya who haven’t left Myanmar must be allowed to return to their homes. Finally, there must be accountability for the crimes committed, as impunity can only lead to more violence.

People understand the immense pressure Bangladesh faces as the host of approximately 1 million Rohingya genocide survivors. The international community needs to continue to support Bangladesh, so she does not bear this immense burden alone. Real, tangible solutions are needed to make sure that a sixth exodus of the Rohingya out of Myanmar–their ancestral homeland–doesn’t happen.  Moreover, such measures must be instilled to prevent the worst outcome of all: the completion of the Rohingya genocide by Myanmar’s forces.

“We cannot send genocide survivors back under the control of the same regime that is persecuting them,” said Ahmed Ramadan, Executive Director of Burma Task Force.

“There are over 100,000 Rohingya still living in concentration camps in Myanmar since 2012. How can we force back a group of people that have experienced so much pain and suffering when there are still Rohingya living in these camps inside of Myanmar without any rights or freedom?” Ramadan added.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has agreed to assess the voluntary nature of the possible repatriation of some Rohingya survivors back to Myanmar from Bangladesh. We were advised that the Bangladeshi army has entered Rohingya camps to interview families. This has sparked fear and terror in the refugee camps. Some fled into hiding, while others have attempted suicide.

Canada is on the executive committee of the UNHCR and is their 8th largest donor. Canada needs to use its relationship with Bangladesh and other countries in the region to stop any refoulement until safe conditions are met. Canada needs to act.

“In the absence of adequate measures ensuring the life, liberty, security and dignity of Rohingya people, forcing them to return to the concentration camps in Myanmar would expose Bangladesh to significant liability and may make complicit to the crimes of Myanmar regime,” said Washim Ahmed, the spokesperson of Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative.

“Bangladeshi authorities must keep in mind that unlike Myanmar, Bangladesh is a signatory to Rome Statute, which makes it subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction. Bangladesh must not haste and should try to solve the problem instead of pushing the Rohingyas back to an ongoing genocide zone.”