(IANS) The Canadian government is considering a cap on the number of international students to address the growing housing crisis, one of the main goals of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet.
On being asked whether a cap could be imposed on international students, Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Sean Fraser told reporters: “I think that’s one of the options that we ought to consider.
“The government has not yet made a decision… I think we need to do some serious thinking here,” Fraser told reporters on Monday.
Canada hosted more than 800,000 international students last year, with 226,000 of the 549,570 study permits going to Indians in 2022, according to the government data.
Fraser, who was previously the country’s immigration minister, also took aim at institutions, which were allegedly exploiting students and thus, worsening the housing crisis, the CBC News reported.
“When you see some of these institutions that have five, six times as many students enrolled as they have spaces for them in the building, you’ve got to start to ask yourself some pretty tough questions,” the minister said.
“There are good private institutions out there and separating the wheat from the chaff is going to be a big focus of the work that I tried to do with [Immigration Minister Marc] Miller.” Fraser said he plans to sit down with some of these institutions to find out ways to make it easier to find living space for those students in a tight rental market, CBC News reported.
“If they’re going to continue to bring in record numbers of students, that they are being part of the solution as well by making sure that they have a place to live,” he said.
He also took aim at institutions he accused of exploiting students and exacerbating the housing crisis.
“When you see some of these institutions that have five, six times as many students enrolled as they have spaces for them in the building… you’ve got to start to ask yourself some pretty tough questions,” he said.
“There are good private institutions out there and separating the wheat from the chaff is going to be a big focus of the work that I tried to do with Miller.”
The opposition Conservative Party says the ruling Liberals has not done enough to tackle the housing crisis.
As it plans to take in a record 500,000 new permanent residents in 2025, Canada needs to build 5.8 million new homes, which includes two million rental units, by 2030 to address housing affordability, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
Fraser cautioned against blaming the lack of affordable housing on new immigrants.
“We have to be really, really careful that we don’t have a conversation that somehow blames newcomers for the housing challenges that have been several decades in the works in Canada,” he said.
MEANWHILE, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre lashed out at Prime Mnister Justin Trudeau, telling reporters: “Justin Trudeau would love Canadians to blame immigrants for the housing prices that he has doubled. But immigrants are just following the rules that he put in place. So how can we blame them and not him? He’s the one who gave us the worst inflation crisis in 40 years. He’s the one who sent interest rates on our mortgages rising faster than at any time in monetary history. And now he wants Canadians to forget all of that and blame immigrants.”
He added: “[Trudeau] wants to divide people to distract from his failings. He thinks if you’re afraid of your neighbour you might forget that you can’t pay your rent. This is what demagogues do. Justin Trudeau’s been dividing people his entire life, and I suspect that he will get even nastier and more divisive now as people realize the misery that he has brought down on them.”
On Wednesday, Poilievre slammed Fraser at a press conference. He said: “There’s no question that Sean Fraser has ruined the [immigration] program. I find it incredible these puff pieces are being written about Trudeau’s housing minister – I thought he was the immigration critic for the Official Opposition yesterday, attacking the very programs that he ran up until two weeks ago! I want to thank the multicultural media for not being asleep at the switch and actually covering the disasters that are unfolding right now in that program because of Sean Fraser’s total incompetence.”
He added: “We, as Conservatives, will make sure that international students have homes, healthcare, and, when they want it, jobs so that we can get back to a system that supports our universities attracts the world’s brightest people, helps the demographics of our country, but does not leave people living in squalor, human trafficking, drug overdoses, and other humanitarian horrors that Sean Fraser allowed to go ahead. And the fact that they promoted Sean Fraser to Housing after the disaster he made of immigration programs is incredible. This is a guy who put refugees on the streets and under bridges, and now he’s the Housing Minister? Any wonder why housing costs have doubled under Trudeau?”