Punjab: Hate crimes, denial of visa worry students, parents
Canada popular study destination with Punjab youngsters due to easier immigration and the large Punjabi population there with a political say.
With India suspending visa services to Canadian citizens for “operational reasons” on Thursday as a fallout of the tense ties between the two countries after Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged Indian involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June, there is anxiety and panic among parents in Punjab whose children are on study permit in the North American country.
Canada is the top choice among Punjabi youngsters due to its flexible education policy, work opportunities, easier post-graduation immigration possibilities and because of the large Punjabi population there with a political say. The route to first study in Canada and then become a permanent resident (PR) is the most popular.
Such is the craze that the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) welcomed 5.51 lakh new international students in 2022, of which 2.26 lakh (41%) were from India. It was followed by applicants from China, The Philippines, France and Nigeria.
As many as 3.19 lakh Indian students were already living and studying in Canada as on December 31, 2022.
However, with tension escalating between the two countries, a sense of insecurity prevails among those who have applied for Canadian study visas for the January intake. The parents and aspirants want the governments of both the countries to resolve the crisis in a diplomatic manner instead of using stringent measures.
While some parents say that there is no cause for worry as their wards have travelled on genuine documents and are working part-time according to norms, many are keeping their fingers crossed hoping for an early end to the crisis.
“My daughter is in Canada on a study permit for the past two years. After Thursday’s development, I called her up to check on her. She said there is no sense of panic among foreign Indian students in Canada despite the crisis after PM Justin Trudeau’s remarks on wanted terrorist Nijjar’s killing,” said Gurbachan Singh, a retired Punjab Police inspector.
Security amid hate crime
threat concern: Parents
Another Jalandhar resident, Ranjit Singh, who is in Canada to visit his son, Raunak Singh, said most parents are only concerned about the security of their children. “The children have got their Canadian study visas on genuine documents, therefore, there are no worries about their future. The only issue is the security of Indian students as there are apprehensions of increasing hate crime among Indian students in the coming days,” he said.
Simranpreet Kaur of Mand village in Jalandhar said she had recently applied for a study visa to take admission to a Brampton-based college for the January intake. “I am worried that the tension between the two countries could hamper my visa prospects. I have also contacted an immigration consultant to gather more information on any sort of changes in the process of granting study visas,” she said.
Amritsar-based Monika Rani, whose daughter just moved to Alberta state of Canada to study, said, “Reports of strained ties between both countries have surely created anxiety in terms of her future. However, I don’t think there is any safety issue”.
“My daughter-in-law is on a study permit and is studying at Edmonton. We are hoping that things will normalise with the passage of time. At present, there is no security issue for the students there”, said Harjit Singh, who hails from Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district.
A resident of Malukpur village in Fazilka, Gurdas Singh said his son went to Canada in January this year to join a college in Brampton.
“I also have relatives in Canada and I am concerned about my son’s safety who is taking first-semester exams. I will speak to my son to decide what can be done,” he said.
Son of Harpinder Singh of Lambi village in Muktsar has been in Surrey for the last two years said, he has no option but to wait and watch.
“Due to the time difference between Canada and India, I have been unable to speak to my son about the developments,” he added.
A Mohali resident, Dinesh, whose daughter is studying in a Vancouver university, said, “We as parents are very concerned about our child. The Canadian universities should send back all Indian students and they should be allowed to continue their studies through online mode until the situation improves.”
A parent from Bathinda, who didn’t wish to be named, said they are not sure if it was wise to send their daughter to a Canada amid all these uncertainties.
“We estimate that her study bill would cost about ₹18-22 lakh and any further restrictions may jeopardise her academic years and heavy investment. We are completely confused,” he added.
Pooja, a resident of Sarabha Nagar in Ludhiana, said her daughter Chhavi went on a study visa in April this year and she is still seeking clarity.
“We have advised her to stay in touch with other Indian students and the relevant authorities to stay informed,” Pooja said.
Another worried parent, Seema, expressed concerns over the security of her son, Akash Kumar, who is studying in Nova Scotia, Canada.
“We are concerned about our son’s safety, especially after the Indian government issued an advisory for Indians staying in Canada,” Seema said, adding, “We hope that normalcy will be restored soon but what if the Canadian government cancels the visas and repatriates all the Indian students?”
‘Invested all we had, hope
no curbs on work permit’
Narinder Singh, another parent, whose son Jashanjot Singh recently migrated to Canada, said the family is worried and has been checking on him several times during the day. “We have spent all their investments to send him to Canada on a study permit. Our concern is that the Canadian authorities should not impose restrictions on work permits, making the process of acquiring PR status complicated in the coming days. For now, we can only wait and watch,” he said.
Rachhpal Singh Sosan, CEO of global immigration and education consultant agency ‘Kaur Immigration Services’, said, till now, there has been no issue and visas are being granted by the Canadian embassy. “The students are worried and are calling to us to know about the situation. Our clients got three visas today. Files submission process is facing no issues. In future, processing of visa applications may be delayed but it is not expected to be halted”, he said, adding, “Students are rushing to our offices for submission of file apprehending that Canada may stop issuing visas to Indian students”.
A student visa consultant in Bathinda, Rajat Gupta said the next academic session in Canada would commence from January.
“Nearly 70% of students have deposited their college fees. First, there were reports of an economic slowdown in Canada that is causing a job crunch and students are having fewer means to meet their expenses on their own. Now, a diplomatic fight between two countries is forcing parents to explore options of sending their wards to the UK or Australia,” said Gupta.
An immigration expert, Sector 17 Education Abroad owner Jatin Wadhwa, said, “I have received many calls and so many parents have visited me since morning. People are worried, they spent over ₹20 lakh on their kids’ education. I am asking them to stay calm. Most of the students who are going to Canada in the September intake have got their visas and they won’t face any problem.”
In 2021, 35% of the foreign students who arrived in Canada on study permits were Indians. Of the 6.17 lakh study visas granted by Canada, 2.17 lakh were given to Indian students, most of them Punjabis.
Even in 2020, a year hit by Covid-19, India contributed the highest number of foreign students with 1.8 lakh (34%) study visas of the 5.30 lakh visas granted.