The ongoing diplomatic tension between India and Canada, suspension of visas by the latter, and Hinduphobic threats by Khalistanis have left Punjab worried for over 3 lakh students studying in Canada.
Voicing their concerns to the Union government, both parents and local leaders have moved the Union government, seeking resolution of the situation.
“At this moment, the safety of Punjabis, especially students, is our top priority. I have written to the PM to ensure they are safe and away from any collateral damage from this situation. Canada is behaving like Pakistan and we need to keep our people safe,” said Punjab Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu.
Safety of students
AAP Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Vikramjit Sahney, while talking to South First, said, “I have requested the government of India that hostilities lead us nowhere.”
He added, “Shutting down the issuance of visas is not a prudent step at all. There are lakhs of Punjabis who reside in Canada, one wrong step and they will have to face the collateral damage.”
Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said, “Increasing incidents of hate crimes against Punjabis were already a cause of concern and, now, the ongoing India-Canada diplomatic row has added to the worries of parents who have sent their children to foreign countries for a prosperous and safe future.”
“I urge the Ministry of External Affairs to resolve the issue with the counterparts in Canada at the earliest, besides ensuring the safety of all the students amid the tense situation,” he said.
Other leaders across party lines, like Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal, met Home Minister Amit Shah seeking his intervention for the Sikh community.
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Students of next academic year in fix
The parents of students planning to enrol for the next academic year are now in a fix after India’s decision to suspend the issuance of visas. With academic calendars planned, they don’t want to miss out on opportunities owing to the hostility between the two countries.
“We truly are scared for not just safety of our children, but for their career too. Parents in Punjab send their children abroad by investing their life’s savings and, in many cases, by taking debts. Any hostility will affect their prospects and it is a scary situation. We have appealed to the government to resolve the issue at the earliest,” said Paramjit Singh, General Secretary of the parents’ association.
Top choice for Punjabis
Canada is the top choice among Punjabis for migrating abroad due to its flexible education policy, work opportunities, easier post-graduation immigration possibilities, and strong political say.
Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) welcomed 5.51 lakh new international students in 2022, of which 2.26 lakh (41 percent) were from India. It was followed by applicants from China, the Philippines, France, and Nigeria.
As many as 3.19 lakh Indian students are already living and studying in Canada, as of 31 December 2022. According to government data, Canada receives a capital of around ₹68,000 crore each year from Punjab.
As per the data of the IRCC, as many as 2,26,450 visas had been approved for Indian students in 2022. Of these, nearly 1.36 lakh students were from Punjab last year and were pursuing various courses of an average duration of two to three years.
Kamal Bhumla, Chairman of the Association of Consultants for Overseas Studies, said, “Nearly 60 percent of the Indians moving from India to Canada are Punjabis. The average fee being paid by each student per annum comes to nearly CA$17,000.”
“In addition, they have to deposit 10,200 Canadian dollars as Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) funds,” he said.
No place for hate
With Hinduphobia surfacing prominently in Canada, the Public Safety Department of Canada has issued a statement saying that acts of aggression, hate, intimidation or incitement of fear have no place in the country.
The statement comes after Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) supremo Gurpatwant Singh Pannun issued a video threat asking Hindus to leave Canada for their pro-India attitude.
Public Safety Canada, the department responsible for matters of public safety, emergency management, national security, and emergency preparedness, said that the circulation of the video is offensive and hateful, and is an affront to all Canadians and “the values we hold dearly”. “There is no place in Canada for hate,” it said in a post on X.
“Acts of aggression, hate, intimidation or incitement of fear have no place in this country and only serve to divide us. We urge all Canadians to respect one another and follow the rule of law. Canadians deserve to feel safe in their communities,” it added.
2/2: Acts of aggression, hate, intimidation or incitement of fear have no place in this country and only serve to divide us. We urge all Canadians to respect one another and follow the rule of law. Canadians deserve to feel safe in their communities.
— Public Safety Canada (@Safety_Canada) September 22, 2023