Canadian educational institutions are preparing for a possible decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Canada due to rising political tensions between Canada and India.
Diplomatic relations between Canada and India are at an all-time low after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an emergency session of Parliament last week to announce that Western intelligence sources had “credible evidence” suggesting that On June 18 this year, Indian government agents assassinated a Sikh independence activist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, on Canadian soil. Nijjar advocated for an independent Sikh state called Khalistan, and the Indian government considered him a terrorist.
The allegation is obviously extremely serious and has drawn the ire of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who called it “absurd”. Immediately after Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat, India reacted in kind. Both sides still need to make progress to reach a diplomatic resolution to the impasse.
The two countries mean a lot to each other for many reasons:
- India is expected to become the world’s fastest-growing economy next year and has quickly risen to become a powerful player on the international stage. It is Canada’s ninth largest export market. Western countries are struggling to consolidate their relations with India, particularly in the face of economic and geopolitical competition from China.
- There are almost two million Indians in Canada, representing 80% of Canada’s South Asian population and almost 6% of the total Canadian population. Indians are the largest source of immigration to Canada, with 118,095 immigrants in 2022 alone. In contrast, the second largest source is Chinese students (31,815).
- Many Indians in Canada are international students: there were 320,000 Indian students with active study permits at the end of December 2022, an increase of 47% from the previous year. Indian students made up almost four in ten international students in Canada at the end of 2022.
The mobility of tourists, businessmen and students has already been affected. India and Canada have postponed trade talks scheduled for October. And India has suspended visa processing services for Canadians, meaning Canadians who were in the process of applying for a visa to India cannot (for now).
And some educational agents are starting to send Indian students elsewhere.
Akshay Chaturvedi, Founder and CEO, Leverage Edu, said India Times that:
“As an immediate precaution, we are stopping all new applications in Canada until the issue is clearer. We are asking our students to redirect their plans to the US or UK if possible, so we expect this impasse to affect the number of Indian students traveling to Canada this year. There may not be a major policy impact for Indian students, but there could be a drop in demand for Canada as a destination country. Many destination markets have been waiting for Canada to make a mistake, and now the tides could turn in their favor. We are in constant communication with all of our Canadian university partners, and they remain confident that this diplomatic divide will have no impact on the processing of applications or their ability to issue students with a permit to enter Canada on a student visa .
India Times reports also that some Canadian establishments, during a recent student fair in India, were cautious in their advice to future Indian students wishing to come to Canada:
“Canadian university representatives attending an education fair in Hyderabad said the ongoing political conflict “…could lead to visa delays for Indian students and potentially disrupt the spring academic session scheduled for January.” They suggested that students… should consider planning their academic session for the next fall/fall session, in August 2024. With only about three months until students travel for spring graduating class, visa processing time could pose problems, they said. »
Other commentators are more measured. Rohinton Medhora, distinguished scholar at the Center for International Governance Innovation, told Bloomberg News that:
“There is no indication that this flow is going to dry up right away, but to the extent that Indian students have been funded by government scholarships and if this crisis worsens and the government decides to do something about them and direct them towards other countries with very good universities – Australia, United Kingdom, United States – this could also be an economic consequence of this crisis.
In 2021, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released a report warning that colleges in the Canadian province were too reliant on tuition fees from international students. She concluded: “This places these institutions in a precarious position if students decide to go elsewhere or are no longer able to come and study in Canada. »
Canada is the country that hosts the largest number of Indian students among all major destinations.
John Tibbits, president of Conestoga College, in Ontario, Canada, said BNN Bloomberg last week :
“We are worried, but we are not panicking at the moment. It would have a big impact on both sides if India decided to limit the number of people coming here. We need the students and their skills and this would have a big impact on their families. So I hope the tension will ease somehow, but I understand it will take time. We know that Indian students could go to Australia, Britain or the United States. But there is a lot of diaspora in Canada and I think overall they view Canada as a country of opportunity and friendly towards the Indian population. So I think we would still be, compared to the United States, a destination of choice. »
For current Indian students in Canada, the situation is worrying. Sidhantdeep Singh, a computer science student at Dalhousie University, said CTV News that:
“Canada has not given any information that it is going to stop (visa) services, but I hope that is not the case. “I was planning to bring my mom and dad to Canada soon because I’m going to graduate soon. »
Talk with The National PostDamanpreet Singh, the international student representative for the Canadian Federation of Students, said students were “panicked” and “this will definitely affect immigration.” Both governments must resolve this issue as soon as possible.”
If there is one thing in common between the different opinions, it is that there is a feeling of concern, even panic, about the situation, but that only time will tell to what extent the influx of new Indian students in Canada will be affected. Roopa Desai Trilokekar, professor of education at York University, said The Globe and Mail:
“I imagine we will see a decline. But I don’t know how big the drop will be. And it will depend on the official position taken (specifically regarding international students) by one or the other government.
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