‘The students are victims’: Stop deporting Indian students caught in fake admission letter scandal, parliamentary committee urges CBSA

An alternative approach, given the corruption among recruiting agencies and the complicity of governments and educational institutions, would be to deport them as a high profile example to highlight risks.

A more serious alternative would be for to undertake a fundamental review of our international student policies with a focus on ensuring that their focus is on quality education, not just funding, and their contribution to increasing per capita GDP and productivity should they apply for permanent residency.

But unlikely to happen given the various interests behind international student recruitment and enrolment and am sceptical that the planned hearings will amount to much:

A parliamentary committee is calling on the Canada Border Services Agency to immediately stop deporting a group of Indian international students who have been deemed inadmissible after using fake college admission letters to enter the country.

On Wednesday, the all-party immigration committee voted unanimously to ask the border agency to waive inadmissibility of the affected students and to provide them with an alternative pathway to permanent residence on humanitarian grounds or through a “regularization” program.

“These students, I’ve met with many of them, now are just in such a terrible state. They’ve lost money and they are stuck in a terrible situation. And some of them have deportation orders. Others have pending meetings with CBSA,” said MP Jenny Kwan, the NDP immigration critic, who tabled the motions.

“So as a first step, this is absolutely essential and necessary. The students are victims of fraud and should not be penalized.”

The international students, a group estimated to be in the hundreds, claim they were duped by unscrupulous education consultants in India and were unaware that the admission letters given to them were doctored. The students only became aware of the issue, they say, when the issue was flagged by border agents after the students had finished their courses and applied for postgraduate work permits. Some cases were flagged during the students’ permanent residence application process.

The committee does not have the power to halt deportations. Its gesture Wednesday is largely a symbolic one.

The students all share similar stories: being told upon arrival in Canada that the program they’d been enrolled in was no longer available and advised to delay their studies or go to another school; some receiving their postgraduate work permits and trying to pursue permanent residence, only to find out there was a problem with their original documentation.

On Wednesday, the committee also passed Kwan’s motion to issue a news release to condemn the actions of these fraudulent “ghost consultants” and to ask Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and their staff to appear before the committee to provide a briefing on the situation.

Members of the committee also voted to undertake a study over two meetings into the targeted exploitation scheme faced by the Punjabi international students.

The study is set to examine:

  • How this situation was allowed to happen;
  • Why fraudulent documents were not detected until years later, when the students began to apply for permanent status;
  • The significant harm experienced by students, including financial loss and distress;
  • Measures necessary to help the students have their deportation stayed, inadmissibility on the basis of misrepresentation waived, and provide a pathway to permanent status; and
  • How to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

“I’ve spoken with the students, and they were very frustrated that no actions were happening at this committee. And I think they’ll be very pleased to see that things are happening now,” said Brad Redekopp, the Conservative MP for Saskatoon West.

Liberal MP Shafqat Ali agreed.

“We need to have empathy for those students and we should not exploit the situation and play politics on this issue of those innocent students,” said the MP for Brampton centre, where many of the affected students now reside. “They have gone through and are going through a lot.”

During the meeting Wednesday, the committee also approved the amendments to Bill S-245 to amend the Citizenship Act to allow Canadians to pass citizenship birthrights to their foreign-born children if they can pass a connection test to establish the family ties to Canada.

Source: ‘The students are victims’: Stop deporting Indian students caught in fake admission letter scandal, parliamentary committee urges CBSA

In a growing India, some struggle to prove they are Indians

Of note:

Krishna Biswas is scared. Unable to prove his Indian citizenship, he is at risk of being sent to a detention center, far away from his modest hut built of bamboo wood that looks down on fields lush with corn.

Biswas says he was born in India’s northeastern Assam state. So was his father, almost 65 years ago. But the government says that to prove he is an Indian, he should furnish documents that date back to 1971.

For the 37-year-old vegetable seller, that means searching for a decades-old property deed or a birth certificate with an ancestor’s name on it.

Biswas has none, and he is not alone. There are nearly 2 million people like him — over 5% of Assam’s population — staring at a future where they could be stripped of their citizenship if they are unable to prove they are Indian.

Questions over who is an Indian have long lingered over Assam, which many believe is overrun with immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

At a time when India is about to overtake China as the most populous country, these concerns are expected to heighten as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government seeks to use illegal immigration and fears of demographic shift for electoral gains in a nation where nationalist sentiments run deep.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has promised to roll out a similar citizenship verification program nationwide even though the process in Assam has been put on hold after a federal audit found it flawed and full of errors.

Nonetheless, hundreds of suspected immigrants with voting rights in Assam have been arrested and sent to detention centers the government calls “transit camps.” Fearing arrest, thousands have fled to other Indian states. Some have died of suicide.

Millions of people like Biswas, whose citizenship status is unclear, were born in India to parents who immigrated many decades ago. Many of them have voting cards and other identification, but the state’s citizenship registry counts only those who can prove, with documentary evidence, that they or their ancestors were Indian citizens before 1971, the year Bangladesh was born.

Modi’s party, which also rules Assam, argues the registry is essential to identify people who entered the country illegally in a state where ethnic passions run deep and anti-immigrant protests in the 1980s culminated in the massacre of more than 2,000 immigrant Muslims.

“My father and his brother were born here. We were born here. Our kids were also born here. We will die here but not leave this place,” Biswas, said on a recent afternoon at his home in Assam’s Murkata village, near the banks of the Brahmaputra River.

The Biswas family has 11 members, of whom the citizenship of nine is in dispute. His wife and mother have been declared Indian by a foreigners’ tribunal that decides on citizenship claims. Others, including his three children, his father and his brother’s family, have been declared “foreigners.”

It makes no sense to Biswas, who wonders why would some be considered to have settled in the country illegally and others not, even though they all were born in the same place.

The family, like many others, has not pleaded their case before the tribunal or higher courts due to a lack of money and the arduous paperwork required in the process.

“If we cannot be Indian then just kill us. Let them (the government) kill my whole family,” he said.

Source: In a growing India, some struggle to prove they are Indians

ICYMI: The number of study permits issued to Chinese students has significantly declined since 2018

Of note, the contrast between students from China and those from India and Philippines, the former in Canada for education purposes and the latter two pursuing shorter term programs as a pathway to permanent residence:

The number of Canadian study permits issued to students from China has dropped significantly since 2018, a period marked by a deteriorating diplomatic relationship and COVID complications, but China’s place as the top source of foreign university undergraduates has been only moderately diminished.

International tuition fees are crucial to the operation of Canada’s universities, which rely on the more than $6-billion that foreign students contribute annually in such payments.

Much of the decline in permits has been among students below the postsecondary level, where numbers have been down by about half over the past four years.

A little more than 52,000 study permits were issued to Chinese students through the end of October this year, according to new figures provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. That’s down from more than 90,000 in 2018. With two months of visa processing still to be tallied, it remains to be seen whether this year’s total will surpass the 62,000 visas issued in 2021 or mark a fourth straight year of decline.

In December, 2018, Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested while passing through Vancouver airport, and Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were jailed in China in apparent retaliation, sparking a diplomatic crisis.

There were concerns subsequently that China might encourage its students to study elsewhere, and thereby threaten a key source of Canadian university funding. A similar situation arose when Canada clashed with Saudi Arabia over human-rights issues and it pulled many of its students from Canadian schools.

Then, the pandemic further threatened to derail the educational link between the two countries, as severe lockdowns in China and uncertainty about the viability of in-person lectures in Canada hampered student movement.

Despite the upheaval of the past several years, China had more than 22,000 university undergraduate students approved for study permits in the first 10 months of this year. That’s down from more than 28,000 in 2018, but still the largest number for any single country. It also had 1,876 PhD student visas approved, up slightly compared with 2018.

There has also been a leap in study permits issued to students from Hong Kong, which are counted separately from those from mainland China. In 2022, more than 9,600 permits were issued to Hong Kong applicants, compared with just 2,600 in 2018.

The most significant growth in international students in recent years has been among students whose primary goal is a path to Canadian permanent residency. Those students, with the largest cohorts from India and the Philippines, tend to take shorter programs at the college level, rather than four-year university degrees.

India, which had 197,000 student visas approved, had just 12,700 permits (about 6.5 per cent of its total) at the university bachelor’s degree level. Still, the 80-per-cent growth in Indian student visas since 2018 is significant, and the numbers might have been even higher were it not for significant visa-processing delays over the summer.

The vast majority of Indian students are pursuing shorter schedules, which are less costly and include a pathway to a postgraduate work permit and permanent residency. More than 65 per cent of Indian students approved this year enrolled in college diploma or certificate programs, which are one- to two-year courses, with a further 7 per cent in university master’s programs of similar duration.

The Philippines also had a large share of students (about 60 per cent of 21,000) enroll at the college diploma or certificate level, compared with about 3 per cent at the university bachelor’s level.

Andre Jardin, associate registrar of admissions at the University of Waterloo, said the impact of the pandemic makes it difficult to judge the significance of any declines in Chinese university students. At the University of Waterloo, the number of students coming directly from China is down noticeably in recent years, in the range of a little more than 10 per cent, he said, but up a little this year compared with last year. There has also been an increase in the number of Chinese students entering after a year or two at a Canadian high school.

“For quite a few universities, China is still an overwhelming force, just based on population and a long history of sending students abroad,” Mr. Jardin said.

But it’s been three years since Waterloo and many other schools were in China recruiting in person, he said. Add the Chinese government’s message of caution around COVID-19 and uncertainty about whether classes would be delivered in person in Canada and it’s understandable to see some decline in the numbers, Mr. Jardin said.

“I would argue that this is still not the barometer year. We’re still in the midst of COVID response. I think next year will be a bit more the test. Will we see the trend line go back up or have the last few years changed things permanently?”

Source: The number of study permits issued to Chinese students has significantly declined since 2018

We are much safer here, say Indians in Canada

Of interest. Reader experiences, of course, may vary:

As India witnesses an alarming rise in cases of hate crimes racism, and vandalism across North America, students and Indians in Canada say they feel much safer and that there is no rise in crimes against them.

“There is no rise in crime against Indians in Canada. It is extremely peaceful. Overall, it is much safer in Canada for Indians than it was in the previous century when our forefathers came. Canada is a peaceful nation,” Balbir Gurm, community activist and founder of Network to Eliminate Violence in Relationships, told IANS.

The New Delhi-Ottawa ties have been under duress lately due to the recent vandalisation of Hindu properties and religious shrines, hate crimes, and a referendum to garner support for the secession of ‘Khalistan’ from Punjab in India.

Last month, the BAPS Swaminarayan temple in Canada was defaced with anti-India graffiti, and in July, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at a Vishnu Temple in the Richmond Hill neighbourhood of Canada was desecrated.

Indian-origin Sikh Joti Singh Mann, a radio host based in Brampton, was attacked by three people in August this year, and Kartik Vasudev, a 21-year-old student from Uttar Pradesh, was shot dead in Toronto as he stepped out of a metro station in April.

Echoing Gurm’s views, Sara Wasson (name changed), a student of Brock University in Ontario, said that she “feels much safer in Canada than in India. This is such a peaceful country with fun-loving and helpful people”.

“This is a friendly country. At 20, I have a job here and I am not dependent on my family to pay for my university education. Canada makes me feel independent and confident, and I am happy to be here,” said Ashwin Malhotra, a student who works part-time at a departmental part-time at a departmental store in Ontario.

There are over 622,000 foreign students in Canada, with Indians numbering 217,410 as of December 31, 2021, according to figures released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

A recent report by Bengaluru-based research firm Redseer Strategy said that as many as 217,410 Indian students applied for Canadian education in 2021.

“What we are seeing is an aberration and not the norm. I feel that overall racism is decreasing in Canada against Canadians of Indian-origin. Today we can vote, be MPs, own property, and become members of any profession we choose,” Dr Gurm said, highlighting that the majority of Canadians are very accepting of all peoples.

“Everything’s peaceful here. No commotion happening here, seriously. Also, the Bhagavad Gita Park thing is a misunderstanding,” Divya Shankaran, who permanently moved to Canada three years back, told IANS. 

While there was much hue and cry over vandalism of a sign board at a park in Canada’s Brampton that has been named Bhagavad Gita Park, the Mayor of the town clarified saying that the cops had investigated the matter and it was just a matter of “maintenance and reprinting work”. 

Though there is no country-wise break-up of the numbers, Indians are the top immigrant group to take up residence in Canada this year. 

In 2021, nearly 100,000 Indians became permanent residents of Canada as the country admitted a record 405,000 new immigrants in its history, according to an Economic Times report. 

During 2021-2022, over 210,000 permanent residents also acquired Canadian citizenship, the report said. 

Source: We are much safer here, say Indians in Canada

International students waiting for visas from Ottawa at risk of missing start of classes

An unfortunate additional example at IRCC. Given this and other examples, perhaps time for the government to scale back to program capacity, rather than failing to meet service standards and expectations:

Delays in processing student visas have put a large number of international students at risk of missing the start of fall classes this year, as the federal Immigration Department struggles to keep up with what it describes as a surge in applications.

The issue has sparked a complaint from the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, which said in a statement that it has received a number of petitions from Indian students frustrated with lengthy wait times for visa processing.

India is Canada’s largest source country for international postsecondary students. Students from outside Canada pay tuition fees that are often more than two or three times higher than those paid by domestic students, and that money has become a crucial source of funding to universities and colleges across the country.

According to the Immigration Department, the number of student visa applications is growing. Canada received more than 123,000 applications for student visas from India in the first five months of this year, an increase of 55 per cent over 2019, according to Aidan Strickland, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. So far this year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has processed more than 360,000 student visas, a 17-per-cent increase over the same period in 2021.

Students apply for the study permits only after they have been accepted to Canadian universities. Until their visa applications are processed they aren’t allowed to enter Canada to study – and that is true even if they have already paid tuition, or taken out student loans.

Ms. Strickland added in a statement that IRCC is still struggling with the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operations around the world. She said the government is prioritizing applications from students aiming to begin their studies in September, but that not all applications will be processed in time for fall 2022.

“IRCC has seen an unprecedented volume of applications received for both initial study permits and extensions in 2022, not just from citizens of India but on a global scale,” Ms. Strickland said.

The number of students affected is not clear, but Canada’s diplomatic mission in India said in a tweet last week that a “large number” had experienced long wait times or not received visa decisions.

Federal data show that, as of the end of July, 34 per cent of pending international student visa applications were taking longer to process than government standards dictate.

Indian students contribute more than $4-billion in tuition fees to Canada’s postsecondary system, according to the statement from the Indian High Commission. More than 230,000 Indian students are enrolled at Canadian schools, the statement said.

At the University of Toronto, the number of students contacting registrars with study permit concerns is higher than usual, the university said in a statement. The university said it has been in constant contact with IRCC, and with the Minister’s office directly, to advocate for timely processing of study permit applications and to explain the impact of the delays on students. The statement added that any students unable to enter the country because of the delays can seek deferrals if they are eligible.

Gautham Kolluri, an international-student recruiter and immigration consultant based in Waterloo, Ont., said the number of students affected is likely in the thousands.

He said these are students who have accepted places offered to them at Canadian universities or colleges and expected to have their student visas approved in a matter of weeks. Instead, the process is taking months.

One client of his waited six months to get a study permit, he said.

Mr. Kolluri said he is advising some clients that they are unlikely to receive approval from IRCC before classes begin. At this point, he said, he’s recommending they defer until the next available intake, which can mean a delay until January, or in some cases until next September.

“They’re devastated. For them it’s their studies, but also their future career and opportunities in Canada that are affected,” Mr. Kolluri said. “We are losing these kind of good students who could make a contribution to Canada.”

Most students in India take out education loans in their home countries before coming to Canada. Mr. Kolluri said the interest on those loans starts accumulating even if the students haven’t been able to begin their studies, adding to the pressure they feel if there are problems with their study permits.

Before the pandemic, he said, visa approvals often came through in two to three weeks, and in some cases as quickly as 48 hours. Now, IRCC’s website says it takes up to 12 weeks on average for a study permit application from India to be approved. The target is eight weeks, according to the department.

Ms. Strickland said Mr. Fraser has announced that he expects to hire an additional 1,250 officers by the end of fall to tackle application backlogs and processing delays, paid in part with $85-million in additional funds directed to the department in the government’s 2021 fiscal update.

Source: International students waiting for visas from Ottawa at risk of missing start of classes

Douglas Todd: People of Indian descent a rising force in the U.S. and Canada

While the understandable focus is with respect to those of Indian descent holding leadership and senior positions, there is a larger group of workers in such industries as agriculture and trucking. From a political perspective, the outsized influence of Sikh and other Indo-Canadians reflects their geographic concentration: 47 ridings in Canada have 10 percent or more South Asian residents (2016 Census).

List: VM Ridings South Asian 10 percent

India is on the rise across the United States and Canada — in education, high-tech and politics.

The CEOs of five of the most powerful high-tech companies in North America have origins in India. They’re heading Microsoft, Google, IBM, Twitter and Match Group (which owns Tinder).And people of Indian ancestry are punching above their weight in politics in the U.S. and Canada. “There may well be an Indian-American president before there is an American Indian one,” says The Economist.

The educational achievements of people of Indian origin are above the norm in North America. And their are among the strongest of any ethnic group in the U.S. and Canada. This is not to mention one study showing people of Indian origin are almost four times more likely to own a home than the average Canadian.

India is the second highest source country for immigrants to the U.S., where 4.6 million have Indian origins, or 1.4 per cent of the total. They are mostly from southern India and tend to live in the U.S. South and East.

In Canada, India is the No. 1 source country for immigrants by far, accounting for 30 per cent of all newcomers since 2016.

There are 1.4 million people with Indian roots in Canada, most of whom are immigrants. They make up four per cent of the population. Generally from Northern India, most live in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Even though many are already flying high in U.S. high-tech, the impact of people of Indian background on Canadian business, especially, is growing sharply.

The influence of Indo North Americans is destined to expand further. Let’s look at why.

The tech sectors in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are expanding on the strength of a workforce where two of five are foreign born. And U.S. immigration rules designed to protect homegrown workers means our southern neighbour is losing thousands of Indian high-tech experts and others to Canada.

With the U.S. restricting its coveted H-1B working visa (including with a rule that no one country can be the source of more than seven per cent of recipients), many computer specialists are among the more than 217,000 people from Indian who can work in Canada as foreign students (they make up 30 per cent of all international students).

Canada also accepted 128,000 people from India last year as new immigrants, many of them programmers. And it’s on track for a similar number in 2022. That compares to just 39,000 immigrants from India in 2015, when Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were first elected.

Such business success is made possible in large part because educational levels soar among those of Indian descent.

In the U.S. three of four of adults of Indian background have bachelors degrees or better, according to Pew Research. That’s the highest of any Asian immigrant group, with Chinese Americans coming in at 57 per cent. The overall bachelor’s degree average in the U.S. is 38 per cent.

In Canada, educational achievement is also pronounced. A recent Statistics Canada study by Theresa Qiu and Grant Schellenberg found 50 per cent of South Asian-Canadians (mostly from India) had bachelors degrees or more. The portion rose to 62 per cent among South Asian women.

The portion of bachelors degrees among Canadians with origins in South Asia is much higher than the 24 per cent for white men and 38 per cent for white women, as well as the 17 per cent for Latin American men and 28 per cent for Latin American women. One of the few ethnic groups scoring higher than South Asians are Chinese Canadians.

And wages reflect education levels. The median household income in the U.S. of Indian households is by far the highest of any ethnic-Asian group, at US$119,000, according to Pew.

The typical Chinese American household brings in US$82,000. The median household income across the U.S. is US$67,000.

While U.S. figures on housing are not readily available, a consumer survey by Vivintel, based in Toronto, found that South Asians, a solid majority of whom are from India, are almost four times more likely to buy a homethan the average Canadian.

“Home ownership is very important to South Asians … because they’re told by their parents that renting is just throwing away your money,” says Rahul Sethi, a 38-year-old director of Vivintel who immigrated to Canada from India with his family.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the rise of Indians in North America is their oversized affect on politics.And it’s not just because of U.S. vice-president Kamala Harris, who went to an English-language high school in Montreal after her scientist mother from India, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, got a job researching breast cancer at McGill University.

Even though Harris is a front-runner as a future Democrat presidential nominee, she’s far from alone in U.S. halls of power.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, who surveys Asian American attitudes from the University of California, maintains Indo Americans are far likelier than other immigrant groups to get involved in politics as donors, voters and candidates. They tend to favour Democrats by a margin of three to one.

Ram Villivalam, a state senator in Illinois, says having Harris running to be president gives confidence to Indo Americans. Pramala Jayapal, the first woman of South Asian descent to preside over the Congress, is now one of four influential Indo American politicians, dubbed the Samosa Caucus, in the House.

A similar movement is happening in Canadian politics.

The Indo Canadian population, like the Indo American, leans liberal-left. More than 38 per cent of respondents to a 2021 YouGov poll would cast a vote for the Liberals — twice the number that planned to go with the Conservatives.

One in five backed the left-wing New Democratic Party, the country’s third largest party, which has been lead for five years by Indo Canadian Jagmeet Singh.

More than 12 per cent of cabinet ministers in the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are Indo Canadian, including Harjit Sajjan and Anita Anand. At least 14 Liberal MPs are Indo Canadian.

This impact list goes on in politics, as well as in business and education. Indo North Americans are on a roll.

Source: Douglas Todd: People of Indian descent a rising force in the U.S. and Canada

Quebec closes immigration pathway offered by unsubsidized private colleges

Overdue. Federal government should consider same given similar abuse occurring elsewhere in Canada:

Quebec is planning to close a pathway to immigration available to international students who attend unsubsidized private colleges.

The new rules, announced Tuesday by the provincial government in collaboration with Ottawa, will go into effect for those enrolling after September 2023. 

Only those who have completed a study program in a public or subsidized private college will be able to get a work permit. 

The possibility of a work permit was a major selling point for unsubsidized colleges, which charge as much as $25,000 annually in tuition. 

In Quebec, the number of students from India in particular has skyrocketed, from 2,686 in 2017-2018 to 14,712 two years later. Most of them attend private, non-subsidized colleges.


Reporting by CBC News has shed light on poor management at some of the colleges. In the case of three colleges that suddenly shut down last year, many students have still not had their tuition reimbursed and others were left in legal limbo.

A 2021 report by Quebec’s Ministry of Higher Education revealed shortcomings around recruitment, commercial practices, governance and teaching conditions at 10 private colleges.

Changes meant to address ‘integrity issues’

Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet and Ottawa Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a joint statement the change aimed to “address gaps brought to light” by the investigation regarding “certain unsubsidized private colleges.”

According to the statement, it will “ensure that Quebec is not used as a gateway for settling permanently in Canada. In the other provinces, international students who have followed an unsubsidized program of study generally do not have access to this work permit.”

In an interview, Boulet said there were issues with the “integrity” of the system.

“We will harmonize with what is done everywhere else in Canada,” he said. 

“Unsubsidized private schools used this post-graduation work permit to recruit [and] attract people who benefited from our school system, then went elsewhere in Canada,” he said.

He added that “international students are a tremendous assets socially, culturally and economically for Quebec society as a whole.”

‘We did nothing wrong,’ college head says

Private colleges were quick to denounce the decision. The National Association of Career Colleges issued a statement saying it was disappointed by the decision, arguing such colleges play an important role in the province and the country as a whole.

“Our industry has, for many months, tried to engage the Quebec government to understand their questions or concerns pertaining to the post-graduate work permit and find workable solutions together,” said Michael Sangster, the CEO of the association.

Michael McAllister, director general of Herzing College in Montreal, said his institution, which was founded in 1968, is among those being punished for the problems at a select number of colleges. 

“We did nothing wrong and we’re getting penalized,” he said. McAllister would have liked to work with the provincial government to come up with a plan that helps meet the province’s labour shortage and recruit more international students who speak French.

Harleen Kaur, who is originally from India, has been advocating on behalf of students and said she feels international students are also being blamed for the poorly run colleges. 

She said the province could have instead made sure colleges are better regulated instead.

“I think the government needs to communicate with the colleges and look deeper into this,” she said.

The change comes more than a year after the release of the province’s report on the private colleges and only days before the National Assembly session wraps up for the summer ahead of the Oct. 3 election.  

Martin Maltais, an expert in higher education policy and a professor at Université du Québec à Rimouski, said the move was a simpler, quicker way to address the problems with unsubsidized private colleges, in lieu of more complicated legislative reforms.

“That’s probably the fastest way to act and and have results,” he said. 

Source: Quebec closes immigration pathway offered by unsubsidized private colleges

And in Le Devoir, with more emphasis on the hardship of students:

Plus de 500 étudiants originaires de l’Inde, qui ont payé jusqu’à 15 000 $ pour faire des études au Québec, affirment avoir été floués à cause de la « négligence » des gouvernements du Québec et du Canada. Ayant épuisé leurs recours juridiques et politiques, leurs avocats tentent désormais d’alerter l’opinion publique sur cette situation qu’ils estiment révoltante.

Ces 502 jeunes Indiens regrettent amèrement d’avoir fait confiance aux publicités décrivant le Canada comme un paradis pour les étudiants étrangers. Ils ont payé à l’avance leur première année de scolarisation au Québec, comme l’exige Ottawa — même si cela contrevient à la Loi québécoise sur l’enseignement privé —, mais le gouvernement fédéral a refusé de leur accorder un permis d’études.

Pour comble d’insulte, il leur est impossible d’obtenir un remboursement : trois collèges privés où ils s’étaient inscrits n’ont plus aucune liquidité et se sont placés sous la protection de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers des compagnies.

« Immigration Canada a détruit mon avenir. Je me demande pourquoi j’ai choisi le Canada pour faire mes études », dit en soupirant Nisha Jindal, une étudiante de 28 ans qui s’était inscrite en éducation à la petite enfance au Collège M, ayant pignon sur rue à Montréal.

Elle a accordé une entrevue au Devoir depuis la ville de Badhni Kalan, au Pendjab, dans le nord de l’Inde. Cette dynamique jeune femme affirme que son rêve d’étudier et de s’établir au Québec a viré au cauchemar dans des circonstances obscures.

En novembre 2020, Nisha Jindal a commencé ses études en ligne après avoir payé à l’avance la somme de 14 852 $. Il s’agit d’une facture considérable pour une famille indienne : son frère a réhypothéqué l’appartement familial pour permettre à la jeune femme de venir étudier à Montréal.

Dix mois plus tard, en août 2021, un gros nuage a assombri l’avenir de Mme Jindal : Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada a refusé de lui accorder le visa qui devait lui permettre de venir faire à Montréal son stage d’éducatrice à la petite enfance.

Raison invoquée : son parcours scolaire en Inde ne lui permettrait pas de mener des études collégiales au Québec. En vertu d’un système mis en place par le Canada en raison de la pandémie, la jeune femme avait pourtant eu l’autorisation de commencer ses études à distance — ce qu’elle a fait avec assiduité, tous les jours de 15 h à 2 h, à cause du décalage horaire entre l’Inde et Montréal. Elle avait aussi obtenu son certificat d’acceptation du Québec.

« J’ai accepté de payer à l’avance ma scolarité parce que je faisais confiance aux gouvernements du Québec et du Canada. Je le regrette tellement ! Tout le monde nous a abandonnés », laisse tomber Nisha Jindal. Elle reproche à Québec de l’avoir mise en lien avec un établissement qui n’a pas livré les services pour lesquels elle avait payé.

Elle et 501 autres étudiants ne peuvent ni terminer leurs études ni se faire rembourser les milliers de dollars payés à l’avance. L’entreprise Rising Phoenix International, qui possède le Collège M, le Collège de l’Estrie et le Collège de comptabilité et de secrétariat du Québec, à Longueuil et à Sherbrooke, s’est placée sous la protection de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers des compagnies.

Les dirigeants de Rising Phoenix font face à des accusations de fraude et d’abus de confiance en lien avec le recrutement d’étudiants étrangers.

Une entreprise de Toronto, Cestar, a offert de racheter les collèges de Rising Phoenix, non sans controverse. Selon nos sources, une décision du ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur du Québec est attendue d’ici la fin du mois de juin.

Alain N. Tardif, avocat chez McCarthy Tétrault, estime que cette histoire entache la réputation du Canada dans le monde. « Le gouvernement oblige les étudiants étrangers à payer une année de scolarité à l’avance et, quand tout s’écroule, il ne répond pas », dit-il.

La firme d’avocats a eu le mandat de représenter les étudiants indiens touchés par la restructuration de Rising Phoenix International en vertu de la Loi sur les arrangements avec les créanciers. Les avocats ont tenté en vain de forcer Ottawa et Québec à prolonger les visas ou les certificats d’acceptation pour des centaines d’étudiants indiens inscrits dans les collèges de Rising Phoenix. La Cour supérieure du Québec a refusé cette demande.

À défaut d’accorder ou de prolonger les permis d’études, les gouvernements devraient rembourser les étudiants indiens pour des cours qu’ils n’ont pas obtenus, fait valoir Alain N. Tardif. « Pour les étudiants indiens et leurs familles, c’est une tragédie de perdre 15 000 $. Ils vivent beaucoup de détresse », dit-il.

La facture totale réclamée par les 502 étudiants s’élève à 7,5 millions de dollars. Une somme considérable pour les étudiants de l’Inde — où le salaire annuel moyen est estimé à 2434 $ —, mais plutôt anecdotique pour le gouvernement d’un pays riche comme le Canada, fait valoir l’avocat.

Plus de permis de travail postdiplôme

Interrogé sur le sort de ces 500 étudiants laissés à eux-mêmes, Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada n’a pas répondu aux questions du Devoir. Sans commenter l’octroi des permis d’études, qui est une compétence fédérale, le ministre de l’Immigration, Jean Boulet, a toutefois donné plus de détails sur une nouvelle mesure négociée avec son homologue fédéral, Sean Fraser, qui coupera l’herbe sous le pied aux 49 collèges privés non subventionnés du Québec.

En date du 1er septembre 2023, le permis de travail postdiplôme ne sera désormais octroyé qu’aux étudiants issus des collèges subventionnés. Jusqu’ici, les étudiants de collèges privés non subventionnés avaient droit à ce permis de travail après avoir effectué de très courtes formations d’environ 900 heures, comme des attestations d’études collégiales (AEC) ou des diplômes d’études professionnelles (DEP), pouvant coûter jusqu’à 25 000 $.

Des médias, dont Le Devoir, avaient d’ailleurs révélé les nombreux problèmes liés à la piètre qualité des formations dans ces collèges de même que leurs stratagèmes douteux concernant le recrutement, ce qu’avait confirmé le ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur au terme d’une enquête qui avait mis au ban dix collèges, en majorité anglophones.

En entrevue, le ministre Boulet n’a pas nié l’impact de sa décision sur ces collèges. Mais il estime que « ça s’imposait ». « On ne pouvait pas tolérer ce type de stratagème permettant à une personne d’arriver au Québec et, après une formation de courte durée, d’avoir un accès automatique à un permis de travail », a soutenu le ministre, en soulignant que bon nombre de ces étudiants s’en allaient en Ontario ou ailleurs au Canada. Selon lui, il ne s’agit pas de punir les collèges anglophones. « C’est le stratagème qui est visé. » Il a par ailleurs rappelé que le Québec est la seule province canadienne qui permet l’accès au permis de travail postdiplôme au terme d’un programme non subventionné.

Source: «Tout le monde nous a abandonnés»

How prejudice rooted in an ancient social system has migrated from India to Canada

Seeing more accounts of caste discrimination here and in the USA:

When Gurpreet Singh packed his bags last fall and arrived in Ontario from India, he soon learned there was one thing some fellow Indians in Canada hadn’t left behind in their home country — their prejudices.

The human resource management student at Durham College in Oshawa, Ont., said he is viewed as an outcast in the ancient South Asian social structure known as the caste system, but faces more discrimination from Indians in Canada than he did in India.

“I have been here for roughly five months and I have faced it in a way more aggressive or aggravated form in this country from my own Punjabi community,” Singh said. “They beat their chest with pride that they come from this caste or that caste.”

India is a main source of immigrants to Canada. It’s also a huge pipeline for international students both to Canada and the United States, and some universities are taking note of concerns around discrimination based on caste.

California State University, the largest four-year public university system in the U.S., specifically added caste to its non-discrimination policies in January. In Ottawa, the academic staff association at Carleton University passed a motion in November to include caste-based discrimination in its policies.

Singh recalled a conversation with an acquaintance in Oshawa that shocked him after she used a casteist slur to address him.

“I confronted her that you’d be behind bars if you were in India right now … The girl who uttered that word acted as if she didn’t know anything, why it’s offensive, etc.,” Singh said. “To put it in her brain in the easiest possible way, I equated the word with the N-word.”

He said it was “strange” that she knew the N-word was a slur for Black people, “but even after living in India for 23 years, she had no idea, or at least pretended to have no idea, about the thing she just said so casually.”

The Hindu caste system divides people into four sub-communities based on ancestry — Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras — and the caste of a person can often be identified by their last name. The four main castes are further divided into 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes.

The caste tradition transcends religion. Many Indians with Hindu lineage whose ancestors adopted Sikhism or Christianity retained their last names, and their caste designations.

Singh belongs to a scheduled caste, members of which are also known as Dalits. According to the caste system, scheduled castes are outcasts and do not belong to the social order.

According to the 2011 census, scheduled castes made up for 16.2 per cent of the Indian population. From 2018 to 2020, India’s National Crime Records Bureau recorded 50,202 registered cases of crimes or “atrocities” against scheduled castes. Activists from the community have long fought against caste oppression.

Singh’s last name was originally Badhan, which indicated his caste. He stopped using it, even on official documents, but he said in Canada he’s been asked for his full name so people could identify his community.

“I have had to hide my identity a number of times,” Singh said. “I had to lie twice. I told them I come from the Jatt community and my surname is something else because I felt that I might be isolated, and no one wants to feel that way when you are so far away from home.”

Casteism can cause harm

Chinnaiah Jangam, an associate professor in the department of history at Carleton University and an advocate for the rights of people from scheduled castes, believes casteism can hurt immigrants long term.

“A student or an employee coming from these backgrounds will not feel comfortable to express their own identity and they won’t feel comfortable being themselves,” said Jangam, who is the author of Dalits and the making of modern India and spearheaded the push to add caste to the anti-discrimination policies of Carleton’s academic association.

Meera Estrada, the Toronto co-host of the pop culture show kultur’D on Global News radio, was born in Canada but said she was aware she was a Dalit since childhood. She often hid her identity because other people of Indian background looked down on her community.

She recalled going to Gujarati language classes and people asking what samaj, or community, she belonged to. “And people were quite proud in saying which group they belong to, but it was always the Brahmin group or the so-called upper caste,” Estrada said.

India passed a law in 1955 to abolish “untouchability,” a term once used to describe the practice of ostracizing scheduled castes. But Estrada believes the social stigma against Dalits remains, something that became more apparent to her in her 20s.

“Aunties in mandirs [temples] trying to play matchmakers would always say, ‘Oh, this is a good boy from a good family.’ The implication there was that he is from a higher caste, and I would just feel like if that is the equivalent of good, who am I? Am I not good?”

Brahmin-only group

One matchmaking Facebook group, the Samast Brahman Society of Canada, has 4,100 members. The group’s description says its “goal is to unite all Brahmins under one roof while they can serve in all other Brahmin organizations.”

Source: How prejudice rooted in an ancient social system has migrated from India to Canada

Working long hours. Earning meagre wages. Fainting from exhaustion. What some international students face in Canada

The Globe also did a similar analysis with respect to Brampton (Canada’s international student recruiting machine is broken). More a cheap labour program than an education one.

So much abuse, so little action by governments:

Each year, thousands of international students come to Canada. Despite the fact that many are from modest backgrounds, they pay hefty tuition fees for the chance not just to study in this country but, potentially, to start a life here. Yet the realities of their decision can stand in stark contrast to the dream. They face difficult challenges, unforgiving timelines and social isolation, and are often prone to exploitation by employers and others. In a new series, Hard Lessons, we look at whether Canada is living up to its bargain with these students.

After being let go from her part-time job at Walmart, Satinder Kaur Grewal says she felt lucky to be hired at a local restaurant in June 2020, working as server, cook, cleaner and cashier. She needed money for food and rent, and many other international students had lost their jobs during the pandemic.

The deal, according to a complaint she filed with the Ministry of Labour, was she would be paid $60 a day by the Brampton restaurant regardless of the hours she worked. After six weeks, she got a raise to $80 for a 10-hour day, $100 for 12 hours and $116 for 14 hours, but the hourly rate would still be much lower than the $14 Ontario legal minimum wage.

Grewal said she would start at 9 or 10 a.m. and sometimes worked until midnight, without a day off. Twice, she said, she fainted from exhaustion — once in the washroom and another time, behind the counter — during her six months working there.

“I got home from work and slept on my bed. I did nothing else. Just sleep, shower and work. No cooking. No cleaning. My body was dead. I wasn’t able to do anything else,” said the 22-year-old Brampton woman, who came to Canada in 2018 and graduated from CDI College in December 2020 with a diploma in web design.

“I called my family in India many times. I told them, ‘I can’t survive like this here.’ And my family said this is a stage of life and just to tolerate it a bit longer and the future will be better.”

Sarom Rho of Migrant Students United said international students have become the largest group of temporary migrant workers in Canada, with 778,560 study-permit holders and postgraduate-work permit holders in the country in 2021 alone.

Many of them are stocking shelves in grocery stores, handling packages at warehouses, cleaning offices and buildings, working in food service and making deliveries.

International students pay three, four times more in tuition fees than their domestic peers and contribute $22 billion a year to the Canadian economy. With the tuition fees skyrocketing across Canada, she said Ottawa needs to at least remove the 20-hour work limit for international students, to ease the risk of them being taken advantage of by employers.

“This is a cash grab, where people are called to show up with the promise of permanent residency. And when they come here, they find that it’s a landmine filled with exploitation and abuse and really lack of dignity,” said Rho. “So many workers will say that this has been such a humiliating experience. The way to reclaim that dignity is to come together and organize to fight for the necessary changes to the rules that cause these conditions in the first place.”

When Grewal finally quit her job at Chat Hut on Christmas Day in 2020, she said she would’ve worked a total of 1,844 hours. Based on the legal minimum wage, she should have earned a total of $32,782.82 in regular pay plus overtime, public holiday and vacation pay. However, she only got paid $14,356.40.

The Star reached out to Chat Hut’s owners, who declined to comment on Grewal’s complaint when reached by phone or respond to the Star’s email request about the allegations.

In Chat Hut’s response to the provincial government’s employment standards officer in charge of the case, the employer said Grewal worked 1,704.50 hours for the employer, including 576.75 hours of overtime. 

The restaurant said Grewal “consistently confirmed that she wanted to work the hours she did work” and she was given time off whenever she required a break, according to the labour ministry’s reasons for decision dated Feb. 10, 2022. 

In February, Chat Hut agreed to pay Grewal $16,495.29.

Grewal’s experience might not have come to light if not for an Instagram post she came across last year about the launch of Naujawan Support Network, a support group to help international students and workers facing workplace exploitation.

She reached out to the organizers, who assisted her in trying to recoup her owed wages and filing a complaint against the employer with the Ontario labour ministry. 

Naujawan, a Brampton-based advocacy group, was formed in 2021 initially to support farmers’ protests in India last year, but organizers began to shift its focus after hearing from participating international students and workers about incidents of alleged exploitation by employers right in their own backyard.

“When students and workers know that they need permanent residence, they are at the mercy of their employers. Not only do many not know about their rights, but those rights are often actively denied to them,” said Simran Dhunna, of Naujawan.

“There are obviously a whole range of barriers that are related to not knowing about your rights, about the language and about being new to the country. The biggest, most critical factor that makes international students vulnerable is their immigration status.”

Dhunna said many international students are forced to work for cash only and under minimum wage because of restrictive immigration rules — the rules that stipulate students may work no more than 20 hours off-campus during school and limit access to permanent residence (PR) with stringent criteria and timelines.

“The employer could simply be like, well, ‘You’re working (extra hours) illegally, so if you actually work for $8 an hour, we won’t report you and we’ll give you an employment reference letter for your PR,’” she explained, speaking generally about the concerns she sees.

“So all sorts of rights from the minimum wage, overtime, vacation pay, employment reference letters for PR and just basic respect and dignity are denied to international students because of this.”

Grewal, whose father is a bus driver, said her parents helped cover her tuition — more than $23,000 over two years — but she had to make money for other necessities.

While she expected to work hard in Canada to support herself, she didn’t anticipate it to be this hard.

“When I was in India, when our relatives came to visit from Canada, they are showing their clothes and pictures in their mobile phones of their cars, the fancy restaurants and malls and everything. So we thought like, oh, it’s so easy there,” Grewal said.

“When I came to here and found out my auntie was working as a cleaner at a hotel, I was shocked. I was like ‘you guys showed me all these pictures but you never told me you were a cleaner.’ People back home only see our lifestyle. They don’t see our struggles.”

Grewal said she knew about Ontario’s minimum wage but said she realized the stakes would have been even higher for her if she didn’t have a job, given her precarious status.

“It’s like there’s a noose around our necks, whether we work or whether we don’t work. There’s no financial support,” she said. “I needed money and I didn’t have money to hire a lawyer to help me.”

Naujawan Support Network worked with Grewal and helped her draft a letter to Chat Hut’s owners in November to urge them to return the owed wages in November. Instead, her former employer threatened to take legal action against her, they alleged.

Chat Hut said its lawyer only sent a letter to Naujawan Support Network to ask them to stop “harassing” the owner after they were “vexatiously” calling the restaurant and the owners as well as other employees and people linked to the company.

“None of the employer’s actions form reprisal,” said the ministry’s reason of decision, citing Chat Hut’s position.

“The Company did not intend to intimidate, dismiss or otherwise penalize or threaten to intimidate, dismiss or otherwise penalize the employee. The employer took the claimant’s representative’s actions as harassment and intended for that harassment to stop. However, it was willing to listen to the claimant.”

Despite an order against Chat Hut to pay back Grewal’s owed wages, the ministry sided with the employer in denying the complainant’s claim of reprisal.

Source: Working long hours. Earning meagre wages. Fainting from exhaustion. What some international students face in Canada

Will India hijab ruling be used for wider curbs on Islamic expression?

More on India’s hijab debates:

On Tuesday, a high court in the southern Indian state of Karnataka upheld a government orderthat had banned headscarves in classrooms, ruling that wearing them is not an integral part of religious practice in Islam.

The court’s decision and the hijab controversy are part of a volatile cultural debate in India over the place of Islam in a political environment that is becoming more and more dominated by Hindu nationalism.

The controversy over headscarves in Karnataka began in January after six female Muslim students at a college in the city of Udupi said they had been barred from attending classes because they were wearing hijabs.

On February 5, the Karnataka government issued an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order” in educational institutions. Several schools and colleges used this order to deny entry to Muslim girls wearing the hijab.

Karnataka then became the stage for a series of protests by Muslim students and counterprotests by Hindu students and activists. As demonstrations intensified and spread to other colleges and districts, schools were forced to temporarily close.

A group of female Muslim students eventually took the case to the state’s high court, seeking to overturn the government’s ruling.

‘Reasonable restriction’ on freedom of expression

After the high court rejected their appeal, the young women spearheading the hijab protests vowed to continue fighting their case in India’s Supreme Court.

Some of them have said they will not attend classes if they are not allowed to wear a hijab, even if it jeopardizes their education.

“The court has let us down and disappointed so many of us. The court is wrong in stating that the hijab isn’t essential to Islam,” a student from the city of Shimoga told DW.

In explaining its decision, the Karnataka high court said that the freedom of religion under India’s constitution is subject to certain limitations.

“We are of the considered opinion that wearing of the hijab by Muslim women does not make up an essential religious practice in Islamic faith,” the court ruled.

It added that the state has the right to require school uniforms, which amounts to a “reasonable restriction” on constitutional rights.

Legal scholars say the case has now taken on a larger dimension with the high court ruling over freedom of expression in India, where wearing religious symbols is widespread.

Although there is no central law regulating school uniforms in India, the Karnataka court ruling has raised fears over a precedent being set to prompt more states to issue similar restrictive dress codes for students.

What’s behind communal tensions in India’s Karnataka state?

Mihira Sood, a professor at Delhi’s National Law University, said the court’s decision did not provide guidelines for how the law can equally uphold principles of secularism enshrined in India’s constitution, which would apply to any religion.

“Students of other religions wear symbols that are not part of the uniform like turbans and tilaks [the mark worn by Hindus on the forehead],” Sood told DW.

She added the situation in Karnataka was linked to the Hindu-nationalist agenda of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has a governing majority in the state.

“We have already seen reports of similar restrictions in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere, and this will likely have an effect in several states. This is just the beginning,” Sood added.

BJP spokesperson Shazia Ilmi said the hijab was not part of religion, and that the party was doing a lot for empowerment of the Muslim women.

“The court verdict is in sync with the constitution. The Quran does not mandate wearing of hijab or headgear for Muslim women,” Ilmi told DW.

Is Indian law singling out Muslims?

Some activists say tensions over headscarves are part of a wider trend in India cracking down on its minority Muslim population since the Hindu-nationalist BJP came to power nearly eight years ago.

“This is a clear case of interference with the girls’ religious and fundamental rights. Issues like the hijab ban are very easy to polarize the entire community,” lawyer Mohammed Tahir, who is representing one group of petitioners in court, told DW.

Author and activist Farah Naqvi told DW that the hijab ruling is part of a wider agenda to drive away our Muslim culture.

“This is not a gender debate or about headscarves and veils … so many fundamental rights are at stake. All this could have been easily resolved if the schools had made a simple adjustment,” she said.

Muslim women say India’s secular constitution protects their right to wear a hijab

Mehbooba Mufti, the former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, said the court decision upholding the hijab ban is deeply disappointing.

“On one hand we talk about empowering women, yet we are denying them the right to a simple choice. It isn’t just about religion but the freedom to choose,” she said on Twitter.

In 1986, India’s Supreme Court upheld the right of three school children to remain silent while the Indian national anthem was sung. The children belonged to the Jehovah’s Witness, a Christian sect, and said singing the anthem was against their faith.

Their school expelled them, and the family filed an appeal, saying the expulsion was in violation of freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

India’s Supreme Court famously ruled that the school must readmit the children, arguing that their choice not to sing did not affect anyone else.

The girls affected by the hijab ruling now have said they will take their case to the Supreme Court and asked for an early hearing so a decision can be made in time for their exams.

Source: Will India hijab ruling be used for wider curbs on Islamic expression?