Last Updated: September 21, 2023, 20:51 IST
The escalating diplomatic tension between New Delhi and Ottawa is giving anxious moments to families of about five lakh Indian students studying in various colleges across Canada. Almost 70 per cent of the students in Canada come from Punjab, forcing parents to make frenetic calls to immigration agents and local politicians inquiring about the safety of their children.
Last year alone, about 2.5 lakh students moved to Canada from India, most for a two-year study course, out of which over 70 per cent are from Punjab. Estimates by various Punjab-based groups indicate that about Rs 50,000 crore is spent on the education of the children in Canada annually. The suspension of visa services in Canada has also come as a shocker for the families.
Prospective students looking to move to Canada in the coming months are expressing deep concerns about the potential disruption of their plans if Ottawa reciprocates with similar visa restrictions.
Canada boasts a substantial Indian diaspora, with statistics from the 2021 census revealing that individuals of Indian origin make up approximately 3.7 per cent of the country’s population, while Sikh-Canadians constitute around 2 per cent.
Immigration agents fear that any reciprocal action by Canada can prove disastrous. “What if Canada takes a similar step? What will the students who are waiting for visa clearance for studies there do?” remarked Manjit, an immigration agent from the Doaba region.
Also, uncertainty revolves around the visit of Punjab-origin Canadians back home. “Many of them traditionally visit India between November and January for various reasons such as weddings, family functions, medical treatment, etc. What will they do now?” he added.
The diplomatic row has worried those parents who have already paid the fees for their children to go to Canada on study visas. “My daughter has been admitted to an institute in Abbotsford, Canada. Her academic session will begin in January. I have paid nearly Rs 22 lakh, including fees and other expenses. However, her visa is awaited. Now, I am worried as the situation is turning grim every day. Our family is just praying for the situation to turn normal,” said a worried parent in Punjab’s Gidderbaha town.
Many worried parents are rushing to their immigration agents and making enquiries about the worsening diplomatic situation. “It’s a fluid situation. After all, Canada was one of the preferred destinations for people from Punjab, be it for studies or work. Now a big question mark hangs over it,” commented a Chandigarh resident planning to immigrate to Canada.