India’s missions in Canada are expanding their outreach to Indian students as their numbers grow, as are tragedies such as accidents, suicides, and murders. Creating a database to follow students and register them is one of the projects.
The most recent such tragedy occurred on Sunday when Peel Regional Police discovered the body of 20-year-old Navkiran Singh from Punjab’s Moga district drowned in the Credit Valley River in Brampton, Greater Toronto Area. The cause of death has not yet been determined. “It’s a big sadness to see a young life being extinguished out,” India’s high commissioner to Ottawa, Ajay Bisaria, said of Navkiran Singh’s death.
This is only the most recent in a string of incidents affecting Indian students in Canada this year, including five students who died in a car accident in Ontario in March and 21-year-old Kartik Vasudev being gunned down in Toronto in April.
According to IRCC data, 156,171 study permits were granted to Indian students in 2021, nearly double the number granted in 2020, which was 76,149, a significant decrease due to the Covid-19 outbreak and travel restrictions. However, the increase since last year may result in a new record high of Indian students enrolling in Canadian universities and colleges in 2022, surpassing the previous high of 174,687 in 2019.
Worried about the rising number of fatalities among this group, India’s missions in Canada have sought out universities throughout the country to compile a database of Indian students and trace their whereabouts. Furthermore, missions collaborate with community organisations, particularly student groups at universities, because they are the first to notice if a student is suffering from depression or acting erratically.
In February of this year, the High Commission released an advise aimed at students, including topics such as work permits, how expensive lodging may be, and even extreme weather. “Though Canada is a multi-cultural society,” it stated, “there is a wide cultural distance between India and Canada.” This causes students to feel lonely and, as a result, ill in the first few months of their stay.”
In April, Indian missions also established a new registration system for Indian nationals in Canada, which was “initiated and informed by challenges being faced by the community, particularly students, and the huge number of casualties,” according to a senior Indian official.
The Pointer reported in November of last year that a single burial home in the Greater Toronto Area documented five dead bodies of Indian students per month. At the time, Kamal Bhardwaj, owner of Toronto’s Lotus Funeral and Cremation Centre, stated that they handled the bodies of five to six students each month. While the cause of death is unknown, some victims were discovered with ligature marks, indicating suspected suicide, and others displayed symptoms of overdose. “The number of young people dying has increased,” he told the Hindustan Times.
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