Indian Students Shun Canada

A diplomatic disagreement between India and Canada regarding the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, described as a Khalistani extremist, resulted in an 86% decrease in study permits issued from Canada to Indians during the fourth quarter of 2023. Official data shows that only 14,910 students were granted study permits late last year, a significant decline from the previous figure of 108,940 students.

Relations between India and Canada have been strained since Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, made a provocative statement accusing an Indian government agency of being involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whom he referred to as a Khalistani terrorist. Trudeau also expelled an Indian diplomat identified as Pavan Kumar Rai, who was the head of India’s foreign intelligence agency in Canada. This escalation led to a full-fledged diplomatic conflict between the two nations. However, Canadian authorities have yet to press charges against anyone in connection with the killing.

Following the accusations by the Canadian Prime Minister, it has been observed that some Indian international students are exploring options other than Canada due to recent concerns about inadequate residential and teaching facilities at certain Canadian institutions. In recent years, Indians have constituted the largest contingent of international students in Canada, making up over 41% of the total. In 2022 alone, 225,835 permits were issued to Indian students.

Canadian universities depend greatly on international students, who contribute around C$22 billion ($16.4 billion) each year. Any decline in their numbers would represent a substantial financial loss for these institutions. However, the Canadian government has been actively working to reduce the overall influx of international students, partly in response to an ongoing housing shortage.

The Canadian government intends to introduce additional measures in the first half of this year, potentially including a cap on the number of international students. Canada’s appeal to international students is enhanced by the relatively accessible work permits available after completing courses. The government aims to address the perceived generosity of the postgraduate work permit program and intends to crack down on “fly-by-night” universities, also known as designated learning institutes.

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