BY: BRIG NAWAB HEER
Today, most young people in Punjab want to emigrate to North America or Europe because they see bleak prospects at home. Even their parents want them to go abroad so that they too can follow them once these children have gained permanent residency in these countries.
The shortest way to go abroad for these young people today is through student visas. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many countries in Europe badly need immigrants for demographic reasons, and these Nations are not even bothered about the misuse of the student visa route by people.
As Canada has become the leading destination for Punjabis, this country gains from the student-visa-to-permanent-residency route in three ways.
One, Canadian educational institutions charge 400 percent fees from international students, adding billions to the Canadian economy. Two, Canada gets trained young manpower. Three, young international students boost Canada’s demography.
Of course, there is No denying the fact that families of these students in Punjab benefit as they send money back home. And there is also No denying the fact that many families also get financially ruined in the process of sending their children abroad.
I want to focus on the social toll this thing is taking on families back in Punjab and these students here in Canada.
If we analyze the profile of students coming to Canada from Punjab, a few things stand out. Many of them are from marginal land-holding families.
Most are from two-child families where parents took every care of them till they reached the age of 17 or 18. Most of these students are pampered and have never done any work, some even not polishing their own shoes. These students lived under strict parental and social control until their arrival in Canada.
On landing in Canada, these young students face many harsh challenges related to accommodation, communication, transportation, money, job and social support. Sadly, they were never given any briefing/orientation about life and laws in Canada, by Indian agents,by colleges/universities or any Government agency here.
The biggest challenge they face relates to money. They need money to pay for fees, accommodation, food, phone bills and other necessities. They have to earn enough to pay these expenses. Many even have to send money home in India to pay back the loans taken by their parents to send them to Canada.
Being of an impressionable age, many students are coming in contact with the bad elements here – Brampton or wherever– and learning bad practices. Thinking that this is the way to gain quick success, these youngsters are adopting harmful lifestyles, getting addicted to drugs, indulging in cheating, telling lies, taking shortcuts and becoming habitual cheats.
This is happening because these students have suddenly landed in Canada’s extremely free society from Punjab. They cannot digest too much of freedom. They cannot maintain self-discipline.
The laws in Canada were framed on the assumption that we are honest and good people and that we are law-abiding. But many of our clan are taking advantage of this system and indulging in wrong-doing – be it working illegally, not paying taxes, stealing, selling drugs and committing other crimes. Many of them never get caught. Those who get caught are let off with minor punishment and feel encouraged.
Young Indian students are also learning these bad habits from senior immigrants in our society, who have made quick money by indulging in wrong practices.
As they cope with stressful life in Canada and struggle to meet their parents’ demands to send them more money, many of these students suffer from mental disorders because they are indulging in wrong practices to make more money. They suppress these terrible feelings with drugs and liquor. They lose sense of right or wrong.
Mental disorders are driving many vulnerable students to commit suicide. Vulnerable girls are falling prey to pimps. Many are taking to prostitution to fulfill their urgent basic needs or make quick money to meet their new lifestyle.
What is even more shocking is that our most senior immigrants are also party to the exploitation of these vulnerable students – selling them LMIA, paying less than minimum wages, cutting their wages, using them as drug couriers, charging heavy rents, cheating by lawyers, immigrant consultants and exploiting them to work overtime without additional compensation. Anyone showing resistance is threatened with deportation; and since these students do not know their rights, they fall prey to exploitation.
As I mentioned above, many parents in India are exploiting the student visa route to send these students to serve as mules to bring their whole family into Canada later. Many parents are sending their children here via the student visa route just with the intention that they will marry rich men/women and thus uplift their living standards.
The student visa route has given birth to a wrong system like the mafia in Punjab and Canada, this mafia operates in the form of immigration agents, IELTS shops, Canadian colleges agents, fly-by-night Canadian colleges charging 400 times fees and just issuing degrees, etc.
All such intermediaries are profiting as the Canadian government has opened the floodgates of student visas. Nobody – colleges, universities and Provincial Governments – is bothered about arranging accommodation and hostels for these poor students. All they are bothered about is collecting money in billions. There is no one to provide orientation to these students, protect them from exploitation and listen to their concerns. Every political leader is just passing the buck – from city to province to federal leaders and back to the city.
The net result is every month five to six students alone from Punjab commit suicide and numerous girls take to prostitution. It is happening because some of these students sometimes in their stay cannot even raise small funds in an emergency with their hard work.
Statistically speaking, there are about 200,000 students residing or transiting through Brampton at any given time. About 85 percent of these are very good students who study hard, work hard and make a good living as per the rules of the book.
It is only the other 15 percent who are forced by circumstances adopt taken the wrong path,either they get exploited or if they resist they get into a situation of no return. This is where our political, religious, social leadership seem to be failing us.
What can be done before the problem gets worse?
First of all, the initiative must come from the City of Brampton since the city is most affected by this problem. Here I am sorry to say that Sheridan College’s careless attitude is compounding this issue and so are elected Councillors.
As part of the city’s initiative, the mayor, councillors, MPPs and MPs of Brampton must sit together and discuss urgent ways and means to address it. Somehow, most politicians seem to be happy that international students are contributing to the economy by performing all labour-related jobs and since most get Permanent Residency; they become their vote Banks. But when it comes to resolving their problems, these students are treated as personae non-gratae.
Secondly, community leaders – religious, social and political – must take the issue of suicides and sex trafficking of girl students very seriously before it is too late.
Lastly, we must urgently establish a distress fund for immediate financial assistance for any international student when they get cornered – be it in form of a soft loan or one-time assistance. We are taking up this issue and I will request responsible citizens to come forward to join hands with us to implement these suggestions.
The red flags are up there for all to see and our leaders must not remain in denial mode anymore.
Hope they are listening.
Leave a Reply