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Ontario international students, families making 'massive sacrifices' for the Canadian dream – CBC.ca

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The death of an Indian student in Toronto last month made international headlines, but while Kartik Vasudev’s story ended in tragedy, his parents’ sacrifices offer a glimpse into the hardships that many international students and their families face to achieve the dream of a future in Canada.

Vasudev’s father, Jitesh Vasudev, told CBC News he and his wife spent their entire life savings and mortgaged their house to take out a loan of $50,000, just to afford the first year of his son’s education in Canada, before he was shot and killed. 

“The only mistake of my innocent child was that he dreamt big of studying in a foreign country, and he wanted to make a name of himself while representing India,” said Vasudev’s mother, Pooja Vasudev, in a video posted to Instagram. “We had a lot of dreams and expectations with our child, he was going to be our support in our old age.”

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International students who spoke to CBC News say those kinds of sacrifices are common, and can take a major toll. 

They say international students can pay almost four times more in tuition fees than domestic students, and are calling for change.

An Ontario Auditor General’s report from last year highlighted the reliance of Ontario colleges on international student tuition.

The report showed that while international students represented only 30 per cent of the total enrolment in public colleges, they accounted for 68 per cent of tuition fee revenue at a total of $1.7 billion. A majority of students — 62 per cent — were from India.

According to a 2020 report from Global Affairs Canada, international students contributed $16.2 billion and $19.7 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2017 and 2018.

A better future in Canada

Students and advocates told CBC News that many international students from India come to Canada to become permanent residents and build a better future for themselves as well as their families.

They say there are limited employment opportunities in India compared to Canada, leading their parents to go to great lengths to send them abroad.

Jobanpreet Singh knows that struggle firsthand.

Jobanpreet Singh, left, says his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and also sold assets just to pay for his first year of college. (Submitted by Jobanpreet Singh)

“[Vasudev’s family] sacrificed a lot to send their child to Canada for a brighter future,” the 22-year-old international student said. “I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for them.”

Born and raised in a farmer’s family in Punjab, India, Singh came to Canada as an international student in August 2021, where he is studying at the Academy of Learning Career College in Toronto. 

For his first year in Canada, his family spent around $30,000 on his tuition and living expenses.

Singh said his family spent all their savings, took out massive loans and sold assets just to be able to pay for his first year of college.

“[International students] have work stress, school stress, and we have extremely high tuition fees, which is topped off with the fact that we can only work 20 hours a week,” he said.

Singh said it is very difficult to handle expenses and living costs in Toronto while working those limited hours.

According to a statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), “limiting off-campus work to 20 hours per week reflect the fact that the focus for international students in Canada is on their studies.”

Tuition gap between domestic and international students

Sarom Rho from advocacy group Migrant Students United says international students who come to Canada also face rising costs of tuition fees, which are already three to four times more than domestic tuition.

“The majority of current and former international students and their families have made massive sacrifices for them, for example by selling lands, taking out massive educational loans, selling assets, just to pay for these extremely high tuition fees,” said Rho.

Rho added that because of these financial burdens, international students also face significant mental health issues.

Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities said in a statement that it understands that as newcomers to Canada and Ontario, international students can face unique challenges. 

“Student wellbeing is paramount, and we support the steps taken by Ontario’s colleges and universities to ensure that international students are well supported before and after their arrival in Ontario,” said James Tinajero, spokesperson for the ministry.

Gurpreet Singh, a 22-year-old Seneca College student, came to Canada in September 2020. His parents mortgaged their entire agricultural farmland to send him to Canada.

Gurpreet Singh has completed half of his education and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. He says he is paying for the rest of his studies on his own. (Submitted by Gurpreet Singh)

He said because of his international student status in Canada, he can’t apply for scholarships and bursaries at his college.

“That’s a huge drawback for us,” said Gurpreet. “If we’re not getting anything extra [over] the domestic students and we pay the same taxes, then why do we pay this huge amount for our tuition?”

The ministry says college and university boards of governors have the full authority to set tuition fees for international students.

“Colleges and universities are allowed the discretion to establish tuition fees for international students at levels the institutions deem appropriate,” said Tinajero.

Gurpreet has completed half of his education, and the remaining two semesters of his studies will cost him about $16,000. But instead of asking for help from his family, Gurpreet is taking the responsibility on himself.

According to the IRCC, international students can work full-time when they are on a scheduled break, like during winter and summer holidays, or during a fall or spring reading week. 

Gurpreet is currently on a summer break from his college. He says this is his last chance to work full-time before he begins his third semester in the fall.

For the next four months of summer break, Gurpreet says he’ll be working in two different warehouses doing long days of general labour.

“Right now I’ve [got] to concentrate on my work to pay off my fees, so I’m willing to compromise for the next four months,” he said.

“I know this is going to be hard, but these hardships are temporary, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

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India tells Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats: official

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OTTAWA –

Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the “extremely challenging” tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.

India reportedly wants 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats out of the country by early next week — a striking, if largely anticipated, deepening of the rift that erupted last month following Trudeau’s explosive allegations in the House of Commons.

The prime minister bluntly spoke of “credible” intelligence linking the Indian government to the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader India has long assailed as a terrorist.

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The demand, first reported by the Financial Times, comes less than two weeks after the Indian government first called on Canada to establish “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence.”

Canada has a much larger diplomatic corps in India, owing in part to the fact it’s a country of 1.4 billion people, compared to 40 million in Canada — about 1.3 million of whom are of Indian origin.

Trudeau would not confirm the reports Tuesday, nor did he sound inclined to acquiesce to India’s request.

“Obviously, we’re going through an extremely challenging time with India right now,” Trudeau said on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.

“That’s why it’s so important for us to have diplomats on the ground, working with the Indian government, there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”

Canada, he continued, is “taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said largely the same thing.

“In moments of tension, because indeed there are tensions between both our governments, more than ever it’s important that diplomats be on the ground,” Joly said.

“That’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India. That being said, we are in ongoing conversations with the Indian government.”

During Tuesday’s daily briefing at the State Department, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel was at pains to avoid exacerbating tensions any further.

“We are — and continue to be — deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau and we remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” Patel said, a message the U.S. has had on repeat for weeks.

“It’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also have … publicly and privately urged the Indian government to co-operate in the Canadian investigation and co-operate in those efforts.”

Patel also demurred on the potential impact of an escalating tit-for-tat exchange of diplomatic staff on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a key element of U.S. efforts to mitigate China’s growing geopolitical influence.

“I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” he said. “As it relates to our Indo-Pacific strategy and the focus that we continue to place on the region, that effort and that line of work is going to continue.”

David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has already confirmed that the allegations were buttressed in part on intelligence gathered by a key ally from the Five Eyes security alliance, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed last week that the subject came up in his meetings in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.

Trudeau’s allegation “was not consistent with our policy,” Jaishankar told a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Hudson Institute.

“If his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time.”

Jaishankar went on to note that the issue of Sikh separatists living in Canada had long been “an issue of great friction,” notably after the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.

“In the last few years, it has come back very much into play, because of what we consider to be a very permissive Canadian attitude towards terrorists, extremists, people who openly advocate violence,” Jaishankar said.

“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.

With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa.

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In the news today: Regimental funeral today for B.C. Mountie, NDP victory in Manitoba – National Post

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All Flesh Redux

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Director’s Notes, Stacey Christodoulou

MONTREAL October, 2023 – Combining polyphonic singing, dance, and theatre, All Flesh REDUX is a poetic journey through time and space. Part sing-a-long, Dadaist performance piece as well as a love letter to our planet, the work enfolds the public in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting where humour, music, storytelling and movement reign. Bringing together the worlds of medieval composers Guillaume de MachautHildegard von Bingen and modern composer John Cage, the company’s creation contemplates the unknowable past and the unimaginable future, and asks what acts of faith are possible in an uncertain world. October 13-22, seating is limited.

Director Stacey Christodoulou: “We could never imagine that the themes we spoke about in 2019 would become reality. In a certain way the show was prophetic. However, I believe that the message of creating beauty as a form of resistance is even more important now. The weaving of medieval song, contemporary dance and text continues our company’s interdisciplinary approach and reminds us that throughout history people have responded to turmoil with innovation and art.”

With: ENSEMBLE ALKEMIA (Jean-François Daignault, Dorothéa Ventura and Leah Weitzner), Stéphanie Fromentin, Erin Lindsay, Vanessa Schmit-Craan, Lael  Stellick

Musical direction by Jean-François Daignault; scenograpy by Amy Keith; sound by Debbie Doe; costumes by Cathia Pagotto; lighting by David Perreault Ninacs and technical stage coordination by Birdie Gregor.

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All Flesh REDUX

Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire

4750, avenue Henri-Julien

Dates: Friday, Oct., 13, Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8pm; Sunday Oct. 14 at 3pm

Wednesday, October 18-Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8pm; Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3pm

Tickets/514 873-4032: $20, Students/Seniors: $15

Seating is limited

othertheatre.com/all-flesh-redux-en/

Website: othertheatre.com  Instagram: @othertheatremtl  Facebook: othertheatre

About THE OTHER THEATRE

Formed in 1991 by Artistic Director Stacey Christodoulou, The Other Theatre is devoted to contemporary creation. Working bilingually, their award-wining work has included adaptations, installations, theatre texts, and collectively written material performed in numerous venues in Montreal and abroad, including theatres, galleries, as well as a moving elevator.

Drawing inspiration from art forms other than theatre – dance, cinema, science, architecture, and the visual arts – the company presents evocative performances, grounded by thought-provoking texts.  From a creole Macbeth, to sci-fi with polyphonic singing, to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, their original creations are thrilling and visually striking. They have also presented the work of International and Canadian writers, giving them their French-language premieres in Quebec. Exploring the large existential issues of the time, The Other Theatre aims to move audiences to greater emotional connection and reflection, bridging communities and languages to create a hybrid theatre that is reflective of the cultural richness of Montreal. They value and foster artistic exchange, both locally and internationally and share their artistic process in Canada, the US, Europe and Mexico, through mentorships, workshops and cultural mediation in local communities and schools.

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