The root of the issue
Recently, the two countries’ relationship has soured over claims of the Indian government’s involvement in the assassination of a separatist leader, Hardeep Sing Nijjar, outside a Sikh Gurudwara in Surrey, British Columbia. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the chief accusers on the Canadian side, saying there were credible allegations of the Indian government’s role in the assassination. India’s foreign ministry has been forthright in rejecting the claims.
What is the Khalistan movement?
The Khalistan movement calls for a separate homeland for Sikhs in the Punjab region called Khalistan. Support for the movement has waned in recent years, especially within India, apart from the occasional protests and flare-ups from supporters overseas.
The movement is known to have backers in many countries, including Canada.
India has repeatedly called out the tolerance of this separatist movement in Canada, where a float depicting the assassination of Indira Gandhi was allowed earlier this year. India also brought up the topic during the recently concluded G20 summit.
Since the accusation, the two countries have issued advisories for respective citizens based in the other country. The Indian foreign ministry asked Indians to exercise extreme caution and vigilance in the face of deteriorating security conditions, with concerns being raised about the safety of Indian diplomats who have reported instances of harassment at the hands of Khalistan supporters.
A video doing the rounds on the web, where Hindu Canadians were told to leave the country, has also prompted the Public Safety Canada to issue a statement condemning all acts of aggression, hate, intimidation or attempts to incite fear within the country.
Canada also updated its travel advisory for India, informing visiting citizens visiting India to exercise a high degree of caution due to threats of terrorist attacks throughout the country.
Canada also paused talks on a proposed trade treaty with India and postponed a planned trade mission by the Trade Minister Mary Ng.
Both sides have also expelled diplomats in a tit-for-tat move that could have bigger implications for the relationship between the two sides.
What it means for Indian students and immigration
Immigration was one of the largest concerns, given the number of Indian students and workers who pursue work and academic opportunities in Canada.
According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, there were over 807,750 international students at all levels of study by the end of 2022, with 40% hailing from India alone. Thus, any policy changes could hamper the academic activities of the students and institutions in Canada.
India halted its visa processing centres in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver for operational reasons.
So far, Canada has continued to accept applications and issued visas to Indian nationals entering the country despite the move not being reciprocated. Interested students can still apply for Canadian study permits if they meet the requirements until further notice.
Who can apply for a Canadian study permit?
To be eligible for a Canadian study permit, an applicant must:
- Be enrolled in a Designated Learning Institution
- Have the funds to cover their tuition fees and expenses in Canada
- Have no criminal record
- Be in good health
- Prove that they will leave Canada upon the expiration of their study permit.
Canada’s current Immigration targets
Canada is currently targeting over 465,000 Planned Permanent Resident admissions for 2023.
Safety of Indian students in Canada
In light of the current situation, India’s Ministry of External Affairs has called for all Indian students and nationals to complete a registration process with either the High Commission of India in Ottawa or the Consulates General of India in Toronto and Vancouver through their official website. This will allow for effective communication and help in case of emergencies.