Housing and jobs continue to be a struggle for Indian students in Canada. With depleting savings, Indian students turn to each other for help, as universities offer limited and expensive solutions.
“Growing up in Punjab, like many, I aspired to establish my life in Canada. To ensure I made the most of my parents’ hard-earned money and pursued a meaningful degree abroad, I dedicated myself to earning a master’s degree and relevant work experience. This set the stage for pursuing a second master’s degree from a reputable Canadian university.
However, upon arriving at my college in North Bay, Ontario, reality starkly contrasted the expectations I had been given. Housing shortages, job unavailability, broken commitments by local universities – the disappointments were many. We found ourselves entangled in a web of deceit, sold a dream that never materialized. Despite this, we continue to fight and emerge stronger.
Even before the India-Canada diplomatic tensions escalated, Indian students flying to Canada in recent months faced the harsh reality of shattered promises for a brighter future. As per data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), nearly 226,450 Indian students went to Canada in 2022, making India the largest cohort of international students in the country. This influx may have strained resources available for students in the country.
In places like North Bay, Ontario, small towns in the northern part of the province, students like Riya* (name changed on request) had to resort to setting up tents outside their new university due to claims of insufficient housing space.
When students sought help from the university, assistance was lacking until the students initiated protests, drawing attention from the local media.
“When I was looking for housing options from India, I was cautioned about scams in North Bay. Hence, I decided against booking accommodation from India. However, when I arrived in Canada on August 21, the situation was shocking. After landing in Brampton, I spent nearly 10 days searching for affordable housing in North Bay, all in vain. When I had to relocate to North Bay for my college, I had to book a hotel for the first three days, costing me CAD 120 per day,” she recounted.
Riya’s savings were rapidly depleting, prompting her to share a motel room with three other girls. “This brought the rent down to almost CAD 30 every day. I approached my college for support, but they explained their limited resources, stating they couldn’t assist us at the moment,” she added.
International students currently in Canada are grappling with challenges such as a scarcity of available rooms and soaring rent prices. Students at Canadore College and Nipissing University of North Bay had demanded the universities to provide affordable, permanent accommodation to all students at rates of $250 per student per month. However, students report being compelled to pay inflated rents, ranging from nearly 650 to 750 dollars per month—resembling the costs paid off-campus in expensive cities.
With several days spent in a motel, students had to cut costs elsewhere, notably on food. Riya shared with indianexpress.com that during her motel stay of nearly a week, she couldn’t afford hot meals daily.
“We used to receive complimentary breakfast from the hotel, but as a vegetarian, I was left with bread. Mornings meant bread with butter or jam, and I’d save some bread slices for the day. After a full day at college, those bread slices became my evening meal. I survived on this for nearly a week,” she recalled.
Presently, Riya shares a rented flat with another Indian girl, where they pay CAD 1200 per month. However, due to the limited job opportunities in North Bay, a small city, students find it incredibly challenging to secure a job that can support their daily expenses. Students like Riya are still subsisting on bread, cereals, and dal, as vegetables are more expensive there.
Seeking a refund for our fees
Riya’s plight is not unique. Several other Indian students face similar circumstances. Chiranjeet* (name changed on request) arrived in Canada in August, aspiring to study and settle there. However, due to “mismanagement of resources by Canadian universities,” they are now locked in a battle for fee refunds with their colleges.
Some students in North Bay are awaiting a full fee refund from their university due to resource scarcity. Students have urged the universities to provide affordable housing to international students or transfer them to another campus. They further requested permission for online classes or exemption from the 50% classroom attendance condition mandated by IRCC for a work permit.
Additionally, students like Chiranjeet have demanded a full refund of tuition fees without deductions, enabling them to enroll in another college in a timely manner. They have also requested the issuance of open work permits during the period they are unable to secure admission to any college.
While the university has issued refund notices for a few students, Indian students now express concern that educational institutions are requesting a month’s time for refunds, placing a financial burden on those struggling without a job.”