Ottawa (August 4, 2023): The World Sikh Organization of Canada has expressed deep concern over the withdrawal of admission of hundreds of international students at Northern College in Ontario. The students were informed that their admission had been cancelled due to over-enrollment. Many of these students are young Sikhs from Punjab.
Tens of thousands of Sikhs from Punjab have come to Canada as international students but continue to face significant issues such as exorbitant tuition fees, exploitation by employers and landlords and insufficient supports and resources provided by their educational institutions.
The WSO's President, Tejinder Singh Sidhu wrote to Northern College President Dr. Audrey Penner today along with Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities, Hon. Jane Dunlop. The text of the letter is below:
August 4, 2023
Dr. Audrey J. Penner, President
Re. Withdrawal of Admission to Hundreds of International Students
I am writing on behalf of the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO). The WSO is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals.
It has come to our attention that hundreds of international students have been informed by your college that their admission has been withdrawn for the September semester. As a result, these students, including a large number of Sikh students from Punjab have had their lives thrown into chaos.
For students living in India, a withdrawal of admission means students can no longer legally enter Canada, as their student visas have been issued on the basis of their admission to your college. Students in India end up also losing thousands of dollars in airfare. Many families have had to sell property or take out large loans to pay for all the costs associated with attending school abroad. The withdrawal of admission results in the risk of losing the validity of required certifications, such as medical examinations and IELTS, as these documents also carry an expiry date.
We understand that students who are currently in Canada have been told that their courses will be delivered online. This is of course less than optimal, given that students pay for the experience of in-person learning and online alternatives are not equivalent.
The impact of Northern College issuing and then withdrawing admission is nothing short of catastrophic for the impacted students. The options currently being offered by the college to address the situation are inadequate. We understand that students are being offered courses that are not PGWP-eligible. This will not be acceptable to the vast majority of students. Students in such desperate circumstances are also vulnerable to exploitation by predatory private colleges and agents.
We are writing to ask that Northern College recognize the impact on affected international students and find a way to accommodate these students without cancelling their admission. The decisions made by the College have weighed heavily on the mental, physical, and financial health of the students. Students who have paid tuition must be enrolled and receive the education they paid for. This means PGWP-eligible courses that meet the needs of students. The College needs to demonstrate that it is committed to educating its students and not simply driven by the tuition fees they bring.
We look forward to your timely reply to this matter.
Tejinder Singh Sidhu
World Sikh Organization of Canada
c.c. Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities