The government of Canada has extended the ban on direct commercial and private passenger flights from India to Canada till Sept. 21, 2021. Students from India wishing to complete schooling in Canada have to travel through a third country, such as the United States or United Kingdom, to complete their schooling in Canada.
Another obstacle for them is that Canada doesn’t accept molecular COVID-19 tests from India.
Students and parents say the ban has not only affected their mental health but also academic performance, because of the nine-and-a-half-hour time difference, which means students must attend classes late into the night.
“On the night I had my flight to Canada, the morning news was released about the flight ban for Indian students,” says Rajvi Patel, an Algonquin College architectural technician student. “My dreams were shattered. I was instructed to study remotely from my home country.”
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters at a press conference, “The reason for the extension is due to the spread of Delta variant, which is considered the dominant strain of COVID-19 worldwide. The decision was based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada.”
Anjan Vanzara, a regulated Canadian immigration consultant in Ottawa, said the impact on students has been severe. “Students learning from their home country are not properly exposed to the enriching resources of Canadian education. On the contrary, many students visited home during the pandemic could not return back to Canada for a long time, resulting in the loss of their student status in the country.”
As well, she said, travelling via a third country has added a huge amount to students’ overall expenses.
“Every day I try to find an economical route to reach Canada,” said Patel, who has completed her first semester from India.
Anjana further added, “Although the flight ban has affected the future and dreams of students from India it has increased the number of immigrants travelling from all over the world…Canada admitted 401,000 new immigrants in 2021 and it will increase to 421,000 by 2023, to make up for the insufficiency caused by COVID-19-induced restrictions.”
The Overseas Friends of India Canada (OFIC), a trade and culture body in Canada, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau asking him to lift the travel ban from India.
The letter reads: “India alone contributes 34.5% of Canada’s total foreign students. We write on behalf of Indian students who look to the Canadian government to undo its unjust decision of not allowing them to pursue their studies.” The letter was signed by the Director Hemant Shah and President Shiv Bhasker of OFIC.