International students, many of them hailing from Punjab, have been protesting against the abrupt closure of three universities in Quebec, Canada.
Around 2,000 students have been left in uncertainty regarding their degrees and fees.
Students allege that the university administrations are refusing to refund the tuition fees that they were made to pay just before the closure was announced.
The three private universities in question are:
Collège de comptabilité et de secrétariat du Québec (CCSQ)
College de I’Estrie (CDE)
M College of Canada
Two students and two alumni of these universities speak to The Quint about the controversy and how it is mentally and emotionally affecting the students.
They also talk about how students are organising protests to demand justice from the universities' authorities and the Canadian government.
How the Chaos Unfolded: Students Share Their Ordeals
Harleen, a member of the 'Montreal Youth-Student Organization' (MYSO), tells The Quint that the universities that have been shut down are private ones, which are supposed to collect the fees from the students over a span of two years.
"But now they are pressuring students to pay the whole amount in two or three months."
Nisha Rani, a student of M College, claims that students suddenly got an email from their university administration, which stated that their colleges are now under CCAA protection.
The CCAA stands for Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, which is a federal act of the Canadian government that tries to save companies from bankruptcy by allowing its creditors to receive some payment that is equal to the amount owed to them by the companies.
"We were told the college is at the edge of bankruptcy, and our refund is at risk."Nisha Rani, Student of M College, Canada
Gur Singh, another student of M College, says that a lot of students have paid their fees in the past few months.
"When students returned this year, they could see locks over the colleges", addedHarleen, who further claimed that the universities waited to "fetch the money" from students before shutting down.
Rani, meanwhile, says around Rs 9 lakh have been by paid by each student for tuition, and around 300 students are anxiously waiting for the refund.
Students have been left feeling suicidal.
"Why are they suffering? Where is the Canadian government", she asks.
Varun Khanna, another member of the 'Montreal Youth-Student Organization', also speaks to The Quint regarding the plight of the students.
"We contribute almost $22 billion to the Canadian economy. It is the moral duty of Justin Trudeau and the federal government to solve the matter as early as possible."Varun Khanna, Montreal Youth-Student Organization
Left in the Lurch, Students Have No Choice But to Protest
Khanna goes on to say that MYSO is working to send letters to Members of Parliament and that there will definitely be more protests in the future.
A protest was held in Chandigarh on Thursday, 10 February, in front of the VFS (Visa Facilitation Services) office.
MYSO has formed a 13-member committee to organise protests in Montreal itself, according to Harleen.
She also says that other students are coming out in support of the Punjabi students who are the most affected by this issue. Khanna concurs with this observation.
"Hopefully, in two weeks, we will organise another massive rally in the middle of the city", he says, talking about the student protests in Montreal.
Students' Appeal to the Canadian Authorities
Gur Singh, in an emotional appeal, says that he chose Canada for his higher studies because he trusted the country's education system.
"I want to say one thing. If they really care for Indian students, and if they feel the pain of Indian students, then they should think about the trust that Indian students have placed on the universities. Please give us a chance. Help us, for our future."Gur Singh, M College of Canada
Additionally, Harleen says that if these controversies continue to occur, then other students in the near future will face similar issues.
Other communities need to step forward to support students, she adds.
"More people should come forward, raise their hands and voices in support of the protests."Harleen, Montreal Youth-Student Organization
Rani wants to send a message to the Canadian government.
"If students chose your nation to study, then to maintain the dignity of your country, it is your responsibility to support those students", she asserts.
"Why are students suffering? We want justice. We need support, and we will win. No one can suppress the voice of the youth."Nisha Rani, Student of M College, Canada