In September 2023, the nations of Canada and India came to a head in a diplomatic crisis that is anticipated to have long-lasting impacts on both countries.
On June 18, 2023, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was murdered in Surrey, British Columbia. Nijjar was a citizen of Canada and a leader of the Sikh separatist movement. On September 18, 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada was looking at credible allegations from Canada’s security agencies potentially linking the murder of Nijjar to India. India did not take kindly to the accusation from Canada and in response, completely rejected the claims from Prime Minister Trudeau and accused Canada of providing shelter to terrorists and extremists who threaten India’s security.
Following the initial diplomatic fallout, the degradation in relations between the two nations continued. As tensions escalated, the Government of Canada issued a travel advisory for India, calling for travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in the country. India issued a travel warning for Canada, urging its citizens to exercise the utmost caution when travelling to Canada because of “anti-India activities and politically condoned hate crimes.” The relationship has continued to devolve and it is unclear when the relationship between the two countries will be repaired.
The breakdown in relations between Canada and India will have complications that go beyond just diplomatic relations, as there could be significant economic and immigration consequences from the diplomatic row between the nations. Prior to these events, Canada and India had very strong relations. Bilateral commercial relations between Canada and India are estimated to be worth $100 billion, and the two countries expressed interest in reaching agreement on a trade deal after having trade talks in early 2023. These trade talks have since been tabled as a result of the relationship breakdown.
There are approximately one million people of Indian descent in Canada. The largest percentage of newcomers to Canada between 2016 and 2021, based on country of birth, was India at 18.6%. In 2022, there were more than 225,000 study permit holders from India residing in Canada on temporary resident visas. Throughout 2023, there has been a similar number of students from India who are residing in Canada and attending designated learning institutions across the country.
Many international students from India are also permitted to remain in Canada after the expiration of their student visa expires by participating in the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program. This program allows international students to gain work experience in Canada and can be a step to becoming a Canadian permanent resident. Many individuals from India have enjoyed the benefits of the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program, as well as other Canadian immigration programs, in order to become Canadian permanent residents. According to the 2022 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, approximately 128,000 Indian nationals received Canadian permanent residence status in 2022. This was the largest number of people from any nationality that received permanent residency in Canada by a significant margin. Given the large population of Indian nationals currently residing in Canada, the diplomatic tensions between Canada and India are that much more significant.
On October 19, 2023, the Government of Canada announced that it was withdrawing 41 diplomats and their families from India, after India unilaterally declared it would revoke their diplomatic immunities. India declared that it would be removing diplomatic immunities from all but 21 Canadian diplomats and their dependents who were residing in the country by October 20, 2023. As a consequence of this decision, the number of Canadian diplomats in India is roughly one-third of what it was before. Canada also suspended in-person consulate services from consulates in three Indian cities, specifically Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Mumbai, thereby leaving the High Commission in New Delhi as the only location in India currently offering in-person immigration services.
On October 19, 2023, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada also announced that it would be reducing its number of employees in India from 27 to 5. There are a substantial number of immigration applications made by citizens of India seeking to immigrate to Canada, with 89% of these applications being processed outside of Canada through the global network, leaving 11% of the applications processed in India.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has indicated that the 5 staff remaining in India will continue to work on processing immigration matters that require their presence in India, including matters such as urgent processing, visa printing, risk assessment and overseeing key partners. However, the reduction in staff will negatively impact those seeking Canadian immigration services in India, as it is anticipated that there will be significant delays in the immediate future, and beyond, if no rapprochement is made between the countries. It is expected that overall processing times, responses to immigration inquiries, as well as visa and passport return will all be delayed. Other services that are usually provided in person will also be affected. The Canadian Government has indicated that it hopes that normal immigration processing will return by early 2024, however, there is no definite timeline at this time.
At Garson Immigration Law, our immigration lawyers are dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We provide advice on the complex Canadian immigration process. We make sure to keep up to date with current events in order to best tailor our guidance towards the ever changing immigration landscape in Canada. Our have the experience to find practical solutions for our clients in all kinds of immigration matters, including citizenship, inadmissibility, and US immigration. If you have any questions about an immigration application, do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 416-321-2860
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