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by Sumeet Dhami

A pair of not-for-profit community groups are raising the alarm bells on the need for urgent support systems for international students in Canada, specifically in Ontario’s Peel Region.

The new report, titled “Invited & Forgotten: International Students in a Crisis” illustrates growing concerns for the mental and physical health of international students.

The study was triggered by troubling information Baldev Mutta, CEO of Punjabi Health Community Services (PHCS) said he received from Peel Children’s Aid Society. In an interview with OMNI News, Mutta shared that nine Indian international students became pregnant while struggling to make ends meet.

In a country foreign to them, Mutta said the post-secondary students didn’t know how to access prenatal health services, fell behind on paying rent, and could not afford a nourishing diet. At the same time, Mutta said he became aware of another instance in which an international student, fearful of the consequences of being pregnant, gave birth in her home with only the support of her friends and a video from YouTube.

These stories of young females in crisis urged PHCS and Indus Community Services to partner together under their initiative Apna Health to get to the root of the slew of issues impacting international students.

According to the report, between 2014 and 2018, there was a 68 per cent increase in international student enrolment in Canadian postsecondary institutions. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in the first half of 2020, the largest number of students came from India (32,045), followed by China (24,710). However multiple studies illustrated in the report show that these same students who are being welcomed into Canada, are not being connected to the social support systems they need.