Pakistani Canadian Liberal Government MP Iqra Khalid has said that Canada relies on a healthy immigration because of its growing labour market and the Pakistani Canadians, especially the Pakistani students, have a lot to contribute to “this wonderful country”.
She made this statement while addressing a webinar arranged by Pakistan High Commission Canada on ‘Student Direct Stream: Opportunities for Pakistani Students in Canada’.
The event was moderated by Consul General of Pakistan Toronto Abdul Hameed and also addressed by Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada Ameer Khurram Rathore as well as several noted experts and academicians, including Dr Chaudhry Faisal Mushtaq, Dr. Aamir Taiyeb, Ali Moeen Nawazish, Neelofar Ahmed, Saghir Munir Mehar and Haroon Chaudhry.
In her address, Iqra Khalid said that one of her focuses over the last six years as a Member of Parliament had been to increase people-to-people relationship between Pakistan and Canada, increase trade and exchanges in education, culture and heritage and ensure the Pakistani Canadians were well satisfied with the Canadian immigration system. She disclosed that before the Liberal government took office in 2015, it used to take approximately four years for somebody from Pakistan to sponsor their spouse to come to Canada but now that time had been reduced to about 12 months.
Iqra Khalid, elected three times as a Member of Canadian Parliament, recalled that in 2019, the then Canadian Immigration Minister came to her constituency office along with other MPs, including Pakistan Canadian MP Salma Zahid, to announce Pakistan’s inclusion in the Student Direct Stream. She said she had seen how the SDS had worked and not worked, and she was keen to learn from fellow Pakistani Canadians on the system could be further improved.
She said she would continue to “make our efforts and ensure that there’s a fair process to encourage more students from Pakistan to come and educate themselves in Canada”.
She hoped that the visa processing facility currently based in Abu Dhabi would be moved back to Islamabad. “I think Islamabad is the better place for that to happen … as it would help resolve a lot of the issues that we are facing not only with the student visas but also with temporary resident visas and business visas,” she said.
The Canadian MP opined that “we should not be rejecting applications for students trying to come to Canada on the basis of they will not return back to their home country after completing their education, since we ourselves as a government and as a policy have encouraged students from across the world to come and to study and then to settle and actually emigrate to Canada. “I think that we do need a policy shift in how we process these applications,” she said.
Addressing the webinar, Pakistan High Commissioner to Canada Ameer Khurram Rathore said that Pakistan’s inclusion in the Student Direct Stream had raised hopes of a large number of Pakistani students for getting the Canadian study permits in quick time. However, COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, including lack of sufficient information about SDS, had been a dampener. He said the Pakistan High Commission would arrange a series of webinars in coming weeks to create an enabling echo-system about Canadian education in Pakistan.
During the presentations, other speakers to the webinar agreed that Canada was a genuine study option but profile-building and marketing of Canadian education in Pakistan was necessary. They pointed out that the Canadian educational institutions had not been marketing themselves as aggressively in Pakistan as their opportunities from the UK, USA, and Australia. They said there was a strong need for disseminating information through mainstream and social media regarding the educational opportunities available in Canada.
The speakers also stressed that the Canadian government needed to work with Pakistan government on the pattern of British Council to organize education fairs in all major cities of Pakistan for the marketing of Canadian education system and the opportunities it offers. There is a need to develop linkages of Canadian institutions with HEC Pakistan, collaborations and academic partnerships among Pakistani and Canadian institutions and provide an enabling platform for the aspiring Pakistani students. In this regard, the panelists from private sector showed readiness to work with the public sector.
The speakers also pointed out that majority Pakistani students aspired for university programs. There is a need to educate the students that the Canadian colleges provide equally good education and opportunities to the students and connect them to the industry at the completion of their studies/diplomas. Therefore, Pakistani students should not hesitate in applying for Canadian colleges.
It was also pointed out during the webinar that all the information regarding student visas was available on the web, but the information was too overwhelming for the students, particularly those at the high school and the bachelors level. This information needs to be simplified for easy understanding of the prospective applicants.