"I am a police officer with 29 years of experience, and my role in One Voice is to advocate for international students who require support and assistance while they are in Canada pursuing their education," says Baltej Singh Dhillon a RCMP Officer and Member of One Voice Canada Society.
How would you describe your journey with RCMP in short?
The journey initially was challenging with the change in uniform, and there was adjustment that was required to the new regulations from those who were not in support of the changes. Over time there has been a general acceptance of the turban and there are many more turban-wearing Sikh officers that serve in the RCMP today. Over all, I have had an incredible career to date and am grateful for the opportunities.
You are a part of One Voice Canada Society? What is the organization about and why was it founded?
The Society was founded recently when a few videos on international students went viral. They were breaking bottles and partying in a residential suite. It was disheartening to watch and we felt that these children should be guided, instead of their videos going viral. Also, due to a number of issues being raised by international students who have been and continue to be mistreated and financially and sexually exploited because they don’t have a support system, so that they can [get] access [to help] locally. The Society was founded by Dupinder Kaur Saran, a director at Sikh Seva Foundation in coordination with local Gurdwaras, many other professionals and organizations (including but not limited to WSO, Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, Khalsa Aid, SAFA), as well as international students and local student associations. As concerned professionals we are interested in assisting and supporting these students who find themselves alone in Canada and are taken advantage of.
How will One Voice Canada Society help international students?
One Voice has already assisted international students by advocating for students who are being mistreated at the workplace, referring students who are experiencing depression due to various reasons and contemplating suicide, supporting students who are unfamiliar with processes in this country when it comes to immigration and colleges, and with other assistance. What is your role in One Voice Canada Society? I am a volunteer with the Society. I am a police officer with 29 years of experience, and my role in One Voice is to advocate for international students who require support and assistance while they are in Canada pursuing their education. With your background in policing, how will you help the international students? Some of the issues that we are dealing with include sexual exploitation, employment exploitation and residential exploitation of international students. My experience in law enforcement allows me to provide advice on these cases and support students that are facing these challenges.
What are the common challenges international students face in Canada?
Largely, students are being exploited and being taken advantage of in residency cases and as employees. They are also finding themselves not prepared for the education system here and are stuggling, or misled in immigration concerns, which then leads to stress and depression.
How has the Society helped the international students so far?
We have advocated for a student whose salary was being withheld without cause and has been paid by a local company in Surrey after One Voice intervened. We are also supporting students that are feeling overwhelmed by the education demands being placed on them and students that are being extorted for sexual favours in lieu of rent by local landlords.
Do you think education and standard of living in Canada is expensive or manageable as an international student?
In the short time that I have been with the society and the few cases that I have come across, financial adequacy is an issue and does lead to students becoming vulnerable to exploitation. We will track our cases which will allow us to speak more confidently on the issues in the future.
You fought for the right to practice your faith while serving Canada. How would you encourage the young generation/Indian students to take pride in their culture and faith?
A strong identity and commitment to one’s faith is helpful in maintaining a strong sense of purpose and not be drawn into activities and habits that can distract from the objective of securing an education and in turn a promising career.
What is your advice to those who wish to follow your path?
Know yourself, know your history, find strong mentors, establish a principled life and commit to being your very best self every day.