Surrey gurdwara has spent a small fortune helping return bodies of Punjabi international students who died from drug overdose

A report titled “International Students Are Dying From Overdoses at an Alarming Rate. But BC’s Government Isn’t Tracking the Problem” on Monday by reporter Rumneek Johal of Press Progress ( has come as a rude wake-up call to the South Asian community in B.C.

Mainstream media started following up the story on Tuesday.

Surrey’s Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran President Narinder Singh says that the gurdwara has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars helping return the bodies of Punjabi students who died from a drug overdose to their families in India.

The gurdwara has received power of attorney from families that cannot afford to pay for a funeral or for the body to be flown back to India. Hence, the gurdwara is able to find out the cause of death as it receives the coroner’s report.

Narinder Singh told Johal: “Eighty per cent of the reports we receive, we have noted that 80% of the deaths are drug-related.”

However, the families tell their relatives and friends that their son died of a heart attack or some other cause to preserve their family honour.

Narinder Singh realistically pointed out that there are a host of reasons that students get involved with drugs, including the fact that could have been taking drugs in Punjab before coming here.

The drug problem is a massive issue in Punjab and elsewhere in India as it is all over the world.

In B.C., many foreign students may not be aware of the toxic drug supply that claims so many lives here every month.

Neeraj Walia, Secretary and Operational Head of the Guru Nanak Food Bank, claimed that the government wasn’t releasing data about the deaths of the students because it could deter others from coming to Canada.

He told Johal: “The funeral homes, they can show the numbers. I can say every single week, there are one or two international student deaths that are reported in Surrey. On Monday, we have another funeral for a young man who overdosed.”

Walia bluntly noted that “international students are the number one revenue business for Canada right now.”

The Press Progress report suggests that the government should maintain proper data on the overdose deaths.

Kulpreet Singh, Founder of the South Asian Mental Health Alliance told Johal: “When you look at the Stop Overdose BC campaign, they used to have a campaign when we consulted with them as well, which had Punjabi translations, Punjabi imagery, Punjabi ads. In the last iteration, when the new Minister came in, they removed all of that, and there’s no Punjabi anywhere on the website. It’s all English, there’s no Mandarin, there’s no Indigenous languages.”

He also said that many students are encouraged to take substances to stay alert while working. He added that this was a big problem in the trucking and construction industry.

The Press Progress report comes at a time when Indian students are in high demand all over the world – and that demand is bound to rise in the coming years.

Recent reports on the populations of India and China show that the median age in China is now 40 as compared to 28 in India. India will have 21 per cent of the world’s work force by 2045. Many countries are going out of the way to attract young Indian students and workers.




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