Mohit Chauhan, 23, was almost at the end of his long hustle. In just a month, he would graduate from Montreal’s Canada College with a diploma in business administration. And then life would be a lot simpler for the student who came to Canada a little more than a year ago.
“He was very hard-working. He knew that things were going to be easier after his graduation. He could stop travelling from Brampton to Montreal every week,” said Davinder Kataria, a former international student who shared a basement apartment with Mr. Chauhan in Brampton, Ont.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, Mr. Chauhan was killed along with four other Indian international students in a collision with a tractor-trailer on Ontario’s Highway 401. Harpreet Singh, 24, Jaspinder Singh, 21, Karanpal Singh, 22 and Pawan Kumar, 22 also died in the crash. Ontario Provincial Police told The Globe and Mail that the vehicle, which was carrying eight people, including the driver, had come to a halt before a tractor-trailer collided with it.
Mr. Chauhan and his fellow travellers found the rideshare, a method of cheap transit, on Kijiji. On Saturday morning, the car stopped in a live lane just west of Belleville, Ont. Police said one of the passengers exited the van, presumably to look under the hood, and was unhurt in the collision. The other two are grievously injured and in hospital. No charges have been laid so far and the case is under investigation.
All five of the deceased were studying at colleges in Montreal. Three, including Mr. Chauhan, were students at Canada College. All five, however, lived in the Greater Toronto Area. The prospect of better job opportunities in the GTA and the presence of a significant Indian diaspora had kept them in Brampton. While managing work and school during much of the pandemic was easier because of remote learning, they had started to make the long commute regularly over the past semester once in-person classes resumed.
Mr. Kataria described his roommate’s weekly routine. He said Mr. Chauhan, who was employed as an assembly-line worker in Brampton, would join a rideshare to Montreal every Wednesday evening. He attended school on Thursday and Friday, then after a night class catch a rideshare back to the GTA. While in Quebec, Mr. Chauhan would share a motel room with a few of his friends that cost them each $15 a night. Once back in the GTA, he would return to his factory job.
“Living this student life takes a lot of hard work, which Mohit was willing to put in,” said Mr. Kataria, who, until his graduation from a Montreal college in 2019, had lived the same life of hustle, shuttling between the two cities every week.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of international students in Canada jumped to 153,360 in 2019-2020, from 60,318 in 2015-2016. Varun Khanna, a member of the Indian Montreal Student Youth Organization, said it is common for Indian international students to live in Brampton and make the weekly commute to Montreal. “Ontario has more jobs than Quebec. And you don’t have to speak French there. Besides, for Indian students, Brampton offers the comfort of community support. Many even have families in the GTA they can lean on when things get rough,” he said.
Five separate GoFundMe campaigns have been set up for the crash victims to help repatriate their bodies back to India. Combined, they have raised a little more than $160,000 as of Friday morning.
A spokesperson for Canada College told news media earlier this week that the students and staff were in a state of shock after the accident. They have offered to help cover the cost of transporting the bodies of Karanpal Singh, Mr. Chauhan and Mr. Kumar, all of whom were students at the institution.
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