Misinformation Fuels Surge in Food Bank Usage Among International Students in Canada

In London, Ontario, a surge in visits to the local food bank, particularly by international students, has been fueled by a misunderstanding of how Canadian food banks operate, compounded by misleading information circulating on social media. Glen Pearson, co-executive director of the London Food Bank, reported a 43% increase in visits at the beginning of the school year, with a noticeable rise in requests from post-secondary students, many of whom were international students from Fanshawe College.

According to Pearson, the surge in demand was exacerbated by social media posts, including a YouTube video in Malayalam, a language spoken in southern India. The video suggested that Canadian food banks could provide a regular supply of free food, contrary to their intended purpose as emergency resources. Pearson expressed concern about the sudden increase, stating, “It caused some concern as to whether or not we would have enough supply.”

This situation is not unique to London. A food bank in Brampton had to close its doors to international students due to overwhelming demand that the food bank couldn’t meet. The London Food Bank’s experience prompted a response from Fanshawe College administration, leading to an email sent to all students to clarify the proper role of food banks. Once informed, students were apologetic for the misunderstanding.

John Riddell of the Fanshawe Student Union acknowledged the need to counter misinformation circulating among students. He clarified that while there might be a misunderstanding about the purpose of food bank resources, there is a significant number of students in legitimate need of support. Fanshawe College operates a food bank for students called The Sharing Shop, providing grocery gift cards to students in need a few times a year. Referrals can be obtained from campus learning advisers.

Similarly, Western’s University Students’ Council (USC) manages a food bank that offers food hampers to students demonstrating need through an online request form. Bianca Gouveia, vice-president of student services at USC, highlighted the high demand for their services, with nearly 600 hamper requests this year. The USC transitioned from in-person visits to an online request form in September to better handle the increasing number of requests.

Gouveia acknowledged the financial challenges faced by students, stating, “Students are feeling pressure on all fronts for the cost of living.” The surge in food bank usage among students reflects the broader struggles many Canadians, including students, face due to rising costs of essentials such as housing and food.

A combination of rising living costs and misinformation, particularly on social media, has led to a significant increase in international students seeking assistance from food banks in London and other parts of Canada. Efforts by college administrations and student unions to clarify the purpose of food banks have been essential in addressing the issue. While dispelling misinformation, it remains crucial to recognize and address the legitimate needs of students facing financial challenges in Canada.

Indian Parliament Passes Landmark Data Protection Bill

The Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) on Wednesday, August 9th  passed the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill (DPDPB), 2023 by voice vote. The Bill will now become law after President Draupadi Murmu grants her assent.

From hefty penalties ranging from a minimum of ₹50 crore to a maximum of ₹250 crore on social media platforms for violating rules to enabling digital markets to grow more responsibly while safeguarding citizens’ data, the Data Protection Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) on August 7.

In the Upper House, the Bill was presented for passage by Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw.

Industry leaders on Wednesday hailed the passing of the Digital Protection Data Protection (DPDP) Bill 2023 by the Parliament, saying India is rapidly digitising and hence the bill stands as a crucial and long-awaited piece of legislation which upholds an individual’s right to safeguard their digital privacy.

Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, tweeted that he feels deeply privileged at being given an opportunity by Prime Minister Narendra Modi “to help achieve this important step to protect our citizens rights and support innovation economy and governance”.

“My engagement on the issue of privacy started in 2010 and led to me filing a case in the Supreme Court as a petitioner that fought and succeeded in order that Privacy is a fundamental right,” he said.

“More than a decade on, India and Indians under PM Modi have a global standard Digital Personal Data Protection law,” the minister posted.

Union Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw moved the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023 for consideration and passing in the Rajya Sabha after the Lok Sabha had already passed it.

Ruchir Shukla, MD, Safehouse Tech said that the bill is set to establish an international benchmark for data protection frameworks. “While online safety for institutions have been prioritised thus far, this bill will ensure safeguarding individuals in the digital world too,” Shukla said.

The Data Protection Bill will assess penalties based on the nature and severity of the breach, with potential fines of up to ₹250 crore for instances of data breaches, failure to protect personal data, or failure to inform the Board and users of a breach.

The Bill will apply to the processing of digital personal data within India where such data is collected online, or collected offline and is digitised. It will also apply to such processing outside the country, if it is for offering goods or services in India.

Personal data may be processed only for a lawful purpose upon consent of an individual. Consent may not be required for specified legitimate uses such as voluntary sharing of data by the individual or processing by the state for permits, licences, benefits, and services.

Data fiduciaries will be obligated to maintain the accuracy of data, keep data secure, and delete data once its purpose has been met.

The Bill grants certain rights to individuals, including the right to obtain information, seek correction and erasure, and grievance redressal.

The Centre may exempt government agencies from the application of provisions of the Bill in the interest of specified grounds such as security of the state, public order, and prevention of offences.

According to Manish Sehgal, Partner, Risk Advisory, Deloitte India, the Bill will enhance the privacy cognisance of Indian citizens by empowering them with their privacy rights through transformative accountability measures to be adopted by the enterprises. The Bill brings in the much-needed legal framework to foster trust in digital markets. On one hand, it protects the privacy of Indian digital citizens and on the other, it enables digital markets to grow more responsibly.

In the event of a data breach, companies are mandated to promptly inform the Data Protection Board (DPB) and the affected users. Processing data of minors and individuals with guardians must be done only with the consent of guardians, according to the Bill.

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