A breakdown of the International Student Union group

How one Instagram account grew into an influential organization in local student politics

The International Student Union (ISU) is an interntioanl student-based organization. (Submitted)

The International Student Union (ISU) is an interntioanl student-based organization. (Submitted)

The International Student Union (ISU) is a student-based organization founded and headed by Jashan Preet Sidhu, an international student who attended Douglas College. 

The group started as a social media account, and its first post was made on May 19, 2020. Since then it has been regularly active, especially within the Indian international student circles in Metro Vancouver, and their account has over 10,000 followers now.

The organization’s stated goal is to help advocate for international students locally. The ISU is involved in general community volunteer work with different partners, and it organizes social events for students. The group also participated in protests around Vancouver in support of farmers against new farm laws in India. 

They have posted about their work on social media, highlighting their efforts in supporting the community here in British Columbia, as well as India. The ISU built a reputation on that work and has been using its reach to encourage international students to get involved in the student union councils of the different post-secondary institutions. 

Additionally, the ISU also reaches out to international students and encourages them to participate in the annual elections of local post-secondary student associations. A number of student council members at different institutions have associated with the ISU, including former Kwantlen Student Association international student representative and president Gurdial Dhindsa.

This was the case when the KSA election was held this spring. The election, which started on March 15 and ended on March 18, resulted in three of the eight running candidates being disqualified. 

Two of the candidates, Jujhar Inder Singh Sidhu and Ranjot Singh, were endorsed by members of the ISU, and they appeared in Instagram posts made by the group. The KSA Chief Returning Officer ruled that their involvement with the group in sharing and commenting on the posts showed “…evidence of slating for both Ranjot Singh and Jujhar Inder Singh Sidhu.”

Many international students feel like local student associations are unable to provide support and advocacy in the ways they want, which was brought up by candidates during the KSA election campaign. This is why the ISU has been proactive in spreading awareness of the elections in various post-secondary institutions in the lower mainland, particularly at Douglas College and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 

The first post on the ISU Instagram is about promoting the candidates they supported in the election held for the Douglas Student Union (DSU) in 2020. The ISU’s interest in student elections carried over into 2022 as they continued to make posts showcasing events and volunteer work and fundraising drives.

During the KSA election campaign, the ISU posted a video featuring the founder Jashan Preet Sidhu speaking in Punjabi about how much work the group had done for Indian international students in comparison to other candidates. He allegedly went on to say that other candidates that had been running against them had been making empty promises and were mostly driven by their egos.

These statements were made after Harmanpreet Singh, who was running against Ranjot Singh for the Surrey campus rep position, appeared in a social media post where he spoke about the KSA and previous representatives in his campaign video. Jashan also spoke about how students felt that the KSA had not been able to function due to the elected candidates not performing their duties over the past few years.

In the meantime, the ISU was trying to gather support for the other candidates, and there were multiple posts and stories shared on their Instagram account appealing to students to vote for candidates they support, they also released a video with one of the religious committees that operate and look over the functioning of the Sikh Gurdwara Dashmesh Darbar.

There is a large Indian international student population in B.C., and the demographic has been growing for decades. Last year, Statistics Canada reported that 67 per cent of the international post-secondary students in B.C. are from India, and that number has increased thirteen-fold since 2000. 

Many of these students attend post-secondary institutions like KPU, Douglas College, Langara, Capilano, and Simon Fraser University, and the ISU says it aims to advocate for them and bring recognition to issues these students face.