Toronto student’s death hits nerve with foreign students
ADRIAN MORROW AND JOSH WINGROVE
Globe and Mail Update
Published Friday, Apr. 22, 2011 9:37PM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Apr. 23, 2011 1:43PM EDT
In September of last year, Liu Qian’s parents bid their 23-year-old daughter farewell, and she set off on a 10,000-kilometre journey to attend university in Canada. This week, they made the same trip to retrieve her body, after she was killed in a horrific incident partly witnessed on a webcam by her long-time boyfriend.
Over 200,000 international students, about a quarter of them from China, study in Canada every year, sought after by postsecondary institutions eager to tap their brainpower and expand with the help of their tuition dollars.
Ms. Liu was just such a student: The daughter of a successful academic, she already held a degree from a private university in her home country, and hoped to improve her English skills and attend a Canadian graduate school.
The story of her death has been told around the world, including in broadcasts on Chinese television, hitting a nerve among other parents with children overseas.
“My mom called and told me about it,” said Deng Aojie, 20, a second-year business student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “She wanted to let me know when I walk home very late, I need to pay a lot of attention.”
Ms. Liu, an only child, studied at Beijing City College and hoped to earn a master’s in media, applying to universities in Toronto and Windsor. Her grandmother tried to talk her out of it, telling her Canada was too far away, but Ms. Liu was determined to go. It would be easier, she said, to find work.
Ms. Liu enrolled in an English program at York University and settled into the Village, a neighbourhood south of campus where large, cookie-cutter red-brick homes are divided into eight or nine suites and rented to students. Her sweet personality earned her new friends.
In January of this year, she moved to another apartment in the area.
She was chatting with her boyfriend in Beijing, Meng Xiaochao, when a man knocked at her door around 1 a.m. last Friday. He asked for a hug, Ms. Liu turned him down and the two struggled, Mr. Meng said.
The man shut her laptop and her boyfriend sprang into action, sending messages to friends in Canada. They found Ms. Liu dead hours later.
In China, her family reacted with disbelief. The reality sank in when they tried to contact her.
“We were praying for the possibility that the victim was a different person with the same name,” said her father, Liu Jianhui, research director of Communist Party history at the school that trains party officials. “Soon, we found that we could no longer reach my daughter.”
There was no sign of trauma on her body, and the cause of death has not been determined. But police decided within days they had enough to charge Brian Dickson with first-degree murder.
A 29-year-old with a chiselled jaw and reddish hair, Mr. Dickson spent a decade at York without earning his undergraduate degree. A perennial dabbler, he had been involved in the school’s model NATO club, briefly served on the student union, appeared in small-time theatre productions and worked for several months at a think tank. His lawyer said he would plead not guilty.
Late Thursday morning, Ms. Liu’s parents met with Toronto police Chief Bill Blair at downtown headquarters before officers took them to the nearby coroner’s office to formally identify their daughter’s body. As they waited this weekend to learn when they could bring her home, others who have come from China to study took stock.
Rachel Zhao, a 19-year-old life sciences student at the University of Toronto, said she would be more cautious when finding a place to live next year. “I got the phone number of the Chinese embassy, just in case,” she said.
Lena Lu’s parents, meanwhile, phoned to check in on her.
“My parents said Canada is not a safe country,” said the first-year U of T commerce student, who emphasized that the incident wouldn’t have prevented her from coming.
Administration at York did not respond to requests for comment on the subject. Officials elsewhere acknowledged the effect of such a high-profile case on parents overseas, but said Canada’s safety record should overcome those fears.
“We need international students who bring international knowledge and culture to our classrooms,” said Cen Huang, the University of Alberta’s director of International Relations and Recruitment. “I would say this is probably one of the very, very unfortunate cases, but it’s not a common case in Canada.”
With reports from Tim Alamenciak and Associated Press
Posted by CIReport.ca
on Apr 23, 2011 | 0 comments