Infobox Ethnic group
group =Indo-Canadians
poptime = 962,665
3.1% of the Canadian population [ [] (Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories - 20% sample data)]
popplace = British Columbia, Lower Mainland, Calgary-Edmonton Corridor, Southern Ontario
langs = Canadian English, Quebec French, Indian languages: Bengali, Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Gujarati, Malayalam
rels = Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, others
related = Asian Indians, Non Resident Indians, Overseas Indian, Tamil Canadians, Pakistani Canadians, Bangladeshi Canadians, Sri Lankan Canadians

Indo-Canadians are Canadians whose origins trace back to the Indian sub-continent, often referred to in this way because the term "Indian" has been used more often to reference the Aboriginals of Canada. The terms "East Indian" and "South Asian" are used to distinguish people of ancestral origin from India, from the people of the Caribbean, who are sometimes referred to as West Indian. Although the latter term remains very much in wide use, the former is mainly prevalent among older Canadians, and increasingly considered old-fashioned, outdated and vaguely xenophobic.

Most Canadians of Indian origin prefer, and many times will refer to themselves as, Indians, rather than "East Indians." This is partially because historically America was mistaken by Columbus as India and native Americans were mistaken by Columbus for Indians and later as West Indians. It is also seen to be a reflection of India's size and stature, as well as its cultural, economic and political position in the world: Indians do not feel that Columbus' ignorance justifies referring to them 'qualified' as "East Indians" more than 500 years later.

However, because the term East Indian is not blatantly pejorative and persists in being widely used by other Canadians, this term is also somewhat acceptable and tolerated by most Indo-Canadians. It is not used in India. Another term, NRI (non-resident Indian), is used by Indians in India to refer to Indians abroad, including Canada.

According to Statistics Canada in 2006, there were 962,665 people who consider themselves as being Indo-Canadians. [ [ Ethnic Origin (247), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census - 20% Sample Data ] ] The main concentration of the Indo-Canadian population is centred in the Greater Toronto Area and the Greater Vancouver Area, however there are growing communities in Calgary, Edmonton, and Montreal. [ [ Little India ] ]


Reasons for moving

The Indo-Canadian community started around the beginning of the twentieth century. The pioneers were men, mostly Sikhs from the Punjab; many were veterans of the British Army. In 1897 a contingent of Sikh soldiers participated in the parade to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in London, England. On their subsequent journey home, they visited the western coast of Canada, primarily British Columbia which at the time was very sparsely populated and the Canadian government wanted to settle in order to prevent a takeover of the territory by the United States.

Upon retiring from the army, some of these men found their pensions to be inadequate, or else their lands in the clutches of money-lenders. They decided to try their fortunes in the countries they had visited. They joined an Indian diaspora, which included people from Burma through Malaysia, the East Indies, the Philippines and China. They were able to get work in the police force and some were employed as night-watchmen by British firms. Others started small businesses of their own or drove taxis. These were modest beginnings but they had bigger ideas. At that time thousands of Chinese and Japanese migrants were going to Canada and the United States and sending substantial sums of money back to their families at home. The Sikhs, who had seen Canada, recommended the "New World" to fellow Sikh people who were in a position to venture out and seek new fortunes. They were guaranteed jobs by agents of big Canadian combines like the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Hudson's Bay Company. Overcoming their initial reluctance to go to these countries due to the treatment of East Asians by the white population, many young men chose to go, having been assured that they would not meet the same fate. They were British subjects; Canada was a part of the British Empire; and the British Empire owed much to the Sikhs. Queen Victoria had proclaimed in 1858 that throughout the empire the people of India that they would enjoy "equal privileges with white people without discrimination of colour, creed or race."

Initial settlement

However, upon arrival to British Columbia, the first Sikh immigrants faced widespread racism by the local white Canadians. Most of the white Canadians feared workers who desired less pay, and that an influx of more immigrants would threaten their jobs. As a result there were a series of race riots that targeted the Sikh immigrants, who were beat up by mobs of angry Canadians. [ explorASIAN - Sikh-Canadian History ] ] These mobs not only targeted Indians, but also other Asian group such as the Chinese immigrants working on the railroad at the time. From the social pressure most decided to return back to India, while a few stayed behind. To support the white Canadian population on the west coast of Canada, who did not want Indians to immigrate to Canada, the Canadian government prevented Indian men from bringing their wives and children until 1919, which was another considerable factor why they decided to leave Canada.

The restrictions by the Canadian government increased on Indians, and policies were put in place in 1907 to prevent Indians who had the right to vote from voting in future general elections. Furthermore, government quotas were established to cap the number of Indians allowed to immigrate to Canada in the early 20th century. This was part of a policy adopted by Canada to ensure that the country retained its primarily European demographic, and was similar to American and Australian immigration policies at the time. These quotas only allowed fewer than 100 people from India a year until 1957, when it was marginally increased (to 300 people a year). In comparison to the quotas established for Indians, people from Europe immigrated freely without quotas in large numbers during that time to Canada, numbering in the tens of thousands yearly.

In 1914, the Komagata Maru a steam liner carrying 376 passengers from Punjab, India (all were British subjects) arrived in Vancouver. Most of the passengers were not allowed to land in Canada and were returned to India. Viewing this as evidence that East Indians were not treated as equals under the British Empire, they staged a peaceful protest upon returning to India. British forces saw this as a threat to their authority, and opened fire on the protestors, killing many. This was one of the most notorious "incidents" in the history of exclusion laws in Canada designed to keep out immigrants of Asian origin.

Recent settlement

Policies changed rapidly during the second half of the 20th century. The Canadian government re-enfranchised the Indo-Canadian community with the right to vote in 1947. In 1967 all immigration quotas based on specific ethnic groups were scrapped in Canada. The social view in Canada towards people of other ethnic backgrounds was more open, and Canada was facing declining immigration from European countries, since these European countries had booming postwar economies, and thus more people decided to remain in their home countries. Canada introduced an immigration policy that was based on a point system, with each applicant being assessed on their trade skills and the need for these skills in Canada. This allowed many more Indians to immigrate in large numbers. In the 1970s, thousands of immigrants came yearly and mainly settled in Vancouver and Toronto. In the 1980s and early 1990s, tens of thousands of immigrants continued to move from India into Canada. According to Statistics Canada, since the late 1990s roughly 25,000-30,000 Indians arrive each year (which is now the second-most populous cultural group immigrating to Canada each year, behind Chinese immigrants who are the largest group). The settlement pattern in the last two decades is still mainly focused around Vancouver, but other cities such as Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal have also become desirable due to growing economic prospects in these cities.

Indians moving to Canada from other countries

Indo-Canadians are from very diverse religious backgrounds compared to many other ethnic groups, which is due in part to India's multi-religious population. Unlike in India however, representation of various minority religious groups is much higher amongst the Indo-Canadian population. For instance in India, Sikhs comprise 2% of the population of India, Hindus 80-82%, Muslims 13.4% and Christians 2.4%. Amongst the Indo-Canadian population however, Sikhs represent 33.5%, Hindus 27%, Muslims 17.5% and Christians 16.5%.

Places of worship

Indians have been building places of worship for their respective faiths since the first settlers arrived to Canada. There are well over 100 Sikh societies/Gurdwaras in Canada alone, and the same number of Hindu societies/temples as well. Hindu temples are usually established by separate Indian ethnic communities. For instance, there are separate temples for North and South Indians, due to different customs and languages spoken. There are also many Islamic societies and mosques throughout Canada, which have been established and supported by Non-Indian and Indian Muslims alike. Most Indian Christians do not have their own specific churches however, instead attending churches established previously by other Christian Canadians.

A renowned Sikh Gurdwara is located in Mississauga, which is called the Dixie Gurdwara. It is a fairly large complex compared to most other Gurdwaras across Canada, and even contains a sports ground behind the Gurdwara for playing kabadi. Similarly within Brampton, the largest Hindu temple in Canada is located on The Gore Road, which is called the Hindu Sabha Mandir. The entire Mandir is convert|32000|sqft|m2|abbr=on and hosts numerous events on the Hindu religious calendar. Many Indian Mulsims along with Muslims of other nationalities worship at one of the largest mosques in Canada, the ISNA Centre, located in Mississauga. The facility contains a mosque, high school, community centre, banquet hall and funeral service available for all Muslim Canadians.


Indo-Canadians speak a variety of languages, reflecting the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Indian subcontinent. The most widely spoken South Asian language is Punjabi, which is spoken by people Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh or Delhi in India. Some speakers of Punjabi in Canada may also be Pakistani and they come from Punjab Province in Pakistan. The next most widely spoken language spoken by South Asians is Tamil. These individuals hail from the state of Tamil Nadu in India, but most speakers in Canada of the Tamil language come from Sri Lanka. Urdu is primarily spoken by Muslim South Asians from North India and Pakistan. Hindi is a language mainly spoken by Indo-Canadians from across North India, however individuals of Indian descent from Africa and the Caribbean may also speak it as well. Gujarati is language spoken exclusively by people from the Indian state of Gujarat. Bengali is spoken by individuals from the state of West Bengal, as well as by the people of Bangladesh, and thus it is not exclusively spoken by Indo-Canadians in Canada, but also by Bangladeshis. Lastly, Malayalam is a language primarily spoken in Kerala and Kannada is primarily spoken in Karnataka..

Indo-Canadian culture

Indo-Canadian culture is closely linked to each specific Indian group's religious and ethnic backgrounds. For instance, Hindu Punjabis cultural practices differ compared to Hindu Gujaratis and Sikh Punjabis due to either the difference in ethnicity or religion. Such cultural aspects have been preserved fairly well due to Canada's open policy of multiculturalism, as opposed to a policy of assimilation practiced by the United States and the United Kingdom.

The cultures and languages of various Indian communities have been able to thrive in part due to the freedom of these communities to establish structures and institutions for religious worship, social interaction and cultural practices. In particular, Punjabi culture and language have been reinforced in Canada through radio and television.

Alternatively, Indo-Canadian culture has developed its own identity compared to other non-resident Indians and from people in India. It is not uncommon to find youth disinterested with traditional Indian cultural elements and events, instead identifying with mainstream North American cultural mores. However such individuals exist in a minority and there are many youth that maintain a balance between western and eastern cultural values, and occasionally fusing the two to produce a new product, such as the new generation of Bhangra incorporating hip hop based rhythm. For instance, Sikh youth often mix in traditional Bhangra, which uses Punjabi instruments with hip hop beats as well as including rap with Black music entertainers. Notable entertainers include Raghav and Jazzy Bains.


Arranged and non-arranged marriageMarriage is an important cultural element amongst many Indo-Canadians, due to their Indian heritage and religious background. [ Indian Dating ] ] Arranged marriage - which is still widely practiced in India - is widely practiced among Indo-Canadians as well, but to a lesser extent. Marriages are sometimes still arranged by parents within their specific caste/Indian ethnic community. Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to find someone of the same Indian ethnic background with the desired characteristics, and thus people now opt to use matrimonial services (including online services) in order to find a marriage partner. Marriage practices amongst Indo-Canadians are more liberal than those of their Indian counterparts, with caste only sometimes considered, and dowry almost non-existent.

Love-based marriage, where the partners choose themselves rather than their parents arranging the marriage, does also occur commonly. Dating is practiced among many Indo-Canadians, but it is not as prevalent compared to other Canadians because some families maintain traditional Indian values.

Cross-cultural and interracial marriage

The phenomenon of cross-cultural and interracial marriage has been present in Canada for some years. However, the Indo-Canadian community engages in such marriages to a much lesser extent than members of most other visible minorities in Canada.

Table of number of biracial (White and other) people for various ethnic groups in Canada [|| Source] "Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2001"

The reason why many South Asians, including Indo-Canadians, do not marry outside their community is due to the presence of strong cultural links and family pressure. It is often unacceptable for even some liberal Indo-Canadians to have their children marry outside their community. Despite these cultural pressures, cross cultural and interracial marriages do exist.

Cross cultural marriages are those that occur between Indo-Canadians and other South Asians which differ in their ethnic background (as in Punjabi or Gujarati), or by religious background. These types of marriages - especially those between different ethnic backgrounds - do occur more often than those between different religions.

Interracial marriages amongst Indo-Canadians mainly occur between a White Canadian and an Indian, and is rarely seen between an Indian and a person of another race such as Black or Asian. [ [ "Indo-Canadian Mixed Marriage," Context and Dilemmas By: Jacqueline A. Gibbons] ] These marriages occurred more so when initial Indians settled in Canada, isolated from Indian culture and community, or when Indo-Canadians live in a community with few other Indians. Notable celebrities of biracial (Indian and White background) are Emanuel Sandhu, Lisa Ray and Shaun Majumder.

Television and radio

There are numerous radio programs that represent Indo-Canadian culture. One notable program is Geetmala radio, hosted by Darshan and Arvinder Sahota (also longtime television hosts of Indo-Canadian program, Eye on Asia).

A number of Canadian television networks broadcast programming that features Indo-Canadian culture. One prominent multicultural/multireligious channel, Vision TV, presents a nonstop marathon of Indo-Canadian shows on Saturdays. These television shows often highlight Indo-Canadian events in Canada, and also show events from India involving Indians who reside there. In addition, other networks such as Omni Television, CityTV and local Cable access channels also present local Indo-Canadian content, and Indian content from India."

In recent years, there has been an establishment of Indian television networks from India on Canadian Television. Shan Chandrasehkhar, an established Indo-Canadian who pioneered the one of the first Indo-Canadian television shows in Canada, made a deal with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to allow Indian television networks based in India to send a direct feed to Canada. In doing so, he branded these channels under his own company known as the Asian Television Network. Since 1997, Indo-Canadians can subscribe to channels from India via purchasing TV channel packages from their local satellite/cable companies. Indo-Canadians view such networks as Zee TV, B4U, Sony Entertainment Television, and Aaj Tak to name a few.

Although Indo-Canadians are privileged to have many television shows and programs available to them to watch, there is a lack of representation of Indo-Canadians on Canadian television as a whole, which is similar to the case of Hispanic Americans on American television. Indo-Canadians make up roughly 3% of the population, yet they are hardly visible on any major Canadian television network shows as characters or even on television commercials compared to other ethnic groups such as Chinese and Black Canadians, who make up a similar percentage of the Canadian population. Indians in the UK on the other hand make up a similar proportion of the population in the UK, but have increased representation on such shows as "East Enders" and "Coronation Street".

Notable Indo-Canadians Past and Present

The Indo-Canadian community has had many members involved in the areas of Entertainment, Academia and most notably Politics in Canada. For a full list of notable Indo-Canadians, past and present see the List of Indo-Canadians page.

Notable Indo-Canadian Entrepreneurs

The Indo-Canadian community has had many members involved in the areas of Entrepreneurs.
*Bob Singh Dhillon, is a Punjabi Indian-Canadian Sikh, property billionaire businessman
*Manjit and Ravinder Minhas, co owners of * [ Minhas Craft Brewery] , born, raised and still living in Calgary, Alberta and the youngest commercial brewery owners in the world. Founded in 1845, * [ Minhas Craft Brewery] is the second oldest and 15th largest Brewery in USA, producing over 100 million cans and bottles of premium ale and lager beers, old fashioned super premium Blumers sodas and the iEnergy Energy drink, These products are sold throughout USA, parts of Canada and exported to countries including Japan
*Harbhajan Singh Brar, is a Punjabi Indian-Canadian Sikh, philanthropist and orchardist in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.For a full list of notable Indo-Canadian Entrepreneurs, past and present see the List of Indo-Canadians page.

Films with Indo-Canadian subject matter

*"Sweet Amerika" [ (IMDb)] (English)
*"Masala (film)" [ (IMDb)] (English)
*"Bollywood/Hollywood" (2002) (English)
*Tum Bin...Love Will Find a Way (2001) [ IMDb] (Hindi)
*Jee Aayan Nu (2003) (Punjabi)
*Asa Nu Mann Watna Da (Punjabi)
*Dus (Hindi)
*Neal 'n' Nikki (English)
*7 to 11, Indian (English)
*Getting Married (English)
*Humko Dewana Kar Gayae (English)
*Arasangam (Tamil)


External links

* [ Statistics Canada chart on Languages spoken at home]
* [ Statistics Canada Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada Information. Detailed Tables of the ones included in the Demographics section of this article.] "Look under East Indian or South Asian in the Tables"
* [ Explorasian - History of Sikh Canadians]
* [ Hindu Temples in Canada]
* [ Little India's publication on Indo-Canadians "The other Indian Americans." Information regarding the cultural and demographic aspects of Indo-Canadians.]
* [ "The Punjabi Hindu Family in Ontario," A Study in Adaptation By: Saroj Chawla]
* ['s Dixie Gurdwara website]
* [ Number and Addresses of Sikh Gurdwaras in Canada]
* [ Hindu Sabha Mandir website]
* [ GaramChai directory information on Indo-Canadian Society] (Yellowpages type listings)
* [ Islamic Society of North America (Canada)'s website]
* [ Asian Television Network]
* [ Indo-Canadian Report with Wojtek Gwiazda - Radio Canada International]
* [ Multicultural Canada website] includes oral histories and Indo-Canadian newspapers

ee also

* List of Indo-Canadians
* Tamil Canadians
* NRI - Non-Resident Indians (Canada section)
* Desi
* Sikhism in Canada
* Hinduism in Canada
* Islam in India
* Christianity in India

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