South Asian Canadians in Greater Vancouver
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|Ethnicity in Vancouver|
South Asian Canadians in Metro Vancouver form the third-largest ethnic group in the region, comprising 291,005 or 12% of the total population. Sizable South Asian communities exist within the city of Vancouver the adjoining city of Surrey, which houses one of the world's largest South Asian enclaves as well as Delta and Abbotsford.
Most South Asian-Canadians in Greater Vancouver and cities adjacent to it are Punjabi Sikhs. This differs from the overall composition of South Asians in Canada; the 2007 data from Stats Can states "Canadians of South Asian origin are almost equally divided among the Sikh, Hindu and Muslim faith groups"
Canadian-raised Punjabi Sikhs living in the Vancouver area, which comprises the western half of the Lower Mainland region, perceive "Punjabi" and "Sikh" as being the same thing, and therefore they use the two words interchangeably. Hugh Johnston, the author of "The Development of the Punjabi Community in Vancouver since 1961," wrote that "Sikhs are exclusively Punjabi".
- 1 History
- 2 Demographics
- 3 Economy
- 4 Geography
- 5 Institutions
- 6 Language
- 7 Politics
- 8 Culture
- 9 Media
- 10 Education
- 11 Religion
- 12 Recreation
- 13 Crime
- 14 Relations with mainstream society
- 15 Research
- 16 Notable residents
- 17 See also
- 18 References
- 19 Notes
- 20 Further reading
- 21 External links
Margaret Walton-Roberts and Daniel Hiebert, the authors of Immigration, Entrepreneurship, and the Family, wrote that "The history of Indo-Canadian settlement in Vancouver began in the late 19th century".
At the turn of the century the Mayor of Vancouver did not permit cremation, so when the first Sikh died in 1907 he could not be cremated in the Vancouver city limits. Christian missionaries did not permit him to be buried with whites. Even though the missionaries promoted burial, the Sikhs instead cremated the man in a distant wilderness. This prompted Sikhs to establish their own religious institutions.
In 1908 the Canadian Dominion government had a plan to obtain labour for sugar plantations in British Honduras, now Belize, by recruiting Punjabis in Vancouver. The plan was not tested because the Punjabis had already found employment.
In 1914 Sikhs in Vancouver protested after authorities turned away the Komagata Maru and most of its passengers; this vessel carried Sikhs from Punjab who were intending to move to Canada. Shelley Sang-Hee Lee, the author of A New History of Asian America, wrote that the incident had persuaded persons of Indian origin residing on the North American West Coast to oppose discrimination against their ethnic groups.
The system of sponsoring Vancouver-based South Asians sponsoring relatives in India to immigrate to Vancouver began in 1919, when the Canadian government began permitting children and women based in India entry into Canada.
By 1923 Vancouver became the primary cultural, social, and religious centre of British Columbia Indo-Canadians and it had the largest East Indian-origin population of any city in North America. Walton-Roberts and Hiebert stated that until the 1960s the Indo-Canadian community in Vancouver "was relatively small".
In 1961 the immigration patterns of Sikhs arriving to Canada changed, with Ontario becoming a major centre of immigration. Prior to 1961 Vancouver was the sole major point of Sikh immigration to Canada. The first significant non-Sikh immigration occurred post-1947 occurred. Additional immigration of those of Indian background residing in India, Fiji, and England occurred in the late 1960s. Immigration from Fiji continued to occur in the 1969-1979 period. Other groups immigrating from 1969 through 1979 included Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, and Ismaili Muslims and Gujarati Hindus from East Africa. In the period 1971 through 1981 East Indians from South Asia, Fiji, England, East Africa, East Asia, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia arrived in Vancouver. These immigrants included Sikhs and non-Sikhs.
Punjabi Canadians began occupying all areas of Vancouver in the 1960s. In the 1970s Punjabi populations began appearing in Delta, Richmond, and Surrey. Vandalism against houses owned by Indo-Canadians and a Sikh gurdwara occurred in the 1970s, especially in 1974-1975 in Surrey.
71,801 South Asian immigrants moved to Vancouver during the period 1980 to 2001.
Some passengers on board Air India Flight 182, which crashed in 1985, were from Greater Vancouver. The bomb that went on AI182 was first placed on a connecting flight that departed Vancouver. Since then, there have been memorial services held at Stanley Park. The Ceperley Playground at Stanley Park has a memorial listing the names of the passengers.
In 1996 a controversy occurred when Dr. Stephens, a doctor in San Jose, California, put advertisements for sex-selection services which would allow parents to reject female children. The Coalition of Women's Organizations Against Sex Selection, organized by Mahila, a women's group headquartered in Vancouver, criticized Stephens.
In 2006 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stated that there had been attempts to extort and kidnap people in Surrey; the RCMP did not disclose when the attempts occurred and who the targets were. The RCMP stated that businesspersons of Indo-Canadian origins in Surrey need to take precautions. In response, the president of Sikh Alliance Against Violence, Kandola, stated that the warning was too vague and could cause unnecessary panic and confusion.
In August 2008, during a community meeting, the Prime Minister of Canada gave an apology for the Komagata Maru incident in a park, in Surrey. Some members of Canada's Indo-Canadian community argued that he should have apologized in Parliament.
In 2010 Charlie Smith, the editor of The Georgia Straight, criticized area news reports which stated that Indo-Canadians were disproportionately connected to gay bashings; Smith argued that it is not fair to lump all Indo-Canadians together and label them with the same description, citing the ethnic diversity within the community. He also cited the fact that no Indo-Canadian professionals were charged with any such crimes. He added "I doubt there is a single university graduate among the lot."
The 1992 Census stated that in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) there were about 75,000 persons of South Asian origin.
By 2016, this number had grown to 291,005, or 12% of the total population of Metro Vancouver.That year, according to Statistics Canada data, the numbers of visible minority South Asians in Metro Vancouver included 37,130 in Vancouver city, 168,040 in Surrey,</ref> 18,735 in Burnaby, 20,485 in Delta, 14,360 in Richmond, 5,790 in New Westminster, and 6,220 in Coquitlam.
Ethnic and national origins
The majority of the Greater Vancouver Indo-Canadian and East Indian-origin populations is of Sikh Punjabi heritage. As of 1988 the heavy concentration of Punjabis in Vancouver differs from the South Asian populations in Toronto and other central and eastern Canadian cities, as those groups have more balance and diversity in their South Asian linguistic groups. As of 1988, in addition to Punjabis, there are also Gujaratis, Bengalis, and individuals from South India as well as East African Ismailis, and Fijian Indians. Hugh Johnston, author of "The Development of the Punjabi Community in Vancouver since 1961," wrote that "few" Pakistani Punjabis and Pakistanis of other ethnic groups "have any sense of affinity with Punjabis from India."
As of the Statistics Canada 2001 Census there were 163,340 South Asians in the Vancouver region. Of them, 142,060 were classified as East Indian, 11,965 were Punjabi, 5,680 were Pakistani, 4,810 were South Asian, n.i.e., 2,025 were Sri Lankan, 975 were Tamil, 345 were Sinhalese, 290 were Bengali, 265 were Nepali, 225 were Goan, 205 were Gujarati, 60 were Kashmiri, 20 were Bangladeshi.
As of 1981 there were about 25,000 ethnic Punjabis in Vancouver, including about 2,288 Hindus with the remainder being Sikhs. In the period 1980 to 2001, India supplied 75% of the Indo-Canadians who moved to Vancouver. 14% originated from Fiji. Others originated from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In 2001, according to Statistics Canada data on 250,095 immigrants into Vancouver, 12,385 were born in India.
Many Indo-Canadians work as taxi drivers in Vancouver. Other Indo-Canadians have professional jobs and many also own their businesses. They are a community in diverse professions.
James G. Chadney, the author of the 1984 book The Sikhs of Vancouver, stated that "one knowledgeable informant" told him that due to "business purposes" many wealthy Vancouver Sikhs use their company or the name of their spouses to legally list their residences.
During the Indo-Canadian community's early history, many members worked in sawmills within the Vancouver city limits and in areas which would become suburbs in Greater Vancouver. They also opened firewood businesses. Indo-Canadians entered this sector because they were not permitted to enter several other occupations. By 1991 Indo-Canadians continued to be active in the wood business, and Indo-Canadian construction, wood processing, and distribution businesses opened by the 1980s. As of 1998 most of the businesses were located in Vancouver, North Delta, and Surrey. Within Greater Vancouver, about 2,300 men of South Asian heritage each worked in the construction and wood processing areas in 1991, and during the same year there were about 2,000 men of South Asian heritage working in the Greater Vancouver transportation sector.
According to Michael M. Ames and Joy Inglis, authors of "Conflict and Change in British Columbia Sikh Family Life," as of circa 1973-1974, within the Vancouver Lower Mainland area, about 20% of Sikhs are managers and foremen and about 80% work in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs; most of the latter are in the lumber sector. Others were accountants, importers, salespeople, shopkeepers, and truckers. Ames and Inglis stated that they got the supporting data from August 1951-December 1966 marriage records, as well as donor lists, at the Vancouver Khalsa Diwan Society temple.
Indian restaurants in the Punjabi Market and other parts of the Vancouver area serve Punjabi food and other South Asian cuisines. The majority of Indo-Canadian restaurants focus on the cuisine of northern India. Fodors wrote that Vij's, a restaurant established by Vikram Vij that prepared South Asian food with Canadian ingredients and produce, "shook up the Vancouver food scene" in the 1990s when it first opened. There are also many Indian restaurants in Surrey. In 2013 Alexandra Gill of The Globe and Mail wrote that in regards to area food critics the Indian restaurant scene was "a largely unknown dining landscape."
Other businesses operated by the South Asians, as of 1988, included automobile dealerships, contractors, insurance agencies, jewellers, real estate agencies, sari shops, sweet shops, and travel agencies.
In 1970 there were no specialized South Asian movie theatres in the Vancouver area; five of them appeared by 1977, and there was one more by 1980.
As of circa 2009 Southeast Vancouver has the primary concentration of the city's Indo-Canadians. The Sunset community in Vancouver includes an Indo-Canadian population. Many recent immigrants settled the Southern Slope area by the 1970s. The Punjabi Market, an Indo-Canadian business district, is focussed on the intersection of 49th Avenue and Main Street. By 2013 the numbers of businesses in the Punjabi Market had declined as Indo-Canadians moved to suburban areas. Punjabi language street signs are visible in neighborhoods that have large numbers of Indo-Canadians. In 1980 southern Vancouver had the primary concentration of the city Indo-Canadians due to the proximity of the gurdwara and the lumber mills.
As of 2013, Indo-Canadians make up about 30% of the population of Surrey, and they are the largest visible minority group in the city. This was an increase from about 25% circa 2010. As of 2012, of all of the Canadian municipalities, Surrey had the second-highest concentration of South Asians. Surrey includes a shopping center catering to Indo-Canadians and two Sikh temples. Pang Guek-Cheng, the author of Culture Shock! Vancouver, wrote that "Surrey[...]is to [Indo-Canadians] what Richmond is to the Chinese." Most persons of South Asian origins in Surrey are Indo-Canadians, or have Canadian citizenship. By 2009 Judy Villeneuve, a member of the Surrey City Council, stated that the main developers of Surrey were the Indo-Canadians. By 2009 the City of Surrey had posted job advertisements in the Indo-Canadian Times.
Newton, an area in Surrey, has a concentration of Indo-Canadians. A City of Surrey fact sheet stated that those of South Asian origin made up 62.1% of the immigrants in Newton; the total number of immigrants made up over 40% of Newton's population. By 2013 the city government was planning to establish a new "Little India" in Newton. In addition to Newton, Indo-Canadians also live in Cloverdale, South Surrey, and other areas of Surrey.
In the 1970s there was no particular residential concentration of Sikhs in the Vancouver Lower Mainland. However by the late 1970s and into the early 1980s two concentrations developed: South Vancouver and Burnaby. In the 1980s Indo-Canadians were located throughout Greater Vancouver and not only in Southern Vancouver. As of circa 1988, within Greater Vancouver, about 66% of Indo-Canadians lived in Vancouver city while about 33% lived in Surrey, Richmond, and other suburban cities.
In 1988 Hugh Johnston wrote that "Vancouver's South Asian community was an unweildy entity without a great sense of common purpose" even before the 1984 assault at Amritsar, and that because of the Khalistan-related tensions there was no "effective umbrella organization" in existence. The National Organization of Canadians of Origins (NACOI) in India, founded in 1977, had a British Columbia chapter, but Shiromani Akali Dal Sikhs chose not to take part, and Khalsa Diwan Society extremist Sikhs hijacked the British Columbia chapter in 1985. The promotion of the multicultural policies in Canada in the mid-20th century also caused additional organizations, including those funded by governments and private entities, to be founded.
Integration, Immigrant, Employment, and Health Associations
In 1947 the East Indian Canadian Citizens' Welfare Association (EICCWA) or the Canadian East Indian Welfare Association opened. It was officially not a part of any gurdwara. Members originated from both the Khalsa Diwan Society (KDS), a Sikh society which historically had de facto dominance in the organization; affiliates of the KDS; and the Akali Singh Society. The organization began taking political functions from the KDS. By 1961 it was the primary Vancouver-area organization representing Indo-Canadian interests. The organization avoided publicity to reduce chances of negative public attention while it promoted quotas for Indo-Canadian politicians. Hugh Johnson wrote that "resentment" sometimes resulted from the KDS's dominance. Dusenbery wrote that the organization, by taking the entire East Indian community into its scope, promoted the idea that "there exists a distinct "East Indian" ethno-cultural group sharing unique interests and activities" and therefore "implicitly accepted the Canadian view of social reality". Prior to the 1977 formation of the NACOI it was the sole pan-South Asian organization in Vancouver.
The Multilingual Orientation Service Association for Immigrant Communities (MOSAIC) serves newly arrived immigrants in the city of Vancouver and also is involved with social concerns. The organization Options serves immigrants, particularly adults, by providing referrals and resources; it is headquartered in Surrey. New immigrants in the Surrey and also Delta, particularly adults, receive services from the Surrey-Delta Immigrant Services Society.
A senior centre for Sikh persons in Surrey opened on November 29, 1994.
Issues related to employment and labour are handled by the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS), which serves Vancouver and Surrey.
The Rainbow Project, an organization involved in health-related matters, is based in Surrey.
Ethnic and national organizations
As of 1988 there is no specific Punjabi ethnic organization in Greater Vancouver while there are dedicated ethnic organizations for the Bengalis, East Africans, Gujaratis, and South Indians. The Gujarati association became a Gujarati Hindu organization exclusively even though Hindus, Ismailis, and Parsis had worked to establish the organization; the post-1974 growth of Ismailis caused the focus of the organization to change.
As of 1988 there are about 700-800 members of the Pakistan Canada Association in Greater Vancouver, with most of them being ethnic Punjabi. English and Urdu are the organization's primary languages. The Pakistan Canada Association Centre serves as the hub of activity. The association organized in 1963, had about 200 members in the Vancouver area in 1983.
The youth committee Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey established "Sikh Skillz," an Indo-Canadian arts organization that originally had a focus on music but later branched into television.
According to 1987 Statistics Canada figures, 20,835 persons in the Vancouver area stated that they spoke Punjabi as a native language. In 1991, 38,225 people in the Vancouver area had Punjabi as their mother language, making it the region's third most common mother language, after English and Chinese.
As of 2005 Punjabi was approximately the third to fourth most common mother language. As of 1991 fewer than 50% of those who natively spoke Punjabi in the Vancouver area lived in Surrey. Of the Punjabi speakers in Canada, most are located in the Vancouver and Toronto areas (predominantly Surrey and Brampton).
Due to the use of Punjabi by the Indo-Canadian community, City of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Canadian federal institutions in Vancouver have literature and office signage using the Gurmukhi script.
Politics in Vancouver
Until the 1960s Sikh religious organizations were the primary political interest groups of the Indo-Canadian community in the Vancouver region.
In 1973 Dr. Venkatachala Setty Pendakur, an Indo-Canadian, was the first visible minority elected to the Vancouver City Council. He served one term, which ended in 1974. He was defeated in his re-election campaign that year, and in 1985 there were no Indo-Canadians who had any elected positions in area municipal governments.
Irene Bloemraad, author of "Diversity and Elected Officials in the City of Vancouver," stated that the at-large voting system used by Vancouver makes it difficult to elect women and minorities, and that the council's majority White demographics were "probably" influenced by the original rationale of the at-large system, to "keep those with social democratic ideologies out of politics". The ward system was abolished in 1935. Charlie Smith of The Georgia Straight wrote in 2004 that from 1990 to 2004 there had been difficulty in having Indo-Canadians elected to City of Vancouver municipal positions. That year, the President of the Ross Street Sikh Temple, Jarnail Singh Bhandal, advocated for a ward voting system in the City of Vancouver so that Indo-Canadians and other ethnic minorities have more of a chance to be elected. During a 2004 failed election proposal to reinstitute the ward system in the City of Vancouver, the area with the highest concentration of Indo-Canadians mostly voted in favor of reestablishing it. In 2008 Kashmir Dhaliwal, a candidate for the Vision Vancouver council, stated that he had plans to legally challenge the at-will voting system. Dr. Lakhbir Singh, a candidate for the Vancouver School Board, criticized the at-large voting system, saying that it discriminates against Indo-Canadians and that he would join the legal challenge. Smith accused the voting community of Vancouver city of racism, saying that racism results in a lack of votes for South Asian candidates.
Politics in Surrey
In 2014 Barinder Rasode campaigned to be the Mayor of Surrey. Kalwinder "Kal" Dosanjh, a former Vancouver Police Department officer, joined One Surrey, Rasode's political party, and campaigned to be a member of the Surrey city council in 2014.
Kristin R. Good, the author of Municipalities and Multiculturalism: The Politics of Immigration in Toronto and Vancouver, stated in 2009 that Surrey's Indo-Canadian community was politically fragmented, including along religious lines.
In October 2014 a series of political campaign signs in Surrey showing South Asian candidates were vandalized. Signs belonging to Surrey First and SafeSurrey Coalition, two political parties, were defaced, with only names of Indo-Canadian candidates crossed out. Tom Gill accused racists of defacing the signs.
Politics in other cities
Kamala Elizabeth Nayar, the author of The Punjabis in British Columbia: Location, Labour, First Nations, and Multiculturalism, wrote that compared to Indo-Canadian people who were born and raised in the Lower Mainland, Indo-Canadians born in Canada whose ancestors settled in rural areas of British Columbia, and who themselves live in Vancouver, "tended to assess Canada's policy of multiculturalism more critically".
Nayar stated that third-generation Punjabis who have lived in Vancouver their whole lives have a positive opinion of multiculturalism while those who live in Vancouver but have lived outside of Vancouver before have ambivalence about it: they argue that multiculturalism can divide people while it can also protect culture.
Nayar uses the term "Punjabi Bubble" to refer to a common effect of Punjabis only associating with other Punjabis. This occurs in Greater Vancouver. Nayar stated that "The Vancouver Sikh community is more insulated from the mainstream" compared to small town British Columbia Sikhs.
An anonymous interviewee of Nayar, a woman in the third generation, stated "In Vancouver, there is pressure to live strictly according to the precepts in comparison to other places like in California." She referred to the practice of Sikhism.
As of 1988 many residents of rural Punjab, including children, women, and dependent older persons, were arriving in Vancouver due to the sponsorship of relatives. Relations among clans and the home village ancestry are major factors within the Vancouver Sikh community. Margaret Walton-Roberts, the author of "Embodied Global Flows: Immigration and Transnational Networks between British Columbia, Canada, and Punjab, India," wrote that there is a specific "spatial relationship" between the Greater Vancouver region and Doaba, a region of Punjab, to the point where Punjabi villagers recite the specific locations of their Canadian relatives.
Sher Vancouver, an Indo-Canadian LGBT support group, was founded in April 2008 by Alex Sangha, a resident of North Delta and a former resident of Surrey. Sher Vancouver has opposed antigay laws in India. The organization showcases South Asian LGBT culture in its Out and Proud Project.
The Vancouver Indo-Canadian community practices Bhangra dance and Bhangra music. In the 1960s and 1970s immigrants from the Punjab used Bhangra, as did 1980s area labour movements. Bhangra dancers and DJs both perform in the city. In 2014 Gurpreet Sian, an instructor at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) School for the Contemporary Arts, described Metro Vancouver as "the capital of bhangra outside of India" which has "the best bhangra dancers, schools and the best teams."
The City of Bhangra Festival is celebrated annually, involving Bhangra teams originating from throughout North America. Held in both Surrey and Vancouver and lasting for about ten days, it is hosted by the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society (VIBC). The Museum of Vancouver put on a temporary exhibit about Bhangra, Bhangra.me: Vancouver’s Bhangra Story, from May 5, 2011 to October 23, 2011. guest curator Naveen Girn and curator of contemporary issues Vivian Gosselin, received the Canadian Museums Association's Award for Excellence. As of 2014 SFU is the only North American university that offers bhangra as a course for university credit. Sian, who also serves as the executive director of South Asian arts, as of 2014 serves as the class's instructor.
There is a variety of Indo-Canadian newspapers and magazines serving Greater Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. As of 1985 most of these publications were in Punjabi, while some were printed in English and Hindi. As of 2009, of all of the major ethnic categories in Vancouver the South Asians had the highest number of media products.
The Indo-Canadian Times is a Punjabi-language weekly and is one of the country's largest. The Indo-Canadian Voice is an online English-language newspaper published by Rattan Mall, serving the Indo-Canadian community but also covering a wide range of British Columbia and other news. Mall had been a reporter for the Times of India from 1979 to 1990, for the Vancouver Sun in 1994, and The Province in 1996, and was an associate producer what CFMT-TV (now Omni) in Toronto in 1999 and 2000. Also of note are Apna Roots: South Asian Connection, which publishes in English, and Punjab di Awaaz/Voice of Punjab, which publishes in Punjabi. In 1985 other publications included Canadian Darpan, Link, Overseas Times, Ranjeet, and Sikh Samajar. As of 1996 gurdwaras and establishments in the Punjabi Market distribute Punjabi newspapers.
The Circular-i-Azadi began publication in 1906-1907. This made it the city's first Punjabi newspaper. As of 1971 there was a quarterly publication and a monthly publication, both in English, catering to South Asians.
A South Asian paper in New York established a subsidiary publication in Vancouver during the 1970s.
In 1980 there were three Punjabi newspapers published in Vancouver. Four Punjabi papers in the Vancouver area were established in the period 1972 to 1980. As of 1980 there were no newspapers published in other Indo-Pakistani languages in Greater Vancouver.
A Punjabi journalist established a new paper[clarification needed], published every two weeks (one fortnight) in Vancouver, in 1972. The Anglophone publication included South Asian-related news in Canada and news related to India. This paper's target audience included all South Asian groups.
The Sach Di Awaaz is a weekly newspaper headquartered in Surrey. As of 2011 Mickey Gill is the newspaper's publisher.
In 1971 the only South Asian-catered radio services included a one and one half hour radio program on Sunday morning and a one-hour program on Friday, both on the same radio station. As of 1985 CFRO and one other area radio station broadcast programs in Punjabi and Hindi.
The first fully Indo-Canadian radio station, Rim Jhim, was established in 1987. The founder, Shushma Datt, was born in Kenya and had previously worked in the BBC's London bureau. As of 2004 Rim Jhim's listeners are East Indians, particularly second-generation women. Rim Jhim caters to persons of all religious backgrounds and its programming discusses gender, health, and social concerns. Tristin Hopper of the National Post wrote that Datt was "widely acknowledged as the godmother of Indo-Canadian broadcasting in Canada."
As of 2004 the area had five radio stations broadcasting material in Punjabi: Rim Jhim, Gurbani Radio, Punjab Radio, Radio India, and Radio Punjabi Akashwani. All of them had talk show components and four of them played music from Bollywood films and other classical and religious music from South Asia. Datt started an AM radio station in 2005; she had attempted to create an AM radio station for 20 years. By 2014 it had gained its current name, Spice Radio.
As of 2004 first and second generation Indo-Canadians are the audience of Gurbani Radio, which is pro-Khalistan. Gurbani Radio does not broadcast music, and it includes talk shows focusing on Sikh religious and religio-political matters.
Punjab Radio's clientele consisted of many first and second generation Indo-Canadians. Its programming discussed political, religious, and social concerns as well as Punjabi culture.
As of that year Radio India also has a clientele of first and second generation Indo-Canadians. Its shows discuss the culture, politics, and religion of India. Radio India's headquarters are in Surrey.
Radio Punjabi Akashwani's main audience was first and second generation Indo-Canadians. Its programming discussed political, religious, and social concerns and Punjabi culture.
As of 2014 several "pirate radio" stations with transmitters in northern Washington state in the United States served the Indo-Canadian community in Greater Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. These stations, all of which had programming mostly in Punjabi, were Radio India; Radio Punjab Ltd., also headquartered in Surrey; and Sher-E-Punjab Radio Broadcasting Inc., headquartered in Richmond. These stations did not get licences from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and so they avoided paying copyright tariffs and licence fees and complying with rules regarding the station's content. Radio stations on the Canadian side had complained about the US-based pirates, saying that they unfairly received funds from advertising.
The CRTC decided to act against the pirate stations in 2014, after they had operated for years. Radio India initially stated that it had political connections; Managing director Maninder Gill had mailed photographs of himself socializing with Canadian politicians. In a presentation in October of that year Maninder Gill said that the station was going to be shut down and asked the CRTC to give him 120 days to make the shutdown; he mentioned the connections to politicians in the same presentation. The CRTC ultimately decided that the deadline to close Radio India was Midnight Pacific time on November 14, 2014. The CRTC guaranteed the closure of Radio Punjab and Sher-E-Punjab by getting compliance agreements. The details of these agreements were not disclosed to the public.
Channel Punjabi programs are broadcast in the Vancouver area.
Sikh Skillz produces "Onkar TV," which is the only English-language Sikh television show made in Canada. In 2013 its third season began.
In 1985 there was a Vancouver area cable television station that screened movies from India.
Dedar Sihota, who immigrated to Canada in 1936 and was educated at the University of British Columbia, was the first Indo-Canadian teacher in British Columbia. He began working at Renfrew Elementary School in Vancouver. He worked at Lord Tweedsmuir Senior Secondary School, going from teacher to vice principal. He then became a principal, working at three elementary schools. He retired in 1986.
As of 1982 the Vancouver School Board's (VSB) elementary and primary schools had 2,086 Punjabi native speakers, 526 Hindi native speakers, 123 Gujarati native speakers, 17 Urdu native speakers, and 134 native speakers of other Indo-Pakistani languages. Hugh Johnston wrote that some of the students who indicated Hindi was their primary language may have been ethnic Punjabis. As of 1973, the public schools Southern Slope area of Vancouver had the highest concentration of East Indians.
As of 2008 about 1,000 Surrey Schools students were enrolled in Punjabi classes. Other Greater Vancouver school districts offering Punjabi classes included the VSB and the Richmond School District. British Columbia schools began offering Punjabi education in 1996. As of 1985 none of the school districts in Greater Vancouver offered any classes in Indian languages as part of their standard curricula; British Columbia school systems began offering Punjabi language classes in their 5th grade through 12th grade standard curricula in 1996.
By 1993 the VSB had hired Punjabi-speaking home-school employees, and there were after-school Punjabi classes held on VSB campuses.
Circa 1989 a research team took a sample of opinions of 135 Indo-Canadian parents at the VSB. The team determined that over 85% of the sample size expressed a belief that the school system respected the identity of their children. The remainder believed that the system did not respect the identity of their children or were not sure about the question. The study was done in regards to the VSB's race relations policies.
The Vancouver Khalsa School, which opened in 1986, is a K-10 day school. It offers Punjabi language classes and Sikh religious instruction, along with standard British Columbia curriculum. Newton Campus, which opened in 1992, is in Surrey. The Old Yale Road Campus, also in Surrey, opened in 2008. The school began leasing from the VSB after a 2009 fire destroyed the school's original site. In 2012 the VSB stated that it was not going to renew the school's lease. In 2013 the Vancouver Khalsa School had 200 students in Preschool-Grade 7. That year, the VSB stated that the B.C. Khalsa School was going to have to vacate South Hill Education Centre site.
In 2008 Sikh Academy opened a private day school program for grades PreK-7. The campus is in Surrey.
The University of British Columbia (UBC) offers Punjabi classes. This is the oldest Punjabi language education program in British Columbia. Kwantlen Polytechnic University also offers Punjabi classes.
As of 1985 several area institutions offer education in the Indian languages to area children: in addition to the Khalsa School, institutions that offered Punjabi language instruction included the Heritage Language School, which was held on Saturdays within the campus of a Vancouver high school, and several Sikh temples in Vancouver, Surrey, and New Westminster.
A survey conducted in 1980 selected random households from a Vancouver Sikh gurdwara; 602 households were documented. According to the survey, there was no spoken English fluency in 37% of people who arrived between 1961 and 1974 and 42% of people who arrived between 1975 and 1980. The same survey concluded that 65% of the male household heads and almost 80% of the wives of these household heads, while in India, had no education after ages 16 or 17. In other words they never had tertiary education.
The 1992 Census stated that about 65% of the persons of South Asian origin in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area were Sikh. In addition, 20% were Hindu, and 15% belonged to other religions. The other religious groups included Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Muslims, and Zoroastrian Parsis. Ismailis were among the Muslims.
Verne A. Dusenbery, author of "Canadian Ideology and Public Policy: The Impact on Vancouver Sikh Ethnic and Religious Adaptation," wrote in 1981 that the Sikh community in Vancouver was Canada's "most influential", oldest, and largest. As of the 2001 Statistics Canada there were 99,005 Sikhs in Greater Vancouver. By 2003 the Sikhs became the largest non-Christian group in the metropolitan area. Most South Asians in Surrey, as of 2001, are Sikhs.
Until the 1960s Sikh religious organizations were the primary political interest groups of the Indo-Canadian community in the Vancouver region, and Sikh gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in Vancouver were the city's only community centres for the Indo-Canadians until the 1960s. This meant that the gurdwaras at the time also gave social outlets to Punjabi Hindus and other South Asians. By 1981, gurdwaras mainly filled religious purposes. Many major gurdwaras in Greater Vancouver were initially established in isolated areas, but these areas over time became urbanized. In 1988 Hugh Johnston, author of "The Development of the Punjabi Community in Vancouver since 1961," wrote that in regards to the city's Punjabi community, "being Punjabi is coming to mean, exclusively, being Sikh", and that "it seems likely that Punjabi culture" in Vancouver would be exclusively "an aspect of Sikh identity" and exclude Hindus, who disagreed on the Khalistan issue.
In the past, Hindus went to Sikh gurdwaras because they lacked their own Hindu temples. Historically there were ten times the number of Punjabi Sikhs compared to Punjabi Hindus.
In 1972 Indo-Fijian Canadians established the first Hindu temple in Vancouver. Around the 1970s Punjabi Hindus began having fewer interactions with Sikhs, and in general became more distant from Punjabi Sikhs, as they established their own Hindu religious organizations. This occurred as the Indo-Canadian community increased with more and more immigration. As of 1981 Vancouver had 6,865 Hindus, about one third of them ethnic Punjabis. As of 1988 there was no specific Punjabi Hindu organization in Greater Vancouver. Because the Gujarati society morphed into a Gujarati Hindu society, Gujarati Hindus had religious and social functions from both the Vishva Hindu Parishad, the primary Hindu temple in Vancouver, and from their ethnic society.
As of 1988 the primary Hindu temple in the area was the Vishva Hindu Prasad, which in 1982 had about 500 members who paid dues. In 1974 Vishva Hindu Prasad received its own building, a former community centre for an adjacent church. The temple building has a kitchen in the basement and the temple on the primary floor. Its worshipers include South Indians, Bengalis, Gujaratis, and Punjabis. Its primary language is Hindi; Hugh Johnston stated that this "has been an obstacle for the South Indians". The first head priest was an East African Punjabi who was of the Brahman caste and a part of Arya Samaj. A South Indian Vedantist priest began participating in 1981 after the first priest did not participate in a ceremony to install idols and, after a political struggle, resigned.
As of 1988 the B.C. Muslim Association has a majority Fijian membership. The Pakistan Canada Association, according to Hugh Johnson, "have played a leading role in its affairs." By 1983 there was a mosque and community centre in Richmond and a mosque in Surrey controlled by this organization. The primary language used in the mosque is English. In addition to Indian Fijians and Punjabis, Arabs and other non-South Asian ethnic groups are a part of the mosque.
Originally Muslims participated in Sikh gurdwaras. After 1947 Indo-Canadian Muslims continued having a relationship with Sikhs but began referring to themselves as "Pakistanis" due to the Partition of India. The B.C. Muslim Association was established in 1966. Around the 1970s Punjabi Muslims began having fewer interactions with Sikhs, and in general became more distant from Punjabi Sikhs, as they established their own Muslim religious organizations. The movement of South Asian professionals of Pakistani national origins from other Canadian provinces into Vancouver caused existing Punjabi Muslims to move further away from Punjabi Sikhs. Immigration from several countries, including Fiji and Middle Eastern countries, increased the Indo-Canadian Sunni Muslim population. Several South Asian groups, including Indo-Fijians, together established one of the Vancouver area's first permanent mosques. There were 8,000 Muslims that were a part of the B.C. Muslim Association in 1983.
As of 1997 there are eight Punjabi Christian churches in Greater Vancouver. In February 2014 the Punjabi Masihi Church had about 300 worshipers, most of them of South Asian origins. It was the first ever Punjabi Christian church to be established. Most of its services are held in English, while some are also in Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. It originally operated in an annex of the Delta Pentecostal Church in Delta. Construction on its standalone congregational building in Surrey began in 2008; initially, 9,500 square feet (880 m2), it was scheduled to open in March of that year and there are further plans to build additions until the building has a total of 13,000 square feet (1,200 m2).
Sikhs, Hindus, and Jains in the Vancouver area celebrate Diwali. Events related to Diwali are held in Vancouver and Surrey, including DiwaliFest, which was established in 2004 as "Vancouver Celebrates Diwali". Within the Lower Mainland region DiwaliFest is one of the largest such events.
The Vaisakhi parade, which takes place in Vancouver and Surrey every year, is the largest outside of India. The British Columbian government recognized the parade in 1995. As of 2013, the annual number of visitors for the Vancouver Vaisakhi is over 150,000. The Surrey Vaisakhi Parade set a record of 350,000 visitors in 2016.
Several South Asian organizations, including religious and regional-based groups, manage celebrations and cultural events.
The Indo-Canadian Tournaments Association and the United Summer Soccer League, under the United Summer Soccer Association, manage Indo-Canadian-oriented youth soccer. The association stated that each tournament-playing team of girls under 14 and boys under the ages of 13 or 14 may have up to four "imports" or non-Indo-Canadian players, while other teams may have up to two "imports". One parent of a team banned from the league for having too many "imports" criticized the practice in 2012.
Bindy Johal was a prominent figure in the organized crime world. As a result of the gang wars, over 100 men of South Asian origins were murdered in a period from the mid-1990s until 2012. Between 1992 and 2002 at least 50 people died. Greater Vancouver had a peak in gang violence in the mid-2000s. The Indo-Canadian males involved in the gangs often originated from affluent families. In 2002 Scott Driemel of the Vancouver Police Department had requested cooperation from the Indo-Canadian community; until that point there had been little cooperation between Indo-Canadians and the city police.
One gang originally was active at the Sunset Community Centre had the name Sunset Boys. This gang morphed into the Independent Soldiers (IS). The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation stated that IS "brought together Indo-Canadian gangsters in southeast Vancouver" around 2001.
Baljit Sangra directed the 2008 film Warrior Boyz which documents Indo-Canadian gangs in Greater Vancouver. This film had its premiere at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver. This documentary is a production of the National Film Board of Canada. The documentary A Warrior's Religion, directed by Mani Amar, is also about Indo-Canadian gangs in Vancouver. It was screened in Surrey.
R. K. Pruthi, author of Sikhism And Indian Civilization, wrote that Vancouver was the centre of the Khalistan movement's militant activities in Canada but that the movement did not only conduct militant activities in Vancouver.
Relations with mainstream society
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In the period 1905 to 1914, the Vancouver Daily World and Vancouver Province both negatively portrayed the South Asian immigrants. Doreen M. Indra, author of "South Asian Stereotypes in the Vancouver Press," wrote that the newspapers' view was that South Asians were "intrinsically dirty and unsanitary" people who were "both physically and morally polluting."
By the 1920s and 1930s, the newspapers still maintained a belief that, as stated by Indra, the South Asians had "negative cultural practices" and "deviant behavior", but the papers did not have a large amount of focus and did not put importance on the idea of South Asians being a social issue, partly because South Asians, who had received the right to have family members come to Canada, did not start outright activism during that period. In addition, there were only a small number of South Asians, and the media perceived India as being distant from Canada.
In 1979 Indra wrote that despite the increase in political influence and immigration of South Asians, and despite an increase in "normal" news coverage of South Asian celebrities, the mainstream newspapers continued to characterize South Asians as being outside of mainstream Canadian society and that the papers continued to associate South Asians with deviancy. Indra added that the Vancouver Sun had more positive news coverage of other ethnic groups.
James Gaylord Chadney wrote the 1984 book The Sikhs of Vancouver, which is based on a late 1970s study of how the Sikh community of Vancouver retained its familial and social aspects and changed its economic character as it became a part of the wider Canadian community. Kamala Elizabeth Nayar wrote The Sikh Diaspora in Vancouver, which studied the development of the Sikh community in Vancouver. Nayar also wrote The Punjabis in British Columbia: Location, Labour, First Nations, and Multiculturalism.
- Balwant Singh Atwal (priest of the Second Avenue Sikh Temple) - Vancouver
- Ranj Dhaliwal (novelist) - Surrey
- Ujjal Dosanjh (former Premier of British Columbia) - Vancouver
- Dave Hayer - Surrey
- Tara Singh Hayer - Surrey
- Khursheed Nurali (Sheerazi) - Pakistani film Playback Singer
- Kash Heed (politician)
- Irshad Manji (writer, of East African Indian heritage) - Richmond
- Harjit Sajjan (politician)
- Renée Sarojini Saklikar (poet) - Raised in New Westminster, lives in Vancouver,
- Teja Singh (professor and creator of the Guru Nanak Mining and Trust Company) - Vancouver
- Daljit Thind (CEO of Thind Holdings Ltd.) - Vancouver
- Indo-Canadians in Toronto
- Demographics of Vancouver
- Indo-Canadians in British Columbia
- Khalistan movement#Sikh diaspora in Canada
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- Johnston, Hugh, p. 16.
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- Johnston, Hugh, p. 13.
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- Chadney, The Sikhs of Vancouver (1984), p. 53. "In the same vein, many prosperous Vancouver Sikhs have their residence legally listed in the name of their spouse or company they own. One knowledgeable informant indicated that this was rather common practice "for business purposes". It cannot be stated with certainty that these[....]"
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- Nayar, The Sikh Diaspora in Vancouver, p. 201: "In contrast to Sikhs in Vancouver, which has a large Sikh community, [sic] Sikhs in small towns throughout British Columbia interact far more with other communities." and "The Vancouver Sikh community is more insulated from the mainstream and is networked according to village and clan ties (partic-[...]"
- Nayar, The Sikh Diaspora in Vancouver, p. 22. "When cited in this study, the interviewees are identified by a code for the sake confidentiality. The codes reflect both gender and generation: male interviewees are referred to as Singh, whereas female interviewees are labelled as Kaur; the three generations are marked by the number of the generation (i.e., 1, 2, or 3),"
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