Home   »   Indian Diaspora in Canada

Indian Diaspora in Canada

Context: A diplomatic stand-off erupted between Canada and India after the Canadian government alleged a “potential link” between the Indian government and the killing of a Khalistan leader in Canada earlier this year.

More on News:

  • The fallout once again brought the Sikh diaspora in Canada under the spotlight.
  • According to the 2021 Canadian census, Sikhs account for 2.1% of the country’s population.
  • Moreover, Canada is home to the largest Sikh population outside India.

History of Sikh Migration to Canada:

The history of Sikh Migration to Canada can be understood under the following subheadings:

  • Sikhs’ Migration Overseas in the Late 19th Century
  • Sikh Arrival in Canada (1897)
  • First Wave of Sikh Migration to Canada (Early 1900s): Labourers in British Columbia and Ontario
  • Early Sikh Immigrants: Small Numbers and Sojourner Mentality

Sikhs’ Migration Overseas in the Late 19th Century:

  • Sikhs began to migrate overseas in the late 19th century as they were involved in the armed services for the British Empire.
  • “Wherever the Empire expanded, especially in the Far EastChina, Singapore, Fiji, and Malaysia—and East Africa, the Sikhs went there.

Sikh Arrival in Canada (1897):

  • Sikhs’ arrival in Canada began with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
  • Kesur Singh, a Risaldar Major in the British India Army (25th Cavalry, Frontier Force), is considered the first Sikh settler to come to the country that year.
  • He was amongst the first group of Sikh soldiers who arrived in Vancouver as part of the Hong Kong Regiment, which included Chinese and Japanese soldiers en route to celebrate the jubilee.

First Wave of Sikh Migration to Canada (Early 1900s):

  • The first wave of Sikh migration to Canada, however, was triggered in the initial years of the 1900s.
  • Most of the migrant Sikhs moved to the country as labourers of logging in British Columbia and manufacturing in Ontario.

Early Sikh Immigrants:

  • The original immigration was small, a little over 5,000, and comprised men looking for overseas employment but not intent on settling.
  • The immigrants were classic sojourners, who intended on staying no more than three to five years to save as much as possible and send remittances home.

Challenges Faced:

Hostility and Racial Prejudice:

  • Although the migrants easily found work, they encountered hostility based on the perception that they were taking away jobs from localities.
  • They also faced racial and cultural prejudices. The situation kept deteriorating as more and more Sikhs arrived in the country.

Stringent Government Regulations: With the mounting public pressure, the Canadian government finally put an end to the Sikh migration by introducing stringent regulations.

  • As per the regulations, it was mandatory for Asian immigrants to possess a “sum of $200, and that they had to arrive in Canada only by means of a continuous journey from their country of origin.
  • As a result, immigration from India into Canada declined drastically after 1908, from 2,500 during 1907-08, to only a few dozen per year, she added.

Komagata Maru (1914):

  • In 1914, a Japanese steamship, known as Komagata Maru, reached the shores of Vancouver.
  • It was carrying 376 South Asian passengers, most of whom were Sikhs.
  • Upon arrival in Canada, the immigrants were detained onboard the ship for about two months, and then escorted out of Canadian waters, sending it back to Asia.
  • When the Komagata Maru arrived in India, disagreement and friction between British authorities and passengers erupted.
  • The British officials suspected the passengers of being revolutionaries, which led to confrontations that resulted in casualties, with 22 people dead, including 16 passengers.

Immigration Policy (Post-WWII):

  • After World War II, Canada’s immigration policy began to relax, driven by several factors.
  • The country found it increasingly challenging to uphold an immigration policy based on racial preferences after joining the United Nations and committing to anti-racial discrimination principles.
  • The country’s growing economy required labourers, leading to a demand for immigrant workers.
  • Additionally, there was a decline in European immigration, prompting Canada to seek human capital from third-world countries.
  • In 1967, the Canadian government introduced the ‘points system’ as a new criteria for admission.
  • This system emphasised skills as the primary criteria for admitting non-dependent relatives, effectively eliminating racial preferences in immigration.

Areas of Cooperation between India and Canada

Trade and Economy
  • India was Canada’s ninth-largest trading partner in 2022.
  • Canadian investment account for about 0.5 per cent of the total FDI inflows into India.
  • India and Canada are discussing Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Bilateral Investment Promotion and Partnership Agreement (BIPPA/FIPA).
Nuclear Cooperation
  • A Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) with Canada was signed in June 2010 and came into force in September 2013.
  • The Appropriate Arrangement (AA) for the NCA was signed in March 2013, under which a Joint Committee on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was constituted.
  • In April 2015, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) signed an agreement for supply of uranium ore concentrate to India in 2015-2020.
Education Sector
  • Education is a key area of collaboration between the two countries.
  • As of 2023, there were 319,130 international students from India enrolled in Canadian institutions.
  • Indians have been the dominant student group in Canada since 2018.
  • The MOU on Cooperation in Higher Education was signed in June 2010, which covers student and faculty exchange, research and curriculum development etc.
S&T and Space
  • ISRO and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) signed two MOUs in the field of exploration and utilisation of outer space in October 1996 and March 2003.
  • ISRO in its 100th Satellite PSLV launched in 2018, also flew the Canadian first LEO satellite.
  • S&T cooperation primarily focused on promoting Industrial R&D.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Information and Communication Technology and Electronics (ICTE) was signed in 2012.
  • Department of Biotechnology under IC-IMPACTS program implements joint research projects in health care, Agri-biotech and waste management.
  • Department of Earth Science and Polar Canada have started a programme for exchange of knowledge and scientific research on Cold Climate (Arctic) Studies.
  • The bilateral MoU on agriculture cooperation was signed at the federal level in 2009. A Joint Working Group has been set up under the MoU.
  • The first meeting of the JWG was held in 2010, which led to the creation of three sub-groups on knowledge exchange in emerging technologies; animal development and agricultural marketing.
  • A Statement of Intent (SoI) on Cooperation between DRDO and Canada’s Defence Research and Development Council was signed in January 2015.
  • An MoU between DRDO and Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) for development of military and defence related technology, infrastructure, training and services was signed in October 2016 which was renewed in 2021.
Security Cooperation
  • The two countries have signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in 1994 (operationalized in 1998) and Extradition Treaty in 1987.
  • The Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism was set up in 1997.
  • The security cooperation was further enhanced with the Framework for Cooperation between India and Canada on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism signed in February 2018.
Cultural Exchanges
  • There is an India – Canada Co-production Agreement in films.
  • Canada Post and India Post joined hands to issue a commemorative stamp in 2020 and 2021.
  • In October 2020, Canada announced the voluntary repatriation of ancient Annapurna statue.
COVID-19 Collaboration
  • As part of the series of shipments of the drugs to various countries, India supplied consignment of five million tablets of HCQ to Canada in May 2020.
  • India offered to make available its production capacities in diagnostic kits, PPEs, pharmaceutical products and vaccines to Canadian companies in collaboration.
  • India and Canada made arrangement to evacuate their respective stranded nationals from each other’s country under Vande Bharat Mission.
  • India exported of 2 million Covishield vaccines to Canada under commercial agreement.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *