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South Asian Canadians

South Asians trace their origins to South Asia, which encompasses India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Most South Asian Canadians are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from these countries, but immigrants from South Asian communities established during British colonial times also include those from East and South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji and Mauritius. Others come from Britain, the US and Europe. In the 2016 census, 1, 963,330 Canadians reported South Asian origins (1,603,000 single and 360,330 multiple responses).

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Celebrating Asian Heritage in Canada

Many Canadians today see our diverse population as a source of pride and strength — for good reason. More than one in five Canadians were born elsewhere. That is the highest percentage of immigrants in the G7 group of large industrialized nations. Asia (including people born in the Middle East) has provided the greatest number of newcomers in recent years. Since the 1990s, Canadians — who once thought primarily of Europe when they considered events abroad — now define themselves, and the world, differently. As former prime minister Jean Chrétien said: “The Pacific is getting smaller and the Atlantic is becoming wider.”

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Indian Food in Canada

Indian food is a more recent addition to the culinary scene in Canada, having gained prominence primarily in the post-1960s era of immigration. It is characterized mainly by the Northern Indian approach to cuisine, which features breads and warm curries and the use of yogurt and cream in meat-based dishes. But it also bears the influence of South Indian cooking, which frequently plays with the combination of sour and spicy and the use of tamarind and chilies. However, many typical Indo-Canadian dishes, such as kedgeree and some chutneys, are a product of Anglo-Indian cuisine stemming from Britain’s colonial rule of the Indian subcontinent.

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Komagata Maru

The SS Komagata Maru was a chartered ship featured in a dramatic challenge to Canada’s former practice of excluding immigrants from India. This challenge took place in the spring and summer of 1914, on the eve of the First World War.

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Murder of Reena Virk

Reena Virk, a 14-year-old of South Asian origin, was savagely beaten and murdered by teenaged attackers in November 1997 in a suburb of Victoria, British Columbia. The crime horrified Canadians and attracted international media attention because of the brutality of the killing as well as the youth of Virk and those who attacked her. It prompted a national conversation about teenaged bullying and racism, led in part by Virk’s parents, who became anti-bullying campaigners in the wake of their daughter’s murder.

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Canadian Response to the "Boat People" Refugee Crisis

The welcoming and resettlement of many thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia in the late 1970s and early 1980s represents a turning point in the history of immigration in Canada. It was the first time that the Canadian government applied its new program for private sponsorship of refugees — the only one if its kind in the world — through which more than half of the Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees who came to Canada during this period were admitted. In recognition of this unprecedented mobilization of private effort, the people of Canada were awarded the Nansen Medal, an honour bestowed by the United Nations for outstanding service to the cause of refugees. It was the first and remains the only time that the entire people of a country have been collectively honored with this award. But most importantly, this positive, humanitarian response by Canadians reflected a change in their attitude toward refugees. Never before in its history had Canada welcomed so many refugees in so little time.

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Bollywood in Canada

Bollywood, a playful word derived from Hollywood and the city of Bombay, refers specifically to the Hindi-language films produced in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, the city known as the heart of the South Asian film industry.

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Asian Canadian Theatre

Asian Canadian theatre started early in the 20th century with lavish performances of traditional Cantonese operas. Today, Asian Canadian playwrights like Ins Choi address the struggles of everyday life in Canada.

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Kim’s Convenience

Kim’s Convenience is a CBC TV sitcom about a Korean Canadian family that runs a convenience store in Toronto. Based on a 2011 play by Ins Choi, it is the first Canadian comedy series to star a primarily Asian Canadian cast. The acclaimed comedy explores the generational tension between immigrant parents and their Canadian-born children and was inspired by Choi’s experience growing up in a Korean family in Toronto. The show was an instant hit when it premiered on CBC in fall 2016; its first season averaged 933,000 viewers per episode. The series has won eight Canadian Screen Awards, including best comedy in 2018.

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Invasive Species in Canada: Animals

Invasive species are any species that have, primarily with human help, become established in a new ecosystem. While it’s impossible to say exactly how many invasive species are living in Canada, in 2002 researchers estimated that at least 1,442 invasive species — including fish, plants, insects and invertebrates — now live in the country’s farmlands, forests and waterways. The complex environmental impacts of so many invasive species is unknown and, maybe, unknowable. Typically, non-natives are feared for their ability to reproduce much faster than native species and outcompete natives for food, habitat and other resources. Economically, invasive species are estimated to cost Canadians billions of dollars each year in lost revenue from natural resources and impacts on ecosystem services.

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Chinese Head Tax in Canada

The Chinese head tax was enacted to restrict immigration after Chinese labour was no longer needed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Between 1885 and 1923, Chinese immigrants had to pay a head tax to enter Canada. The tax was levied under the Chinese Immigration Act (1885). It was the first legislation in Canadian history to exclude immigration on the basis of ethnic background. With few exceptions, Chinese people had to pay at least $50 to come to Canada. The tax was later raised to $100, then to $500. During the 38 years the tax was in effect, around 82,000 Chinese immigrants paid nearly $23 million in tax. The head tax was removed with the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923. Also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, it banned all Chinese immigrants until its repeal in 1947. In 2006, the federal government apologized for the head tax and its other racist immigration policies targeting Chinese people.

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Filipino Canadians

Immigration to Canada from the Philippines is relatively recent: it began in the 1970s. In the 2016 Census, 837,130 people reported being of Filipino ethnic origin. Filipino Canadians thus constitute the largest group of Southeast Asian Canadians. The Philippines also ranked first as country of birth among people who immigrated to Canada between 2006 and 2016. Filipino Canadians are deeply engaged in Canada’s artistic, cultural, social and political life. In the field of arts and culture, prominent Filipino Canadians include singer Joey Albert, comic- book author J. Torres and playwright C. E. “Chris” Gatchalian. In politics, Conrad Santos was the first Canadian of Filipino origin to be elected to a legislative assembly in Canada (that of Manitoba, in 1981). Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan became the first Filipino Canadian to sit in the House of Commons, in 1988, and Tobias Enverga became the first appointed to the Senate of Canada, in 2012.

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Ethnic Literature

In Canadian English, the term "ethnic" has been used to designate those immigrants who do not belong to Canada's founding European cultures: the Catholic French and the Protestant Anglo-Celtic.

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Colombo Plan

Colombo Plan for Co-operative Economic Development in South and Southeast Asia was established following a Jan 1950 meeting of COMMONWEALTH foreign ministers in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), to attack the poverty upon which communist political movements in Asia were thought to feed.