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South Asian Canadians

Those people referred to as South Asians, Indo-Canadians or East Indians are one of the most diverse ethnocultural populations in Canada. They trace their origins to South Asia, which encompasses India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

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Southeast Asian Canadians

Immigration to Canada by Southeast Asians is relatively recent; most arrived in Canada after 1974. Southeast Asia is located south of China and east of India. It consists of multiethnic nations with common histories, structures and social practices, as well as a cultural system that recognizes ethnic pluralism. Southeast Asia is comprised of 11 countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam.

In the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), more than one million Canadians indicated that they were of Southeast Asian origin. Filipino Canadians were the most numerous (662,600), followed by Vietnamese Canadians (220,425), Cambodians or Khmer (34,340), Laotians (22,090), Indonesians (18,125), Thais (15,080), Malaysians (14,165), Burmese (7,845) and Singaporeans (2,050). Southeast Asians of the Hmong people (an ethnic minority living in the mountains in the south of China, and the north of Vietnam and Laos) have also settled in Canada, as well as several hundred Chinese originally from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos who came to Canada following the “boat people” crisis.

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Racial Segregation of Asian Canadians

The beginning of Chinese immigration to present-day British Columbia in the 1850s sparked a vociferous and sustained opposition from Euro-Canadian residents. This opposition intensified with the arrival of Japanese immigrants in the 1870s and South Asians in the early 1900s. To counter the supposed racial and economic dangers presented by these groups, labour leaders and others in the province successfully lobbied for legal and social restrictions on Asian employment, housing, education and civic participation in the province. These formed the basis for Asian segregation in British Columbia and Canada generally, which continued until the end of Japanese internment and the removal of all Asian voting restrictions in 1949. While it never attained the level of racial separation seen during the US South’s Jim Crow era, Asian segregation from whites in 19th and early 20th century Canada defined many aspects of everyday life in Canada.

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Asian Heritage in Canada

For Canada, Asia does not exist “over there.” It is, has been, and will continue to be, right here, contributing to and shaping our country. Canada’s citizenry includes over 7.5 million people — almost 22 per cent of the population — who were born outside Canada. Recent immigrants to this country are more likely to have come from Asia and the Middle East than from Europe. Chinese ancestry, East Indian ancestry and Filipino ancestry are among the 20 most common ancestries reported by the Canadian population. (Census of Canada, 2016).

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Italian Canadians

Italian Canadians are among the earliest Europeans to have visited and settled the country. The steadiest waves of immigration, however, occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. Italian Canadians have featured prominently in union organization and business associations. In the 2016 census, just under 1.6 million Canadians reported having Italian origins.

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Icelandic Canadians

Icelanders, coming by way of Greenland, were the first European visitors to what is now Canada. The 2016 Canadian census reported 101,795 people with Icelandic ethnic origins, and 1440 people whose mother tongue was Icelandic.

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Indonesian Canadians

Immigration from Indonesia to Canada began after the Second World War. In the wake of the decolonization process, 300,000 “Indos” (Indische Nederlander), persons of mixed Dutch and Asian ancestry, were repatriated to the Netherlands. Some of them decided to continue their journeys, settling in Australia, the United States and Canada. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, political instability also led many Indonesians to immigrate to Canada. According to the 2016 census, 21,395 individuals indicated that they had Indonesian origins. Notable Indonesian Canadians include violin maker Piet Molenaar and Toronto filmmaker Mike Hoolboom.

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Byelorussian Canadians

Byelorussians (Byelarussians, Belarusians) are an eastern Slavic people. From 1922 to 1991 Byelorussia was a constituent republic of the USSR. In the 13th century, Byelorussian lands formed part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

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Finnish Canadians

Between 1835 and 1865, several hundred immigrants from Finland settled in Alaska (which was part of Russia at that time). Many moved down the coast to British Columbia (see Sointula). Some early Finnish immigrants to Ontario worked on the construction of the first Welland Canal, which was completed in 1829. The 2016 census reported 143, 640 people of Finnish origin in Canada (25, 875 single responses and 117, 765 multiple responses).

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Czech Canadians

Canada is home to the third largest Czech diaspora after the United States and Germany. Today, Czech Canadians form an ethnocultural community with a rich history dating back to the 1880s.

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German Canadians

German Canadians — that is, Canadians who report their ethnic origin as solely or partly from Germany or of German ancestry — are one of Canada's largest ethnic categories of European origin. At the time of the British Conquest of New France, nearly 200 families living in the St. Lawrence Valley were of German origin. British North America, and then Canada, would receive six waves of immigration throughout their history, the most recent of which consisted of displaced people at the end of the Second World War. In the 2016 Canadian Census, 3,322,405 Canadians (nearly 10 per cent of the population) reported German origins, and 404,745 people in the country reported German as their mother tongue. A large proportion of these respondents lived in Ontario or central Canada.

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Malaysian Canadians

Malaysian immigration to Canada is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the 2016 census, 16,920 people declared they were of Malaysian origin. Among these Canadians were actor Osric Chau and writer Madeleine Thien.

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Moravian Canadians

Moravians, as commonly used in the English-speaking world, refers to members of the Moravian Church formally known as the Unitas Fratrum (United Brethren).

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Portuguese Canadians

Portuguese explorers were among the first Europeans to lay eyes on what is now Canadian soil. In the 2016 Canadian census, 482, 610 people reported being of Portuguese origin, and 221, 540 people reported having Portuguese as their mother tongue language.

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Polish Canadians

Polish migrants began to arrive in Canada shortly after the First Partition of Poland in the late 1700s. According to the 2016 census, around one million Canadians claim full or partial Polish ancestry, and 191,775 Canadians speak Polish as a mother tongue language.

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Scottish Canadians

Though often considered Anglo-Canadians, the Scots have always regarded themselves as a separate people. The Scots have immigrated to Canada in steady and substantial numbers for over 200 years, with the connection between Scotland and Canada stretching farther — to the 17th century. Scots have been involved in every aspect of Canada's development as explorers, educators, businessmen, politicians, writers and artists. The Scots are among the first Europeans to establish themselves in Canada and are the third largest ethnic group in the country. In the 2016 Census of Canada, a total of 4,799,005 Canadians, or 14 per cent of the population, listed themselves as being of Scottish origin (single and multiple responses).

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Jewish Canadians

Unlike most immigrants to Canada, Jews did not come from a place where they were the majority cultural group. Jews were internationally dispersed at the time of the ancient Roman Empire and after unsuccessful revolts against it lost their sovereignty in their ancient homeland.

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Chinese Canadians

Chinese Canadians are one of the largest ethnic groups in the country. In the 2016 census, 1.8 million people reported being of Chinese origin. Despite their importance to the Canadian economy, including the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), many European Canadians were historically hostile to Chinese immigration. A prohibitive head tax restricted Chinese immigration to Canada from 1885 to 1923. From 1923 to 1947, the Chinese were excluded altogether from immigrating to Canada.

Since 1900, Chinese Canadians have settled primarily in urban areas, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto. They have contributed to every aspect of Canadian society, from literature to sports, politics to civil rights, film to music, business to philanthropy, and education to religion.

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Belgian Canadians

Belgians have contributed significantly to the economic, social and cultural development of Canada despite their relatively small numbers and their dispersion across the country. Originally, the majority of immigrants were Flemings whose settlement concentred in the agricultural regions of Québec, southwestern Ontario and Manitoba. Since 1945, Belgian immigrants have tended to be young, well-educated French-speaking professionals and entrepreneurs who prefer the urban centres, particularly in British Columbia and Alberta.