Search for "South Asian Canadians"

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Sinhalese Canadians

The Sinhalese are the largest ethnic group of Sri Lanka. Immigration to Canada began in the mid-1950s and increased in the late 1980s. According to the 2016 Canadian census,  7,285 people claimed  Sinhalese ancestry (4,355 single and 2,925 multiple responses). The census reported 152,595 people of Sri Lankan origin in Canada.

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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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Farhan Zaidi

Farhan Zaidi, baseball executive, economist, (born 11 November 1976 in Sudbury, ON). Farhan Zaidi is the president of baseball operations for the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball (MLB). In 2014, he became the first Muslim and first South Asian person to serve as general manager of an American professional sports franchise when he was named GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a role he held until 2018. He also worked for the Oakland Athletics from 2005 to 2014. Zaidi has a degree in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. He was named the MLB Executive of the Year in 2021 after the Giants finished first overall with 107 wins — the most in franchise history.

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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.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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Russell Peters

Russell Dominic Peters, comedian, actor (born September 29, 1970 in Toronto, ON). Russell Peters is one of the most successful comedians in the world. His trademark politically incorrect humour confronts racial stereotypes and draws upon his experience as an Indo-Canadian. His struggles to break through in the United States, combined with his record-breaking success virtually everywhere else, led Chris Rock to call him the “most famous person nobody’s ever heard of.” Peters was named Toronto’s first Global Ambassador in 2008 and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2011. Forbes magazine has listed him among the world’s highest-earning comedians numerous times since 2009.

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Lilly Singh

Lilly Saini Singh, actor, comedian, author, television host (born 26 September 1988 in Scarborough, ON). Internet personality Lilly Singh has amassed nearly 15 million subscribers and more than 3 billion views since launching her popular channel of YouTube videos under the name IISuperwomanII in 2010. She has since appeared as an actor in films and TV series and published the book How To Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life (2017), which topped the New York Times Business Best Sellers list. In 2017, she ranked No. 10 on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid YouTube stars and won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite YouTube Star. In 2019, NBC announced that Singh would be the host of a new late-night talk show premiering in September of that year called A Little Late with Lilly Singh. She is an outspoken mental health and anti-bullying advocate and came out as bisexual in 2019.

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Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Palbinder Kaur Shergill, QC, judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in New Westminster (born in Rurka Kalan, Punjab, India). Shergill spent 26 years practising law before she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was the first turbaned Sikh woman to be appointed as a judge in Canada.

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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. It proved to be a bitter and tragic experience for the passengers, first in an unsuccessful and eventually physical confrontation with officials, police and the military at the Port of Vancouver, and then in a deadly encounter with police and troops near Kolkata on the passengers’ return to India.

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Mahmud Jamal

Mahmud Jamal, Supreme Court of Canada justice, Court of Appeal for Ontario judge, litigation lawyer, author, teacher (born 1967 in Nairobi, Kenya). Mahmud Jamal is the first racialized person and the first South Asian Canadian to be appointed as a justice to the Supreme Court of Canada. A former Fulbright scholar with a background in law and economics, Jamal worked as a litigator with the Toronto firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP before becoming a judge with the Court of Appeal for Ontario. He began serving on the Supreme Court on 1 July 2021.

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Deepa Mehta

Deepa Mehta, OCOOnt, director, producer, screenwriter (born 1 January 1950 in Amritsar, India). Deepa Mehta has received international acclaim for her moving and provocative films, which often explore issues of human rights and social injustice. She is perhaps best known for her epic “Elements trilogy” — Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005). The latter was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Mehta has received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Order of Ontario and Queen’s Jubilee Medal. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for “challenging cultural traditions and bringing stories of oppression, injustice and violence to the fore.”

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Model Minority

The concept of a model minority is a myth and stereotype that was first identified by the discipline of Asian American studies in the 1970s. This academic field of study was developed as a response to the omission and marginalization of Asian Americans in the study of American history. This stereotype depicts Asians as hard working, successful at school and in the workplace, and as economically prosperous. This stereotype has many negative consequences. It divides Asian Canadian communities — which include East Asians, Southeast Asians, South Asians, and Central Asians — and other racialized groups. The model minority myth also overlooks a history of systemic racism towards Canadians of Asian descent and trivializes contemporary problems within Asian Canadian communities. (See also South Asian Canadians; Southeast Asian Canadians; Chinese Canadians; Japanese Canadians.)

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Kim’s Convenience

Kim’s Convenience (2016–21) 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 was 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 won eight Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Comedy Series in 2018. It also gained an international audience that year when it was made available on Netflix.

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Anti-Asian Racism in Canada

Asian communities have been present in Canada since the 18th century. Throughout their long history in Canada, they have been subjected to discrimination and prejudice based on their differences in appearance and culture from the white majority. Racism against Asian Canadians has manifested through discriminatory voting laws, exclusionary immigration policies and forced relocation and internment (see also Right to Vote in Canada; Immigration Policy in Canada). Hate crimes against Asian Canadians are ongoing.

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Dominion Elections Act

The Dominion Elections Act enfranchised many of those who had been disenfranchised during the First World War, such as those originating from countries with which Canada had been at war. However, the Act stated that anyone who was disenfranchised by provincial legislation because of race would remain disenfranchised from the federal vote. This included persons of Chinese origin in Saskatchewan, and those of Indigenous, Chinese, Japanese, and South Asian origins in British Columbia.

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Voting Rights in Canada

The struggle for voting rights is the struggle for human rights. Historically, governments have given the right to vote to the people who they’ve valued the most. Typically, this included only a select few. The majority of the population had to fight for their right to vote — a right that, once earned, could be taken away. 

The story of the right to vote in Canada is complex. Provincial and federal franchise regulations varied widely. This timeline provides an overview of voting rights in Canada.