Indo-Canadians in British Columbia
The first Indo-Canadians in British Columbia were mostly persons who originated from Hoshiarpur and Jullundur, two communities in the Punjab region of the British Raj, in modern-day India. Many Punjabis originally settled in rural Canada at the turn of the twentieth century, working in sawmills and the agricultural sector. As their numbers grew anti-"Hindu" sentiment increased among the Whites living in the province and they were prevented from voting beginning in 1908. Originally Indo-Canadian settlement was predominately male; large numbers of women and children began arriving in the 1940s. Around that time the Indo-Canadians were given the right to vote, and therefore they began to enter British Columbia political life. In the later half of the 20th Century many Indo-Canadians transitioned into living in urban areas as the economic vitality of the sawmill industry, and therefore the vitality of their rural British Columbia communities, declined.
Beginning of Indo-Canadian settlement
The first persons of Punjabi Sikh origin to visit British Columbia were soldiers transiting from India to the United Kingdom. They went through in 1897 and 1902, the former during the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and the latter when Edward VII was crowned as king. The Punjabis who did not stay in Canada returned home and spread the word about life in Canada. Additional British Indians, soldiers stationed in East Asia, including Hong Kong and Shanghai, traveled after the Boxer Rebellion period. Many of them arrived in Canada.
Margaret Walton-Roberts, the author of "Three Readings of the Turban: Sikh Identity in Greater Vancouver," stated that "By 1900 there might have been around 100 South Asians, mostly Sikhs, in the Lower Mainland" while citing I. M. Muthanna, the author of People of India in North America. The first group of East Indians, most of whom were male Sikh Punjabis, who moved to British Columbia wished to find jobs. They were the first South Asian-origin group to move to Canada. The year of the first arrival of Sikhs was recorded as 1904. G.H. Lowes, who wrote a PhD thesis on the Indo-Canadians of British Columbia, stated that the first Sikhs arrived in 1904. The first Indo-Canadians to settle in Canada had originated from the Chinese cities of Guangzhou (Canton), Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Brij Lal, the author of the master's thesis East Indians in British Columbia, 1904 – 1914: An Historical Study in Growth and Integration, wrote that the Indians who had participated in the Diamond Jubilee and Chinese both had given positive information regarding Canada, convincing Indians in China to immigrate to Canada.
Hoshiarpur, Punjab was the area were the largest groups of initial immigrants originated from. Jullundur was the second largest point of origin. The other three major points of origin were Amritsar, Ferozpur, and Ludhiana. The vast majority came from the Doaba and Malwa areas while relatively few came from Majha and some emigrated from the United States and other areas in the British Commonwealth. In 1976 Michael M. Ames and Joy Inglis, the authors of "Tradition and Change in British Columbia Sikh Family Life," wrote that in British Columbia differentiation between Doaba and Malwa-originating persons "continues to be somewhat of an issue" there even though it "has apparently decreased in importance in the Punjab".
William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Deputy Minister of Labour, concluded that, as paraphrased by Lal, "exploitative ventures of some East Indian immigration agents in British Columbia" and "misleading literature by certain individuals" were the primary reasons why persons of Indian origin immigrated to Canada to be the most important causes of Indian immigration to Canada; King had been tasked to discover why persons of Indian origin were immigrating to Canada. Lal wrote that the report did not take into account "push factors" that convinced people to leave Punjab, including the promotion of social mobility and a lack of stratification in Sikhism as well as a lack of stigma against migration. In the 1800s peasants in Jullunder became tenants and went into debt after losing control of their land due to the concept of private property and cash taxation established during British colonization. Rising debts persuaded many peasants to immigrate from Jullunder and Hoshiarpur.
Initial expansion and backlash
At the turn of the 20th century new restrictions on Chinese immigrants caused their immigration figures to decline. Steamship lines began recruiting persons of Indian origin to make up for the loss of business from the Chinese. There was a job shortage in the agricultural sector, and the Fraser River Canners' Association and the Kootchang Fruit Growers' Association asked the Canadian government to abolish immigration restrictions on persons working as domestic servants and agricultural workers and to allow increased immigration. Letters from persons settling in Canada gave persons still in India encouragement to move to Canada, and there was an advertising campaign to promote British Columbia as an immigration destination. A large increase in Indo-Canadian settlement occurred around July–November 1906, and 5,000 persons from East India arrived in Canada in a period between June 1906 to December 1907. Many immigrants initially settled rural areas, and there they worked in Canada's forestry industry. Some of the South Asians who came to British Columbia did not stay there, but instead went onwards to the United States. As of 1908 there were about 5,000 persons of Indian origin in Canada.
Anti-Indo-Canadian sentiment among the White population increased as the numbers of Indo-Canadians increased. The persons already in British Columbia had already felt anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese sentiment, which had been responsible for 1907 riots investigated by the Canadian government. Rajani Kant Das, the author of Hindustani Workers on the Pacific Coast wrote that the addition of the South Asians "renewed" that "hostile feeling". The whites stated that the increase in Indo-Canadians was depressing wages, and the employment situation became a job shortage. Trade unions and the Victoria Trade and Labour Council protested the immigration influx. The authorities acted due to pressure from white persons; the federal government instituted immigration restrictions against persons of Indian origin. The Indo-Canadians opposed a 1908–1909 attempt by British authorities to move those in British Columbia to British Honduras, modern day Belize.
In 1908 the British Columbia government passed a law preventing persons of Indian origins from voting. Because eligibility for federal elections originated from provincial voting lists, persons of Indian origins were unable to vote in federal elections. Restrictions were placed despite the British government's concerns that anti-British sentiment would grow back in India, and that anti-British forces would take advantage of these sentiments. In addition the Canadian government had enacted a $200 head tax and de facto blocked significant immigration from Inda by establishing a rule requiring immigrants to take a continuous journey from their country of origin to Canada. At the time there was no continuous route between India and Canada. There were also measures that prevented wives and children of Indians already resident in Canada from going to Canada. Beginning in 1909 the annual numbers of Indians immigration to Canada did not go above 80 and this did not change until the mid-20th century immigration reforms.
Early-to-mid 20th century
Throughout much of the community's history it was mostly made up of men due to restrictions on the importation of difficulties in bringing women and children. This era was referred to as the "bunkhouse life", as the men were unable to establish families.
The Komagata Maru Incident, involving a ship with Punjabis being denied entry into British Columbia, occurred in 1914.
The Paldi mill colony was established by Punjabi immigrants who had invested in the Mayo Lumber Company in 1916.
In 1919 the Canadian government passed the ban against immigration of wives and children of Indians already in Canada. The British Indian authorities had pressured the Canadian government to lift the ban.
In the post-World War I period about half of the Punjabis in British Columbia moved to India because they were unable to find work. Many Punjabis left during the Great Depression in the 1930s after additional sawmills closed. Many remaining Punjabis were employed at sawmills, particularly those operated by Punjabis, and logging camps. The Canadian authorities passed additional immigration restrictions in the 1930s.
Mid-to-late 20th century and 21st century
After the independence of India in 1947 and the beginning of regulation of immigration from India in 1951 the numbers of women and children increased. This was the first significant immigration from India to Canada since the restrictions were passed in 1908. Persons of South Asian origin in BC were given the right to vote in 1947. The Canadian government adopted new immigration rules in 1962, ending the quota-by-country system. The Immigration Act of 1967 established a new point system for determining immigration eligibility. By the 1960s Indo-Canadians who came after 1947 outnumbered those who came before 1947 (with most of the latter group coming before 1920).
An increase in the forestry and fishing sectors lead to Punjabi persons moving to the Skeena Country in the 1960s and 1970s. Once the fishery and forestry industries downturned, Indo-Canadians began moving to urban areas. In the mid-1990s the number of jobs in forestry decreased and the British Columbia forest sector collapsed in 2000-2003.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, convicted of being involved in the Air India Flight 182 bombing, was a resident of Duncan. The "Duncan Blast", a test explosion, occurred outside of Duncan, on June 4, 1985. Reyat was present at the test explosion. The bomb that went on AI182 was first placed on a connecting flight that departed Vancouver.
From January 1992 through March of the same year, 7,121 Indian immigrants settled in British Columbia. The number of Indian immigrants to British Columbia at that time made up around 25% of all Indian immigration to Canada. Indian immigration was 9.9% of the total immigration to British Columbia, making India the third most common origin of immigrants to the province. The figure for British Columbia included 4,582 Indians who moved to Greater Vancouver, making up over half of the total Indian immigration to British Columbia.
As of the 2010s there has been ongoing controversy regarding the proposed deportation of Surjit Bhandal. Her nephew, Jasminder Bhandal of Victoria, is attempting to keep her in Canada. The woman lived in Langford.
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. Victoria became another centre of Indo-Canadian business activity and members of the ethnic group also settled Coombs, Duncan, Fraser Mills, New Westminster, and Ocean Falls. As of 1923 rural areas that received Indo-Canadian settlement included those in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.
The Vancouver Metropolitan Area, including Surrey, has a concentration of East Indian people. As of the Statistics Canada 2001 Census there were 163,340 Indo-Canadians in the Vancouver region. In 2006 Vancouver city had 32,515 South Asian visible minorities, and 33,415 persons indicated they had South Asian ancestry. That year, Surrey had 107,810 South Asian visible minorities, and 107,435 people claimed South Asian ancestry.
The Abbotsford metropolitan area, in the Fraser Valley Regional District, has Canada's highest proportion of Indo-Canadians. In 2006 Abbotsford City had 23,355 South Asian visible minorities, and 23,615 persons indicated they had South Asian ethnic ancestry. As of November 2009 Punjabi Sikhs were the majority group within the Indo-Canadian population in Abbotsford, and the city also had small numbers of Indo-Canadian Hindus, Ismailis, other Muslims, and Christians. 96% of the Indo-Canadians in Abbotsford were Punjabi at that time, and Punjabis originated from Doaba, Majha, Malwa, and other regions. As of 2006-2009 the Punjabi language was spoken by 39.3% of Abbotsford households, making it the second most-commonly spoken language at home after English.
Indo-Canadian settlement of Abbotsford began in 1905, and the existing residents of the community initially had a positive reception to the Indo-Canadians. The MSA Museum Society stated that only a few of the existing residents had anti-Indo-Canadian feelings and that "most of the community" had "not only tolerated but welcomed" the Indo-Canadians. Around 1911 the largest employer of Abbotsford Sikh people was the Tretheway family, the owner of the Abbotsford Lumber Company. The Hartnell Lumber Mill, which provided residential quarters, also employed large numbers of Indo-Canadians. In addition Indo-Canadians in Abbotsford worked in berry farms and in area businesses. The first permanent gurdwara and Canada's oldest still-standing gurdwara, the Gur Sikh Temple, was built in 1911 with lumber donated from the Trethewey family and opened on February 25, 1912. Prior to the construction of the gurdwara, Indo-Canadian Sikhs held services at a house in Maple Grove. The MSA Museum stated that according to the memory of Abbotsford resident Margaret Weir, the first Indo-Canadian baby in Abbotsford was born in 1912. Additional members of the ethnic group first arrived in the 1920s.
As of 2006 persons of Indian origin were immigrating to Abbotsford, and therefore maintaining the city's Indo-Canadian presence. At the same time many members of Abbotsford's Indo-Canadian community were in their third and fourth generations.
There were 6,075 residents of Abbotsford who had Indian origins in 1991. In 2001 73% of Abbotsford's visible minorities were Indo-Canadian, and about 15% of the city's total population was Indo-Canadian. In 2006 72.5% of the city's visible minority population was Indo-Canadian. From 2001 to 2006 the Indo-Canadian population percentage rose by 7%, up to 18%. The percentage of immigrants coming from India to Abbotsford increased by 20% within a five year span ending around 2009.
There has been an Indo-Canadian population in the Okanagan region, including Kelowna. The Okanagan Sikh community began at the turn of the 20th century and increased in size in the 1960s and 1970s. As of 1984 the Okanagan region had about 600 Sikh families. In 2006 Kelowna had 1,870 South Asian visible minority residents. That year, 1,985 persons indicated that they had South Asian ethnic origins. Indo-Canadian Sikhs in the Okanagan area had worked in the lumber industry.
As of the 1980s most of the population had originated from rural India, and almost all Okanagan male Sikhs had job experience in the area sawmills. As of the 1980s some Okanagan Sikhs had interacted with urban India prior to moving to Canada. Annamma Joy, in the 1975 PhD thesis Accommodation and Cultural Persistence: The Case of the Sikhs and Portuguese in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, a study of the Sikh population of the Okanagan, surveyed 40 Sikhs and concluded that most Sikhs in the Okanagan originated from rural areas in Jullunder and Hoshiarpur; those who had attained university education had done so in other Punjabi towns.
Sikh Indo-Canadian women worked as fruit pickers on farms and in the domestic sector, including kitchen workers and maids. As of the 1980s, within the Okanagan Valley male Sikh persons were more likely to have a command of English than female Sikhs, and 85% of the males stated that they were not comfortable using the English language.
Prince Rupert, within the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District, had 535 South Asian visible minorities in 2006. That year, there were 550 people claiming South Asian origins in Prince Rupert. According to an account, the Prince Rupert Indo-Canadian community had about 30-40 adult males and about four extended families in the early 1970s. Initially Prince Rupert did not have its own gurdwara. The Indo-Canadian Association, established in 1972, bought a gurdwara facility for $38,000. The association, on June 16, 1974, was renamed the Indo-Canadian Sikh Association. Nayar wrote that the Indo-Canadian population of the Skeenas prioritize economic success and employment, education, and English proficiency "in contrast to Punjabis in large urban centres" and that "Punjabis from the Skeena region generally dislike" the "Punjabi Bubble" that involves few interactions with non-Punjabis, awareness of intra-Punjab geography, and physical segregation from non-Punjabis. The Skeena Punjabis interact with both White Canadians and First Nations.
Duncan in the Cowichan Valley Regional District had 40 South Asian visible minorities in 2006, and that year Duncan had 35 persons indicate that they had South Asian ancestry. Mayo Singh founded the town of Paldi on Vancouver Island, naming it after Paldi, Hoshiarpur, Punjab, and accordingly this town included an Indo-Canadian community. The gurdwara opened in 1917. In 2012 the gurdwara was for sale. In 1973-1974 Paldi was the only Sikh enclave of any kind in all of Canada.
In 2014 Ken Harar of the Abbotsford News wrote that Mission "has always had a vibrant Indo-Canadian community". This community was active since the early 1900s. An Indo-Canadian volleyball team, "Mission Sikhs", played in the area. In 1950, Naranjan Grewall became the first Indo-Canadian elected to public office when he took a position in Mission City's government as a Commissioner, and in 1954, was elected as the Chairman. In 2006 2,220 South Asian visible minorities resided in Mission, making up 63.2% of the city's visible minorities, and 2,180 persons in Mission claimed South Asian ancestry, making up 3.8% of the total persons in the city.
As of 1997 the largest immigrant group arriving in Prince George, in the Fraser-Fort George Regional District, are the Indo-Canadians. In 2006, within Prince George, 1,785 persons were South Asian visible minorities and 1,880 persons claimed South Asian ethnic ancestry. In 1997, 11.7% of the immigrants in Prince George were Indo-Canadians who had arrived in the years 1986-1991.
Victoria, within the Capital Regional District, had 1,015 South Asian visible minorities in 2006. 1,105 persons stated that they had South Asian origins. Officials of the India-Canada Cultural Association of Victoria (ICCA) stated in 2013 that the Victoria area had about 5,000 families with Indian descent.
As of the Statistics Canada 2001 Census there were 210,420 Indo-Canadians in British Columbia. In terms of ethnic origins, of BC's Indo-Canadians, 183,650 were East Indian, 16,565 were Punjabi, 6,270 were Pakistani, 6,160 were South Asian, n.i.e., 2,295 were Sri Lankan, 1,185 were Tamil, 560 were Bangladeshi, 450 were Sinhalese, 305 were Nepali, 295 were Bengali, 250 were Goan, 205 were Gujarati, and 55 were Kashmiri. As of the same census, a total of 163,340 Indo-Canadians lived in the Vancouver region.
According to the 1971 Canadian Census, British Columbia had 18,795 residents of East Indian origins; the number of non-Sikhs had increased since the late 1960s. Ames and Inglis stated that since the census had no separate category for Punjabi Sikhs, no accurate figure for them existed; the Sikh temples in New Westminster and Vancouver estimated that British Columbia had about 15,000-20,000 Sikhs with most living in the southwest of the province. Michael M. Ames and Joy Inglis, authors of "Conflict and Change in British Columbia Sikh Family Life," wrote in the 1973-1974 article that there was an estimate of over 7,000 persons of "East Indian" ancestry of British Columbia, with half of them residing in Metro Vancouver, if one used immigration figures as a basis. Ames and Inglis stated that "As late as 1966 about 80 per cent of the East Indians in British Columbia were said to be Sikh" and that "knowledgeable informants" estimated that of the Sikhs, 90% were Jat people. Ames and Ingles also stated "No accurate figures are available for the number of Punjab Sikhs presently residing in British Columbia." The authors stated that in the years up to 1973-1974 there had been an increase in immigration of persons of East Indian origin who were not Sikhs.
A 1982 survey of farm workers in British Columbia by the Abbotsford-Matsqui Community Services organization stated that many of the Punjabi farm workers in British Columbia were illiterate even in Punjabi. The survey had chronicled 270 Punjabi-speaking and French-speaking farm workers.
As of the 1992 Statistics Canada census, up to 67,495 people in British Columbia natively spoke Punjabi.
The initial Sikh Indo-Canadian population primarily worked in laborer trades, with about 75% of the total population working in the forestry industry as of 1967. Indo-Canadians worked in Okanagan Valley fruit farms and Fraser Valley dairy farms. Some Indo-Canadians also established retail operations and commercial fishing operations.
Seasonal outdoor jobs such as field-hand work, road work, railway gang work, fruit picking, and clearing lots had a slightly higher pay compared to indoor work, and the focus was on making higher wages instead of stable and long term employment, so many of the very first Punjabis to come to British Columbia took these jobs. They transitioned into sawmill work because it had better pay. Many Indo-Canadians in the pre-1947 era had few choices for jobs, because South Asians until that year were unable to get the right of franchise, or the right to vote in British Columbian provincial elections. Several jobs required having that right and therefore persons of Indian descent were not eligible to apply for them. Therefore jobs in the education and legal sectors were not available. In addition many private sector, municipal, and public service jobs were also barred from being held by East Indian persons. Government contract work was unavailable for those of Indian descent.
In British Columbia the agricultural and forestry sectors have significant numbers of Indo-Canadians. Since the beginning of immigration from South Asia, Indo-Canadians in British Columbia, have been involved in the wood-related sectors. Punjabis were the majority ethnic group ethnic group within the sawmill workforce by 1907, as many Anglo Canadians had disinterest in being sawmill workers. Nayar wrote that "In effect, the Punjabi male immigrant living in British Columbia became equated with manual sawmill labour." The Punjabis were associated with sawmill work even though there were also East Asians in the sawmills. Some Punjabi sawmills and farms were leased by collective shares. Punjabi-owned sawmills became a places where Punjabis could get skilled labour, or alternatively, find employment. By 1923 Indo-Canadian-owned sawmills included the Bharat Lumber Company in Vancouver, the Virginia Lumber Company in Coombs, the Mayo Lumber Company and Tansor Lumber Company in Duncan, and the Eastern Lumber Company in Ladysmith. By that year Indo-Canadians also worked in sawmills in Vancouver, Fraser Mills, New Westminster, and Victoria that were owned by non-Indo-Canadians.
1960s through the modern era
In the 1960s Punjabis continued to be a part of the sawmill business. As of 1973, very few Sikh women worked, so most of the employed were men. Most women who worked did so at government agencies since there was a belief private businesses would discriminate against them: the jobs women often held were clerical and office positions. Many men worked at logging camps and sawmills.
As of circa 1987 about 9,600 farm workers in the Fraser Valley/Lower Mainland region were immigrants of Punjabi origin, making up 80% of that region's farm workers. By the 1970s these farm workers operated under a contracting system which involved the contractors transporting their charges and taking cuts from their charges' paychecks. Illegal and legal immigrants often had little English fluency and knowledge of Canadian employment customs, and some of them were also illiterate. The contractors themselves were also Punjabi East Indians. The nature of piece-rate work system, which pays by product instead of using a salary, made these workers dependent on contractors, since they required the advance loans the contractors offer them, and they became dependent on these loans.
East Indian farm workers often discussed their issues with family and friends and at meetings at gurdwaras, and this was a factor in establishing farm worker rights associations.
Canada's first Indo-Canadian owned travel agency was Bains International Travel Service, established in Victoria by Kuldeep Singh Bains. Members of Bains's family established branch businesses in British Columbia. The original company closed around 2002, shortly after receiving an award for being open for 50 years.
The East Indian Canadian Citizens' Welfare Association (EICCWA), which politically represented Indo-Canadians of all religious backgrounds, was founded in the 1950s. It had absorbed some functions of the Khalsa Diwan Society (KDS).
The Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association represents Indo-Canadian businesses in the Abbotsford area. It was established in 1987.
The Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society of Prince George, founded by Baljit Sethi, serves Indo-Canadian communities in the northern part of the province.
As of circa 2015 the Abbotsford Police Department has an Indo-Canadian Teen Support Group and a Multicultural School Based Prevention crime preventing group focusing on Indo-Canadian students at Abbotsford schools. The department also offers a Punjabi-language "Parent of Teen Group" for Indo-Canadian parents. In addition the Abbotsford Addictions Centre, in conjunction with the police department, offers an Info-Canadian support group available in English, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu.
Kuldeep Singh Bains, an Indo-Canadian in Victoria who originated from Mahilpur, Punjab and moved to Canada in 1938, engaged in political activism in the 1940s and 1950s. Bains joined the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) and advocated for pay equality between Indo-Canadian and Caucasian sawmill workers. He advocated for the Indo-Canadian vote in the 1940s. One decade later he protested against immigration laws that did not favor Indo-Canadians in the early 1950s by contacting the Canadian Ministry of Immigration.
In 1941 Naranjan Singh Grewall moved from Toronto to Mission City. Grewal was elected to the Board of Commissioners of the Corporation of the Village of Mission City in 1950 with a large percentage of the vote, thus becoming the first Indo-Canadian elected to political office in British Columbia and, it is believed, in all of North America. He was re-elected in 1952 and elevated by his fellow commissioners to Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the village in 1954. A millwright and union official, and known as a sportsman and philanthropist as well as a lumberman, he eventually owned six sawmills and was active in community affairs serving on the boards or as chairman of a variety of organizations, and was instrumental in helping create Mission's municipal tree farm. A humanitarian with strong pro-labour beliefs despite his role as a mill-owner, he ran unsuccessfully for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the precursor of today's New Democratic Party) in the provincial election of 1956. He was shot to death on 12 July 1957 at the age of 48. Grewall Street in Mission was named in his honour.
Irene Bloemraad, author of "Diversity and Elected Officials in the City of Vancouver," wrote in 2009 that Indo-Canadians from British Columbia are demographically "over-represented" in the Canadian Parliament and that they had "made remarkable inroads to politics" in the period 1999-2009. In 2013, the Canadian Parliament had three Indo-Canadian members from British Columbia, Nina Grewal (Fleetwood-Port Kells, Conservative), Jinny Sims (Newton-North Delta, NDP), and Jasbir Sandhu (Surrey North, NDP).
Many British Columbian Punjabi Sikh families eat East Indian cuisine at all times of the day, practice Sikhism, prioritize family, and speak the Punjabi language. Many Punjabi-Sikh parents in British Columbia try to pass on their cultural values to their children, and Ruby Rana and Sukkie Sihota, the authors of "Counselling in the Indo-Canadian Community: Challenges and Promises," wrote that in many cases, "A disconnect exisats between the home culture and the dominant Western culture outside of the home."
In regards to Sikh history in India and Sikhism, Rana and Sihota wrote, "Many Punjabi-Sikhs in BC have formed opinions and values on the basis of key religious and/or cultural traumas that took place in the history of India and the state of Punjab."
In 1929 Perry wrote that Sikh men in Victoria were "almost without exception well and comfortably dressed, wearing modern Canadian clothes" with the only items that were unique being the bangle and turban.
The Indo-Canadians immigrating after 1947 had differing attitudes compared to those who immigrated before 1920: the former were more lenient in their practice of Sikhism compared to the latter and had more extensive relationships with and less hostility towards White (gora) Canadians. The mid-to-late 20th century second wave of Indo-Canadian Sikh immigrants had tendencies to acquire material goods such as automobiles and residences and to engage in upward mobility. They believed that they could gain respect from others through ownership of assets.
By the 1960s a group of Canada-born people with a lack of fluency in Punjabi and a feeling of confusion between the two cultures had formed; they were shaped tremendously by exposure to Canadian mass media. Ram P. Srivastava of the University of Calgary wrote that young Indo-Canadians of the 1960s had only limited control from their parents and were "closer to other teenagers in their love of music, adventure, romance, and excitement, than to their own traditional East Indian values."
The cultural practices of the first generation of Indo-Canadian Sikhs, including traditional Sikh religion, arranged marriages, and endogamy, began to wither away with assimilation. The second wave of immigration revived these practices in British Columbia. Ames and Inglis stated in 1976 that the "Indianness" was reinforced by continuing immigration and contact between those in Canada and those in India. They stated that despite many BC Sikhs not wishing to westernize nor assimilate into Canadian society, even though they wish to modernize, they "assimilate in ways that are quite unintended" since they are reacting to "a complex and unstable mixture of Canadian and Indian ideals that are both traditional and modern."
In 1976 Ames and Inglis stated that the Canadian-born were small in number and did not have influence in the Indo-Canadian community, while those who immigrated after World War II had become the leadership of the Indo-Canadian community.
Ames and Inglis also reported that, by 1976, inter-generational and inter-familial tensions regarding the changing role of women and women's liberation began to form. They reported that highly educated women were less likely to stay in arranged marriages.
In 1976 Ames and Inglis stated that since in British Columbia wages earned by persons were the standard of income, rather than land held by a family, it was no longer necessary to have joint households in which several relatives by male kinship, or agnates, and their immediate families shared residences.
As of 1974 parents and/or older relatives often arranged marriages for younger people living in British Columbia. As of the 1960s arranged marriage matchmakers in British Columbia, unlike those in India, were required to have extensive networks of relatives and friends and have funds to travel between Canada and India. Canadian-born men were generally paired with women born in India. There were generally more marriages between Canadian-born girls and Indian-born boys than there were between pairs of Canadian-born persons.
Ames and Inglis stated that land ownership was still a trait prized by British Columbia Sikhs; young men were expected to buy property with funds they accumulated over the years, and parents had a habit of giving houses to their newlywed children or allowing them to live in them rent-free.
The Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian Business Association holds an annual Vaisakhi luncheon in Abbotsford.
As of the 2001 Statistics Canada there were 135,305 Sikhs and 31,500 Hindus in British Columbia. 99,005 Sikhs and 27,405 Hindus were in Metro Vancouver. The ability to freely practice the Sikh religion is the reason why many Sikhs immigrated to Canada. Around 1973-1974 Ames and Inglis stated that there are British Columbia Sikhs who do not actively participate in religious ceremonies but that "Few if any Sikhs have converted to Christianity".
Many smaller Indo-Canadian communities have two gurdwaras. These communities include Kamloops, Prince George, and Terrace. A 1997 disagreement regarding a dining hall in a Surrey gurdwara resulted in the Sikh community being split into two.
Many of the earliest gurdwaras were built at "mill colonies." Often they were built on-site because there were difficulties in getting transportation to other places. The first gurdwara established in a mill colony was in Burquitlam, in Fraser Mills. Mill colony gurdwaras were segregated from mainstream Canadian society. Once the mill colonies were disestablished, the gurdwaras often went with them. For instance, the Burquitlam gurdwara had been disestablished.
In 1971, the Canadian government introduced a policy of multiculturalism, and this resulted in the Sikh community establishing urban gurdwaras using traditional architecture styles. New gurdwaras opened in former churches in rural British Columbia in the 1970s. This occurred due to the general increase in Sikh immigration. The expansion of the Sikh community in British Columbia continued into the 1980s.
As of April 1, 2013 the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches had Indo-Canadian outreach missions at the South Abbotsford (B.C.) MB Church and in the Fraserview area.
Sikh religious organizations
Many of the early urban gurdwaras were operated by the Khalsa Diwan Society (KDS), headquartered in Vancouver, while the small town gurdwaras had separate management. The first gurdwara in Vancouver opened in 1908 by the KDS. In 1911 the KDS opened a gurdwara in Abbotsford, and it subsequently opened gurdwaras in New Westminster and Victoria. Many gurdwaras in urban areas were in proximity to Sikh communities or mill camps. BC cities which had gurdwaras by 1920 included Abbotsford, Fraser Mills, Golden, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Paldi, Vancouver, and Victoria. By 1973 the cities with KDS temples were Abbotsford, Mesachie Lake, New Westminster, Paldi, Port Alberni, and Vancouver. However the New Westminster Khalsa Diwan became its own Sikh society the following year. In 1975 the Khalsa Diwan Society of Abbotsford also separated, as the title of the Abbotsford gurdwara was transferred to the separated entity. The Abbotsford Sikhs wanted to have local control over their gurdwara, the Gur Sikh Temple.
In 1953, tensions between more religious Sikhs (often new arrivals), and more Westernized Sikhs (those that had adopted western standards, such as clothing or Anglicization of names), resulted in the Akhali Singh Society being established in Vancouver and Victoria to preserve orthodox Sikhism, opening another temple in Port Alberni by 1973. A gurdwara in Victoria independent of both Akahli Singh and the KDS was opened by 1973.
The main Sikh temple in Victoria, as of 1929, was a painted wooden building on Topaz Avenue. That year Perry wrote that the temple was "comparing not unfavourably with many Christian churches" in Victoria but that it was "crude and tawdry, perhaps, as compared with" the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar.
In 1923 Walter de Gruyter of Germany published Hindustani Workers on the Pacific Coast by Rajani Kant Das. In 1976 Lal stated that the book was outdated due to new evidence and that it "focuses" its attention on the subject "in a rather general way", but that it was still "the most important single work on the East Indians."
Archana B. Verma wrote The Making of Little Punjab in Canada, which included a study of Sikhs living in Paldi.
- Harry Bains, politician, currently MLA for Surrey-Newton.
- Jasmohan Singh Bains
- Dave Basi, formerly a government political aid charged with influence peddling and money laundering in relation to the BC Legislature Raids case.
- Johnder Basran, businessman and mayor of Lillooet, first Indo-Canadian mayor in Canada
- Jagrup Brar
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- Raj Chouhan
- Herb Dhaliwal
- Jim Dosanjh, notable gangster whose public murder led to an ongoing gang war in Vancouver.
- Ujjal Dosanjh (politician and lawyer, served as Attorney General of British Columbia) - Vancouver
- Kuldip Gill
- Moe Gill (City Councillor) - Abbotsford
- Gurmant Grewal
- Sindi Hawkins
- Tara Singh Hayer (journalist)
- Mobina Jaffer (Canadian Senator)
- Harry Lali, politician, formerly MLA for Yale-Lillooet
- Rob Nijjar
- Wally Oppal, judge, politician and chancellor of Thompson Rivers University
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- Patty Sahota
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