Pakistani Canadians

Pakistani Canadians
Pakistan Canada
Total population
(155,310 (by ancestry, 2011 Census)[1])
Regions with significant populations
 Ontario 109,295
 Alberta 17,825
 Quebec 12,470
 British Columbia 9,770
Predominately English, French, Urdu, and Punjabi, Minorities of Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, and Saraiki
Predominately Sunni Islam with large minorities of Shia Muslims (both Twelvers and Ismailis) and Ahmadi Muslims, with much smaller minorities of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Irreligion
Related ethnic groups
Pakistani Americans, Pakistani diaspora, Muslim Canadians, Asian Canadians

Pakistani Canadians refers to the community in Canada of Pakistani heritage or descent. It can also refer to people who hold dual Pakistani and Canadian citizenship.

History in Canada

People from the region that would later become Pakistan were among the pioneers who migrated from British India to British Columbia at the turn of the century. By 1905, as many as 200 participated in the building of that first community from modern-day Pakistan, which for a time had a small makeshift mosque in Vancouver. But most of these immigrants were sojourners rather than settlers, and they either returned to Pakistan in 1947 or moved on to the United States. Subsequently, Canada imposed a ban on South Asian immigration that remained in place until after World War II. When Canada opened its doors to South Asians again in 1949, Pakistan had been established as an independent state. Most of the Pakistanis who had settled in British Columbia were Punjabis and took advantage of the new immigration policy to sponsor members of their families.

Pakistanis began migrating to Canada in small numbers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Immigration regulations gave preference to those with advanced education and professional skills, and the Pakistanis who came during this period, and throughout the 1960s, generally had excellent credentials. Many of them considered themselves to be sojourners, who had come to earn but not to settle, or were students who intended to return home when their degree programs were completed. While some went back, others remained to become the founding members of the Pakistani-Canadian community.[2]

Pakistani nationals were registered in undergraduate and graduate programs at McGill University in Montreal as early as 1949, and at the University of Toronto from 1958 on. By the mid-1950s, there were five or six Pakistani families living in Montreal in addition to the students. This was probably the then largest concentration of Pakistanis in the country. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s most who arrived were young men pursuing graduate or professional studies.

In 1976, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau introduced the Immigration Act. Since then the number of Pakistani immigrants increased dramatically, with hundreds of Pakistanis entering Canada each year. Pakistani Canadians in the 1980s tended to be urban, well-educated, and professional and are more or less familiar with western culture and ways of living. However, the dependents and relatives that they have since sponsored for permanent residence and citizenship to Canada in the years after 1990 happen to be characterized by lower levels of education, due to immigration by sponsorship. However, most of the Pakistanis immigrating to Canada are mainly students, professionals and economic migrants from the middle class background who do tend to have reasonable levels of education.[3]

Integrating into Canadian society

Pakistanis have integrated well into Canadian society, partly due to the Canadian Government's policies and assistance given to all immigrants settling in the country. Generally speaking, they are known to assimilate into Canadian culture more easily than many other immigrant groups due to fewer language barriers; English is widely spoken in Pakistan among professional classes and is the official language of all state institutions. As well they usually have more educational credentials, and come from a similar diverse and tolerant society. They have brought to Canada Pakistani cuisine and it has been established as one of the most popular cuisines in the country with hundreds of Pakistani restaurants in all major city and similar eateries in smaller cities and towns.[3]

Ethnic classification

Most Pakistanis who immigrated to Canada are Punjabis, Kashmiris, Sindhis, Balochis or Muhajirs. There is, however, a sizable population of Pashtuns living on Canada's west coast, mainly in Vancouver. There is also a small community of Bengalis in Canada who arrived between 1947 and 1971 and still identify themselves with Pakistan. Most Pakistani Canadians speak English or French. However, many also speak a second or third language, as they often tend to keep hold of their native tongues, which includes Punjabi, Urdu, Sindhi, Kashmiri and Pashto. There is no official classification of Pakistani Canadians. However, they are usually defined under Asian or South Asian.


Figures from the 2011 Canadian Census from StatsCan indicate that there are about 155,310 Canadians who claim Pakistani ancestry.[4]

Toronto has the largest Pakistani-Canadian community in the country, with a majority living in the localities of Rexdale, East York and its western suburb Mississauga. The center of Toronto's Pakistani community can be found on Gerrard Street East in East York. A large Pakistani population resides in this area, and is home to many Pakistani restaurants and stores. Popular days to visit the street are during Eid and Yom-e-Istiqlal. Toronto's Pakistani community is quite diverse with people from Punjabi, Muhajirs, Kashmiri, Pashtun and Sindhi backgrounds. A small proportion also reside in the Greater Toronto Area, including Milton, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Pickering and Markham.

Mississauga has a large concentration of Pakistanis and is often referred to as "Begumpura" (colony of wives) among Pakistani-Canadians. This is due to the fact that many families in this area consist of a male head working in the Persian Gulf while the wives reside in Canada and thus become the head of the household.[5][6] Urdu is also the top non-official language spoken in Mississauga.[7]

Milton has one of the fastest growing population of Pakistani-Canadians. Affordable homes in the new housing subdivisions have attracted thousands of Pakistanis especially from close by Mississauga. Pakistanis constitute over 10% of the population of Milton.[8]

Vancouver also has one of the fastest growing Pakistani communities in Canada. Most Pakistanis who live in Metro Vancouver reside in areas such as Burnaby and Surrey, which is home to Punjabi Market. Other areas include Abbotsford and New Westminster.


Main article: Islam in Canada


Most Pakistani Canadians are Muslims.[9][10] Religion figures prominently in the lives of Pakistani Canadian families. The majority of Pakistanis belong to the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam; there is an Ahmadiyya minority.[3] In smaller towns in Canada where there may not be mosques within easy access, Pakistani Canadians make trips to attend the nearest one on major religious holidays and occasions. They worship at Masjids alongside other Muslims who might trace their ancestry to all parts of the world; there are generally no separate Pakistani Canadian mosques. Pakistani Canadians also participate in and contribute to the larger Islamic community, which includes Arab Canadians, Iranian Canadians, Turkish Canadianss, and Asian Canadians.[11]

Pakistani Canadians have played important roles in many organizations, including:


Although the majority of Pakistani Canadians are Muslims, there is a sizable community of Christians as well. They worship at churches all over the country and share in the religious life of the dominant Christian culture of Canada. In recent times, Pakistani Zoroastrians (called Parsis) have come to Canada mainly from the cities of Lahore and Karachi and usually congregate with fellow Indian Parsis. Likewise, Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs tend to stay in their own communities and share religious and cultural life with fellow Indian Hindus and Sikhs.


Many Pakistanis have utilized an adaptation technique, and are accustomed to a bicultural lifestyle. At home they live as traditional a life as possible. The old values and hierarchical decision-making patterns are generally respected, and traditional clothing, food, decorations, and language provide the warmth and reassurance of the familiar.


Most Pakistani Canadians live a comfortable suburban life, with the vast majority living in the middle class and upper-middle class. They tend to follow the residence pattern set by other Canadians in that they move to more affluent suburbs as their prosperity increases. Members of the community believe in the symbolic importance of owning homes.[20] Generally, Pakistani parents in Canada appear to have successfully transported to their new home a stable family structure and the value system that supports it. While there are many cases of marriage and family breakdown, most Pakistani-Canadian children and young adults appear to respect their parents’ traditional values. Most marriages are apparently still arranged by families, although the prospective brides as well as the grooms usually participate in the decision.


An important aspect of Pakistani participation in the Canadian economy has been the increasing number of Pakistani-Canadian women who work outside the home. The need for two incomes to maintain a family’s standard of living has required many wives and mothers to leave the cloistered life at home that had been customary in Pakistan and seek work for wages. While the new situation has created problems within families, and particularly between couples, it has also provided the opportunity for women to participate more fully in Canadian society, and many have enthusiastically embraced the change. Women who arrived in the family-immigrant class possess a range of education and skills, but some who were from the middle class in Pakistan find themselves in working-class occupations in Canada. The result is a significant adjustment problem for them and their families. The percentage of Pakistani women who are in the Canadian workforce is higher than the national average.[21]


Young people who were born in Canada or brought as children share a particular set of issues and concerns with their parents and the wider Pakistani-Canadian community. Their perspective regarding adaptation and integration is generally not informed by significant direct experience of the culture and values of the homeland, and, as a result, parents and grandparents take on a mediating role. They have to decide what aspects of their traditional lifestyle and values must be left behind and what can be transferred to and re-established in their new home. Most significantly, they generally assume the responsibility for making these choices for their children as well. The family – even in its truncated form in the diaspora – is both the base for substantial cultural transfer and the source of intergenerational conflict.[21]



Most Pakistani Canadians work as professionals or in skilled trades. Many are self-employed and own small businesses. Those who came to Canada from Pakistan via East Africa or the Gulf are more likely to be involved in business. A number of Pakistani Canadians are also traders and are primarily involved in exporting and importing goods to and from Pakistan. A few substantial enterprises are also owned by Pakistani-Canadian entrepreneurs. A small number of them own factories in Pakistan and are engaged in importing Pakistani manufactures. Others have established textile mills in British Columbia and Ontario and are involved in multinational trade. Canada’s economic relations with Pakistan have shifted from aid to trade in the past decade. A number of Pakistani-Canadian businessmen and companies have participated in this development.[20]

Labour Force

The Pakistani-Canadian labour force is dispersed, with no concentration in a particular kind of work, and there are no large Pakistani businesses that employ substantial numbers of Pakistani workers. The incomes of Pakistani Canadians are generally comparable to the national average. For the immigrant generation a number of problems – underemployment, difficulties in having their credentials accepted, concerns about bias in gaining employment, a glass ceiling on advancement once a job is secured – reflect the continuing challenges of settlement. For many, the transition has been relatively easy, but others have had to sacrifice a fully satisfying personal life in order to provide the opportunities that are now available to their Canadian-born children.

Pakistan is among the top 5 countries for skilled workers entering Canada.[22]


The incomes of Pakistani Canadians are generally just above the national average. Some incidence of poverty may be present among the newer immigrants (especially in Toronto),[23] who tend to take low-paying jobs often due to a lack of 'Canadian experience'. Members of the family and the larger community tend to take care of each other, and to assist in times of economic need. Hence, it would be more common to turn to a community member for economic assistance rather than to a government agency. Relatively low levels of the community are therefore on welfare and public assistance, contrary to what many believe.[20]


According to the 2005 census data for Canada, 44 percent of Pakistani-born immigrants in Canada were below the poverty line, being the second most poor group of immigrants in Canada, with many engineers, doctors and doctorates working as taxi drivers or security guards.[24] Only 55 percent of Pakistani-born immigrants owned a home, and 44 percent lived in households with five or more people.[24] On an average, the wages of Pakistani-born immigrants were 70 percent of that of Canadians.[24]

Relations with Pakistan

Most Pakistani Canadians maintain very close links with Pakistan and this has been kept alive with second and third generation Pakistani Canadians as well. They travel at least once every few years to Pakistan and often take back gifts of money, food, and clothing for friends and family, and donate generously to charities. Pakistan International Airlines serves Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport three times a week non-stop to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and has been one of the most profitable routes in the entire network.[25] The relationship between the Canadian and Pakistani governments in the past few decades has become close as well, and within the last ten years trade between the two countries has increased significantly. Pakistani Canadians maintain a deep interest in the society and politics of Pakistan. Funds are raised by the community for the different political parties and groups in Pakistan. Pakistani Canadians raised the third largest number of funds among the Pakistani diaspora to help Pakistan during the 2005 Pakistan earthquake. Annually Pakistani Canadians send remittances of approximately $50 million dollars to Pakistan.


The Pakistan Day Parade

The Toronto Pakistan Day Parade is an annual event which takes place at Toronto City Hall to mark Pakistan's Independence Day (also known as Yom-e-Istiqlal or Yaum-e-Azadi). It is observed on 14 August, the day on which Pakistan became independent from British rule. The Pakistan Day Parade Committee is a non-profit organization formed in 2005 to bring together Canadians of Pakistani origin and celebrate the Independence Day. Together with the High Commission of Pakistan in Ottawa, its mission is to project Pakistan in its true colour as a dynamic, moderate and peaceful country. The event usually lasts all day with a flag hoisting ceremony, as well an award ceremony, cultural programmes, mass marches and speeches. A few invited Pakistani singers end the show at night with songs and dance.

Sahara Cup (Friendship Series)

The Sahara Cup was a bilateral ODI cricket series between Pakistan and India, which was held annually from 1996 to 1998 at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. Since then, no matches between the two teams have taken place. However, both teams as well as the International Cricket Council have expressed interest in restarting the series along with Canada in a Triangular Series. Venues for the series are still in question. However, Maple Leaf Cricket Club in King City recently hosted a Twenty20 Triangle Series between Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Canada, which drew 11,000 spectators per match.

Miss Pakistan World Pageant

The Miss Pakistan World Pageant[26] is an annual event which takes place in Toronto, and is open to all Pakistanis across Canada and the world. Started by Sonia Ahmed,[27] it has represented Pakistan in various international pageants and has become a global pageant for contestants of Pakistani background from North America, Europe and even as far as Australia. The MPW's mission is to find positive, energetic role model's who will represent and inspire the Pakistani youth within their great community as well as internationally. The pageant has been successfully running since 2002 and looks for intelligent and confident individuals representing Pakistan in international pageants like Miss Earth and Miss Tourism Queen International as well as other international pageants.



A number of Canadian television networks broadcast programming that features Pakistani-Canadian culture. These television shows often highlight Pakistani-Canadian events in Canada, and also show events from Pakistan involving Pakistanis who reside there. Surprise CBC hit Little Mosque on the Prairie also features a Pakistani Canadian family.

Recently with an upsurge in digital cable subscribers, Rogers Digital Cable now provides Geo TV, ARY News, Hum TV among other Pakistani TV channels on its Urdu Elite Package.


A number of weekly Urdu language newspapers are printed and distributed throughout Canada, including Sunday Times Canada Jang Canada Pakistan Post and Urdu Times.


Embassy of Pakistan in Ottawa, Canada

Wajid Khan and Rahim Jaffer were members of the Canadian House of Commons. Wajid Khan represented the riding of Mississauga—Streetsville district of Ontario as a Conservative Member of Parliament[28] while Rahim Jaffer was a Conservative Member of Parliament for the Edmonton—Strathcona district of Alberta.[29] Pakistani Canadians can also be found in the provincial legislatures as well as on municipal councils.

Salma Ataullahjan,[30] a Toronto artist and community activist,[31] was named a Canadian Senator by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on 9 July 2010, and will sit with the Conservative caucus. With this appointment, Ataullahjan became the first Canadian senator of Pakistani Pushtun descent.

Shafiq Qaadri is a family doctor and politician in Ontario, Canada. He is a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the riding of Etobicoke North for the Ontario Liberal Party.[32][33][34]

Notable Canadians of Pakistani origin

See also


  1. "Statistics Canada". 2010-12-07 -. Retrieved 2011-01-22. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. "Loss of security alarms Pakistani Canadian" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 2008. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  3. 1 2 3 The Muslim community in North America. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  4. "Tabulation: Ethnic Origin (264), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3), Generation Status (4), Age Groups (10) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2011 National Household Survey". 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  5. ‘Colony of wives’ thrives in Mississauga
  6. Begumpura: The Wives Colony
  7. Urdu top non-official language spoken in Mississauga
  8. "Census Profile - Milton, Ontario (town)". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  9. 2014 World Population Data
  10. Information on other countries:
  11. "96F0030XIE2001015 - Religions in Canada". Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  12. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Canada
  13. Anjuman Burhani - Dawoodi Bohra Muslim Community
  14. Canadian Islamic Congress
  15. Canadian Shia Muslim Organization
  16. Islamic Society of North America
  17. Muslim Association of Canada
  18. Muslim Canadian Congress
  19. Muslim Student Association of Canada
  20. 1 2 3 Encyclopedia of Canada's peoples. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  21. 1 2 "Community Life and Family and Kinship | Multicultural Canada". Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  22. "Canada Immigration :: Canadian Visa - Info on immigration to Canada - Attracting Skilled Immigrants". 2004-09-14. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  24. 1 2 3 Haider, Murtaza (2012-05-16). "Pakistani-Canadians: Falling below the poverty line". Dawn. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
  25. "Pakistan International Airlines - Home". Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  27. "DIVERSITY WATCH | Media | 2003 Archive". 2005-03-14. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  28. Wajid Khan - Mississauga-Streetsville
  29. Rahim Jaffer - Edmonton-Strathcona
  30. "Salma Ataullahjan", Toronto Star
  31. "PM appoints new senator before crucial budget vote", Toronto Star, 9 July 2010
  32. "Etobicoke North: Summary of valid votes cast for each candidate". Elections Ontario. 2 October 2003.
  33. "McGuinty Government Working To Reduce Injury In Ontario". Ottawa: Canada NewsWire. 23 August 2007. p. 1.
  34. "In Brief". South Asian Focus. Brampton, Ontario. 13 December 2011. p. 1.

Further reading

External links

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