The Story of Indian Immigration to Canada

CIC News
Published: April 16, 2014

The Indian community in Canada has a fascinating history spanning more than a century. Starting with just a few immigrants landing ashore in Vancouver, British Columbia, Indo-Canadians now comprise one of Canada’s largest and most well-integrated immigrant communities.

A Brief History of Indian Immigration

The first documented immigrants from the Indian subcontinent were of the Sikh denomination. They arrived in Vancouver in 1904, during a time when immigration policies were much more restrictive than today.

Despite the difficult immigration climate, a few thousand (largely Sikh) immigrants began to carve out a space for themselves in Vancouver’s economy. Many were successful entrepreneurs, serving both their own community and businesspeople throughout the city.

A few short years after arrival, Canadian authorities passed two laws that effectively ended immigration from India for a few decades. One law required new Indian immigrants to carry $200 in cash upon landing in Canada, while European immigrants needed just $25. In addition, Indian immigrants were required to arrive via a ‘continuous journey’ from the sub-continent, something that was almost impossible in the time period before air travel.

In the mid-sixties, however, Canada began to transition toward a policy of multiculturalism and did away with all discriminatory immigration policies. As a direct result, within a few short years the Indian population in Canada multiplied more than 20 times over. By this time, immigrants from all parts of India, with a wide array of languages and religions, were choosing to migrate to Canada. This upward trajectory of immigration continues today.

Indian Immigration to Canada Today

Today, approximately 30,000 Indian citizens become new permanent residents of Canada each year. Tens of thousands more come to the country to visit, work, or study.

In 2013 alone, 33,000 Indians were issued permanent resident visas. 14,000 students arrived in the country, and a full 130,000 came to Canada as visitors. Thanks to Canada’s generous family sponsorship laws, many permanent residents are able to sponsor their parents for either permanent residency or extended visitor visas, thus ensuring that families are reunited and communities across the country are strengthened.

“Our government is proud to announce that Canada continues to attract visitors, students, and business travellers from India,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. “The impressive scale of visitor visas and study permits granted to travellers from India is an indication of the strong ties that exist between our two great nations.”

 The Indo-Canadian Community

Canadians of Indian descent can be found in every city and province in the country. The largest populations, however, are concentrated in Ontario and British Columbia. Toronto alone is home to almost 600,000 Indo-Canadians.

Indo-Canadians are the third largest non-European immigrant group in the country, after residents of Chinese and Filipino descent. It is also one of Canada’s most prominent and well-integrated communities.

Many new arrivals from India speak impeccable English and possess experience in key industries like information technology, science, and medicine. These skills, combined with the Indian community’s strong support network, means that many newcomers are often able to quickly find jobs and settle into their new homes after arriving in Canada.

Indo-Canadians are well represented in all areas of Canadian society. From politics to sports, and everywhere in between, Canadians of Indian descent have been integral to shaping the face of Canada to the world.

Some of the many prominent Canadians of South Asian descent include Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary and Herb Dhaliwal, the first Indo-Canadian cabinet minister. The novelists Shauna Singh Baldwin and Michael Ondaantje claim roots in India and Sri Lanka, respectively. There have also been many successful Indo-Canadian businessnmen, such as Deepak Chopra, the president and CEO of Canada Post.

“Canada’s success and growth as a country is intimately tied to the growth of its immigrant communities,” said Attorney David Cohen. “It has been my great pleasure to help many Indian citizens come to Canada to live and work. I know that with every new arrival, our country is becoming richer both economically and culturally.”

To find out if you are eligible for any of Canada's over 60 immigration programs, please fill out a free online assessment today. 

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