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Indo-Canadians are Canadiansmarker whose origins trace back to Indiamarker. The terms "East Indian" and "South Asian" are used to distinguish people of ancestral origin from India, from the First Nations peoples of Canada who are often referred to as Indianmarker, and from the people of the Caribbeanmarker, who are sometimes referred to as West Indianmarker.

Most Canadians of Indianmarker origin prefer, and many times will refer to themselves as, "Indian", rather than "East Indian". This is partially because historically the U.S. was mistaken by Columbus as India and native Americans were mistaken by Columbus for Indians and later as West Indiansmarker. It is also seen to be a reflection of Indiamarker's size and stature, as well as its cultural, economic and political position in the world; Indians do not feel that Columbus' ignorance justifies referring to them as "East Indians" more than 500 years later.

However, because the term East Indian is not blatantly pejorative and persists in being widely used by other Canadians, this term is also somewhat acceptable and tolerated by most Indo-Canadians. The term "East Indian" is relatively unknown in India. Another term, NRI (non-resident Indian), is used by Indians in India to refer to Indians abroad, including Canada.

According to Statistics Canada in 2006, there were 962,665 people who consider themselves as being Indo-Canadians. The main concentration of the Indo-Canadian population is centred in the Greater Toronto Area and the Metro Vancouvermarker/Fraser Valley Region, however there are growing communities in Calgarymarker, Edmontonmarker, and Montrealmarker.


Reasons for moving

The Indo-Canadian community started around the beginning of the twentieth century. The pioneers were men, mostly Sikhs from the Punjab; many were veterans of the British Army. In 1897 a contingent of Sikh soldiers participated in the parade to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in Londonmarker, England. On their subsequent journey home, they visited the western coast of Canadamarker, primarily British Columbiamarker which at the time was very sparsely populated and the Canadian government wanted to settle in order to prevent a takeover of the territory by the United Statesmarker.

Upon retiring from the army, some of these men found their pensions to be inadequate, or else their lands in the clutches of money-lenders. They decided to try their fortunes in the countries they had visited. They joined an Indian diaspora, which included people from Burmamarker through Malaysiamarker, the East Indies, the Philippinesmarker and Chinamarker. They were able to get work in the police force and some were employed as night-watchmen by Britishmarker firms. Others started small businesses of their own or drove taxis. These were modest beginnings but they had bigger ideas. At that time thousands of Chinese and Japanesemarker migrants were going to Canada and the United Statesmarker and sending substantial sums of money back to their families at home. The Sikhs, who had seen Canada, recommended the New World to fellow Sikh people who were in a position to venture out and seek new fortunes. They were guaranteed jobs by agents of big Canadian combines like the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Hudson's Bay Company. Overcoming their initial reluctance to go to these countries due to the treatment of East Asians by the white population, many young men chose to go, having been assured that they would not meet the same fate. They were British subjects; Canada was a part of the British Empire; and the British Empire owed much to the Sikhs. Queen Victoria had proclaimed in 1858 that throughout the empire the people of India that they would enjoy "equal privileges with white people without discrimination of colour, creed or race."

Initial settlement

However, upon arrival to British Columbiamarker, the first Sikh immigrants faced widespread racism by the local white Canadians. Most of the white Canadians feared workers who desired less pay, and that an influx of more immigrants would threaten their jobs. As a result there were a series of race riots that targeted the Sikh immigrants, who were beat up by mobs of angry white Canadians. These mobs not only targeted Indians, but also other Asian group such as the Chinese immigrants working on the railroad at the time. From the social pressure most decided to return back to India, while a few stayed behind. To support the white Canadian population on the west coast of Canada, who did not want Indians to immigrate to Canada, the Canadian government prevented Indian men from bringing their wives and children until 1919, which was another considerable factor why they decided to leave Canada.

The restrictions by the Canadian government increased on Indians, and policies were put in place in 1907 to prevent Indians who had the right to vote from voting in future general elections. Furthermore, government quotas were established to cap the number of Indians allowed to immigrate to Canada in the early 20th century. This was part of a policy adopted by Canada to ensure that the country retained its primarily European demographic, and was similar to Americanmarker and Australian immigration policies at the time. These quotas only allowed fewer than 100 people from India a year until 1957, when it was marginally increased (to 300 people a year). In comparison to the quotas established for Indians, people from Europe immigrated freely without quotas in large numbers during that time to Canada, numbering in the tens of thousands yearly.

In 1914, the Komagata Maru a steam liner carrying 376 passengers from Punjab, India (all were Britishmarker subjects) arrived in Vancouvermarker. Most of the passengers were not allowed to land in Canada and were returned to India. When the Kamagata Maru returned to Calcutta (now Kolkata), they were fired upon by the British, many died. Viewing this as evidence that East Indians were not treated as equals under the British Empire, they staged a peaceful protest upon returning to India. British forces saw this as a threat to their authority, and opened fire on the protestors, killing many. This was one of the most notorious "incidents" in the history of exclusion laws in Canada designed to keep out immigrants of Asian origin.

Recent settlement

Policies changed rapidly during the second half of the 20th century. The Canadian government re-enfranchised the Indo-Canadian community with the right to vote in 1947. In 1967 all immigration quotas based on specific ethnic groups were scrapped in Canada. The social view in Canada towards people of other ethnic backgrounds was more open, and Canada was facing declining immigration from European countries, since these European countries had booming postwar economies, and thus more people decided to remain in their home countries. Canada introduced an immigration policy that was based on a point system, with each applicant being assessed on their trade skills and the need for these skills in Canada. This allowed many more Indians to immigrate in large numbers. In the 1970s, thousands of immigrants came yearly and mainly settled in Vancouver and Toronto. In the 1980s and early 1990s, tens of thousands of immigrants continued to move from India into Canada. According to Statistics Canada, since the late 1990s roughly 25,000-30,000 Indians arrive each year (which is now the second-most populous cultural group immigrating to Canada each year, behind Chinese immigrants who are the largest group). The settlement pattern in the last two decades is still mainly focused around Vancouver, but other cities such as Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal have also become desirable due to growing economic prospects in these cities.

Indians moving to Canada from other countries

Number of Indians Immigrating from Different Regions of the World ( source)
Region Total Responses
Immigrant population 474,530
United Statesmarkerʰ 2,410
Central and South America 40,475
Caribbeanmarker and Bermudamarker 24,295
Europe 12,390
**United Kingdommarker 11,200
**Other European 1,190
Africa 45,530
Asia 332,150
**West Central Asia and the Middle East 6,965
**Eastern Asia 720
**South-East Asia 4,260
**South Asia 320,200
Oceania and other 17,280
Non-permanent residents 9,950

Indians from Africa

Although the vast majority of Indo-Canadians are either recent immigrants from India, or second and third generation Indo-Canadians, there are groups of Indo-Canadians that have moved from other parts of the world. Due to political turmoil and prejudice, many Indians residing in East African nations, such as Uganda, Kenyamarker, and Tanzania, left the region for Canada and other Western countries. A majority of Indo-Canadians from East Africa are Ismailis. M.G. Vassanji, an award-winning novelist who writes on the plight of Indiansmarker in East Africa, is a naturalized Canadian of Indian descent who migrated from East Africa.

Two of the most high profile Indo-Africans are CNN's Zain Verjee and Ali Velshi. Verjee was educated in Canada while Velshi's father Murad who immigrated from South Africa was the first MPP of Indian descent to sit in the Ontario legislature.

Indians have also moved to Canada from Southern African nations such as Zambiamarker and South Africa for similar reasons, and an example of a successful Indo-Canadian from this migratory stream is Suhana Meharchand, a television newscaster of Indian descent from South Africa, who currently works for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Indira Naidoo-Harris is also another Canadian broadcaster who is of Indian descent from South Africa.

The most notable story of Indo-African immigration to Canada is set in the 1970s, when 50,000 Indianmarker Ugandans were forced out of Uganda by the dictator Idi Amin, and were not permitted to return to India by the Indian government. Although on the brink of facing torture and imprisonment on a massive scale, the Aga Khan, leader of the Nizari Ismaili Community, specially negotiated his followers' safe departure from Uganda in exchange for all their belongings. He also negotiated their guaranteed asylum in Canada with Prime Minister and close friend Pierre Elliott Trudeau. A notable descendent of Ugandian Indian settlement in Canada is Irshad Manji, an acclaimed advocate for secularism and reform in Islam.

Indians from the Caribbean

Indo-Caribbean people or Indo-Caribbeans are Caribbean people with roots in Indiamarker.

From 1838 to 1917, over half a million Indians from the former British Raj or British India, were taken to the Caribbean as indentured servants to address the demand for labour following the abolition of slavery. The first two shiploads arrived in British Guiana (now Guyanamarker) on May 5, 1838, which made 2008 the 170th anniversary.

The majority of the Indiansmarker living in the English-speaking Caribbean came from eastern Uttar Pradeshmarker and western Biharmarker, while those brought to Guadeloupemarker and Martiniquemarker were mostly from, but not only, from Andhra Pradeshmarker and Tamil Nadumarker.

A minority emigrated from other parts of South Asia, including present-day Pakistanmarker and Bangladeshmarker.

Modern-day immigrants from Indiamarker are to be found on Saint-Martin / Sint Maarten and other islands with duty-free commercial capabilities, where they are active in business.

Other Indo-Caribbean people descend from later migrants, including Indian doctors, Gujarati businessmen and migrants from Kenya and Uganda.

However, the vast majority are descendants of the original indentured workers.

Indo-Caribbeans are the largest ethnic group in Guyanamarker, Surinamemarker and Trinidad and Tobagomarker. They are the second largest group in Jamaicamarker, Saint Vincent and the Grenadinesmarker, Saint Luciamarker and Grenadamarker. There are populations in Anguillamarker, Antigua and Barbudamarker, The Bahamasmarker, Barbadosmarker, Belizemarker, French Guianamarker, Panamamarker, Martiniquemarker, Netherlands Antillesmarker and Guadeloupemarker. There are also small groups often called "mulatts" who are of Indian descent in Haitimarker.

The indentured Indians and their descendants have actively contributed to the evolution of their adopted lands in spite of many difficulties.

Jamaica has always celebrated the arrival of Indians in Old Harbour Bay in St. Catherine Parish on May 13.

In 2003, Martinique celebrated the 150th anniversary of Indian arrival. Guadeloupe did the same in 2004. These celebrations were not the fact of just the Indian minority, but the official recognition by the French and local authorities of their integration and their wide-scale contributions in various fields from Agriculture to Education, Politics and to the diversification of the culture of the Creole peoples. Thus, the noted participation of the whole multi-ethnic population of the two islands were in these events.


Many Indo-Caribbean people have migrated to the United States of America, Canada, The Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, and to other parts of the Caribbean.

The Indo-Caribbean community has developed a unique cultural blend of both Indian, Western and "Creolised Caribbean" culture due to a long period of isolation from India, amongst other reasons. Some Indo-Caribbean Canadians associate themselves with the Indo-Canadian community. However, most associate with the Indo-Caribbean community, or the Wider Caribbean community, or with both. They mainly live within the Greater Toronto Area. The vast majority do not subscribe to the term South Asian and are opposed to being classified as such and in their daily lives, describe themselves as "Indians."

At last count, there were about least fifty "Roti Shops' most owned/managed by Indo-Caribbean Canadians in the Toronto area.

Notable Indo-Caribbeans in Canada

  • Anjulie - singer/songwriter. Parents migrated from Guyana to Canada
  • Fareed Amin - Deputy Minister , Ontario Ministry of International Trade and Investments. Migrated from Guyana.
  • Brownman - internationally acclaimed jazz trumpet player. Born "Nick Ali" in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobagomarker and migrated to Canada with his parents. Now considered Canada's preeminent jazz trumpet player.
  • Dave Baksh - former lead guitarist of the band Sum 41. A founding member of the mainly reggae band Brown Brigade. His parents migrated from Guyana.
  • Bas Balkissoon - born in Trinidad and Tobago, is a member of the Provincial Parliament of the Province of Ontario.
  • Dr. Frank M. Birbalsingh - Professor of English, York University. Has published widely on Indo-Caribbeans. Now retired. Was born in Guyana.
  • Neil Bissoondath - Writer. Born in Trinidad.
  • Dr. Anne Dipchand - Head, Heart Transplant Program at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. Dr. Dipchand is of Guyanese background.
  • Dr. Budhendra Doobay - Hindu Leader & Medical Doctor (originally from Guyana).
  • Dr. Ramabai Espinet - Writer and Professor of English at Seneca College (born in Trinidad)
  • Kamala-Jean Gopie - Educator and Political Activist (Jamaican born).
  • Anette Groves (Jamaica) - Councillor, Town of Caledon (near Toronto).
  • Ian Hanomansing - born in Trinidad and Tobago, is a television anchor with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
  • Luther Hansraj - born in Guyana, is a well-known Actor & Playright.
  • Marvin "Trini" Ishmael - Actor (born in Trinidad)
  • Jai Ojah-Maharaj - Broadcaster. Migrated from Trinidad. Has been with CHIN Radio in Toronto for many years.
  • Shani Mootoo - Writer - born in Ireland to Trinidadian parents.
  • Dr. Victor J. Ramraj - Professor of English, University of Calgary. Was born in Guyana.
  • Nalini Sharma - whose parents migrated from Trinidad and Tobago, handles weather for CP 24 in Toronto.
  • Natasha Ramsahai - whose parents migrated from Trinidad and Tobago, is a meteorologist for CBC television.
  • Rena Heer - works for CTV BC as a weather person before working at Global BC as a weather person before being a reporter for Citytv Vancouvermarker
  • Mike Manny - Toronto-born member of The Canadian Forces - Department of National Defence whose parents migrated from Guyana.


There are two Indo-Caribbean newspapers based in Toronto:

For notable Indo-Caribbeans in the UK, see:

See also

Indians from the UK and the United States

Some Indians have immigrated from the UKmarker and the United Statesmarker due to both economic and family reasons. Indians move for economic prospects to Canada's economy and job market and have been performing well against many European and some American states. Indians move also due to arranged marriages that are carried out by families or by internet-based matrimonial websites, or by non-arranged marriages. Lastly, individuals have decided to settle in Canada in order to reunite their family who may have settled in both the United States and UK and not in Canada.

Indians from the Middle East

Many Indians have been moving from countries in the Middle East to North America.

These individuals are mainly Indian businessmen and professionals that worked in the Middle Eastern countries like the United Arab Emiratesmarker, Omanmarker, Kuwaitmarker and Saudi Arabiamarker. These Indians enjoyed a comfortable life of close proximity to their land with good lifestyle but made their way West as these countries don't offer citizenship or opportunities to make it their home. These countries are also severely lacking in internationally recognized post-secondary education forcing many of the Indian children to either go back to India or to countries such as Australia, USA and Canada to pursue further education. Many of these students have stayed back after graduation and started their families there.

Indians from Oceania

Indians have long been settled in certain parts of Oceania, mainly on the island of Fijimarker, where they comprise approximately 50% of the island's population. Since Fiji's independence, increased hostility between the native Fijian population and the Indo-Fijian population has led to several significant confrontations politically. Therefore, some Indo-Fijians are moving from the island to USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand due to political instability and ethnic conflict.

Indo-Canadian demographics

Population settlement

Year Indo-Canadian Popluation % of Canadian Population
1996 (census) ? ?
2001 (census) 713,330 2.41%
2006 (census) 962,665 3.08%
2011 (est.) 1,300,000

The Indo-Canadian Population according to Statistics Canada in the 2006 census in the 10 Canadian Provinces and 3 territories:

Province Indians

Canadian cities with large Indian Populations:
City Province Indians
Torontomarker Ontariomarker 484,655
Vancouvermarker British Columbiamarker 181,895
Calgarymarker Albertamarker 48,270
Montréalmarker Quebecmarker 39,305
Edmontonmarker Alberta 34,605
Abbotsfordmarker British Columbia 23,440
Ottawamarker Ontario 21,170
Hamiltonmarker Ontario 14,985
Winnipegmarker Manitobamarker 13,545
Kitchenermarker Ontario 13,235


Torontomarker has the largest Indian Community in whole of Canada. Almost 51% of the entire Indo-Canadian community resides in Toronto. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Torontomarker, the largest Hindu Temple in Canada is located in Torontomarker. Most Indians in Toronto live in Bramptonmarker, Gerrard Street, Rexdalemarker, Scarborough, Ontariomarker and Mississaugamarker. Indian carriers Jet Airways and Air India operate daily flights from Toronto Pearson International Airportmarker to India using Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft. The Indians are mostly of Punjabi, Gujarati or Tamil origin.


Almost 19% of the entire Indian Community in Canada resides in Vancouvermarker. Settlement by Indians has occurred increasingly since the point system was introduced to allow immigrants into Canadamarker. Initially, most Indians moved to cities close to Vancouver International Airportmarker such as Abbotsfordmarker; Burnabymarker; Richmondmarker; and Surreymarker. Over the past two decades however, more Indians have been moving to areas outside of Metro Vancouvermarker.

The highest density concentrations of Indo-Canadians can be found in Burnabymarker; Richmondmarker; Abbotsfordmarker; Surreymarker; Delta; and the Punjabi Market (South Vancouver).

Vancouver's little India can be found on Punjabi Market. Here there are many shops with Indian and other South Asian related items for sale such as Indian clothing, Bollywood movies, and Restaurants.

Vancouver's Indo-Canadian community is fairly diverse and includes people primarily of Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannadigas, Malayalees, Bengali, Urdu, and Sindhi ethnic backgrounds.

The settlement of Indo-Canadians in Vancouver can be evidenced throughout the city, however the largest concentrations are primarily found within the neighbouring city of Surreymarker. Most Indo-Canadians within Vancouver are of Sikh Punjabi origin. The Little India commercial district in Vancouver is located in Punjabi Market on South Main Street.


5% of the Indo-Canadian Community resides in Calgarymarker. Calgary has one of the fastest growing Indian Communities in Canada. Indians are the second-largest minority in Calgary after the Chinese.


Indo-Canadian Religious profile (2001) ( Source)
Religion Total Responses Single responses Multiple responses
Total 713,330 581,665 131,665
Sikhism 239,225 217,805 21,425
Hinduism 192,680 174,455 18,225
Islam 124,650 101,015 23,635
Christianity 117,430 65,485 51,945
Eastern religions 5,875 4,785 1,090
Buddhism 1,435 870 560
Jainism 1,291 803 600
Judaism 655 160 500
Other religions 655 540 120
No religious affiliation 30,725 16,555 14,175

Indo-Canadians are from very diverse religious backgrounds compared to many other ethnic groups, which is due in part to India's multi-religious population. Unlike in India however, representation of various minority religious groups is much higher amongst the Indo-Canadian population. For instance in India, Sikhs comprise 2% of the population of India, Hindus 80-82%, Muslims 13.4% and Christians 2.4%. Amongst the Indo-Canadian population however, Sikhs represent 33.5%, Hindus 27%, Muslims 17.5% and Christians 16.5%.

Places of worship

Indians have been building places of worship for their respective faiths since the first settlers arrived to Canada. There are well over 100 Sikh societies/Gurdwaras in Canada alone, and the same number of Hindu societies/temples as well. Hindu temples are usually established by separate Indian ethnic communities. For instance, there are separate temples for North and South Indians, due to different customs and languages spoken. There are also many Islamic societies and mosques throughout Canada, which have been established and supported by Non-Indian and Indian Muslims alike. Most Indian Christians do not have their own specific churches however, instead attending churches established previously by other Christian Canadians.

A renowned Sikh Gurdwara is located in Mississaugamarker (a suburb of Toronto, Ontariomarker), which is called the Dixie Gurdwara. It is a fairly large complex compared to most other Gurdwaras across Canada, and even contains a sports ground behind the Gurdwara for playing kabadi. Similarly within Bramptonmarker, the largest Hindu temple in Canada is located on Claireville Drive, which is called the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Torontomarker. The entire Mandir is and hosts numerous events on the Hindu religious calendar. Many Indian Muslims along with Muslims of other nationalities worship at one of the largest mosques in Canada, the ISNA Centre, located in Mississauga. The facility contains a mosque, high school, community centre, banquet hall and funeral service available for all Muslim Canadians. The Ismailis have the first Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre set up in Burnabymarker, British Columbia. This high profile building is the 2nd in the World, with other locations in Londonmarker, Lisbonmarker, and Dubaimarker. A second such building is being built in Torontomarker.


Indian Languages Spoken at Home in Canada ( source)
Language Total: Language spoken at home Only speaks Mostly speaks Equally speaks Regularly speaks
Punjabiʰ 280,540 132,380 71,660 29,220 47,280
Tamilʰ 97,345 45,865 29,745 9,455 12,280
Hindi 65,890 14,175 16,075 9,090 26,550
Urduʰ 89,365 30,760 27,840 12,200 18,565
Gujarati 60,105 18,310 16,830 7,175 17,790
Malayalam 6,570 1,155 1,810 505 3,100
Bengaliʰ 29,705 12,840 9,615 2,780 4,470
ʰ Note that these languages are also spoken in Canada by immigrants from other South Asian countries such as: Pakistanmarker, Bangladeshmarker and Sri Lankamarker
Indo-Canadians speak a variety of languages, reflecting the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Indian subcontinent. The most widely spoken South Asian language is Punjabi, which is spoken by people from Punjabmarker, Haryanamarker, Himachal Pradeshmarker or Delhimarker in India. Some speakers of Punjabi in Canada may also be Pakistani and they come from Punjab Province in Pakistanmarker. The next most widely spoken language spoken by South Asians is Tamil. These individuals hail from the state of Tamil Nadumarker in India, but most speakers in Canada of the Tamil language come from Sri Lankamarker. Urdu is primarily spoken by Muslim South Asians from North India and Pakistan. Hindi is a language mainly spoken by Indo-Canadians from across North India, however individuals of Indian descent from Africa and the Caribbean may also speak it as well. Gujarati is language spoken exclusively by people from the Indian state of Gujaratmarker. Indians (Ismailis) from East Africa who subsequently migrated to Canada speak Gujarati. Zoroastrians from the western part of India who form a small percentage of the population in Canada, also speak Gujarati. Bengali is spoken by individuals from the state of West Bengalmarker, as well as by the people of Bangladeshmarker, and thus it is not exclusively spoken by Indo-Canadians in Canada, but also by Bangladeshismarker. Lastly, Malayalam is a language primarily spoken in Keralamarker and Kannada or Konkani is primarily spoken in Karnatakamarker..

Indo-Canadian culture

A young Indo-Canadian woman performing Bhangra dancing
Indo-Canadian culture is closely linked to each specific Indian group's religious and ethnic backgrounds. For instance, Hindu Punjabi cultural practices differ compared to Hindu Gujarati and Sikh Punjabis due to either the difference in ethnicity or religion. Such cultural aspects have been preserved fairly well due to Canada's open policy of multiculturalism, as opposed to a policy of assimilation practiced by the United Statesmarker and the United Kingdommarker.

The cultures and languages of various Indianmarker communities have been able to thrive in part due to the freedom of these communities to establish structures and institutions for religious worship, social interaction and cultural practices. In particular, Punjabi culture and language have been reinforced in Canada through radio and television.

Alternatively, Indo-Canadian culture has developed its own identity compared to other non-resident Indians and from people in India. It is not uncommon to find youth disinterested with traditional Indian cultural elements and events, instead identifying with mainstream North American cultural mores. However such individuals exist in a minority and there are many youth that maintain a balance between western and eastern cultural values, and occasionally fusing the two to produce a new product, such as the new generation of Bhangra incorporating hip hop based rhythm. For instance, Sikh youth often mix in traditional Bhangra, which uses Punjabi instruments with hip hop beats as well as including rap with Black music entertainers. Notable entertainers include Raghav and Jazzy B.


Arranged and non-arranged marriage
A group of Indo-Canadians attending an Indian wedding reception.
Marriage is an important cultural element amongst many Indo-Canadians, due to their Indian heritage and religious background. Arranged marriage, which is still widely practiced in India, is no longer widely practiced among Canadian-born or naturalized Indians. However, marriages are sometimes still arranged by parents within their specific caste or Indian ethnic community. Since it may be difficult to find someone of the same Indian ethnic background with the desired characteristics, some Indo-Canadians now opt to use matrimonial services, including online services, in order to find a marriage partner. Marriage practices amongst Indo-Canadians are more liberal than those of their Indian counterparts, with caste only sometimes considered, and dowries almost non-existent.

Love-based marriage, where the partners choose themselves rather than their parents arranging the marriage, occurs commonly. Dating is practiced among many Indo-Canadians, but it is not as prevalent as other Canadian ethnic groups because some families maintain traditional Indian values.

Cross-cultural and interracial marriage

The phenomenon of cross-cultural and interracial marriage has been present in Canada for some years. However, the Indo-Canadian community engages in such marriages to a much lesser extent than members of most other visible minorities in Canada.

Table of number of biracial (White and other) people for various ethnic groups in Canada Source
Ethnic Group Total People Solely Belonging to this Ethnic Group Total people belonging to this Ethnic Group and White (Biracial) Percentage Biracial
Chinese 990,385 39,010 3.82%
Black 593,335 68,880 10.40%
South Asian (including Indo-Canadian) 896,225 20,845 2.27%
Arab 194,680 39,555 16.88%
Japanese 55,880 17,430 23.77%
Filipino 293,940 14,635 4.53%
West Asian 109,285 8,695 7.37%
Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2001

The reason why many South Asians, including Indo-Canadians, do not marry outside their community is due to the presence of strong cultural links and family pressure. It is often unacceptable for even some liberal Indo-Canadians to have their children marry outside their community. Despite these cultural pressures, cross cultural and interracial marriages do exist.

Cross cultural marriages are those that occur between Indo-Canadians and other South Asians which differ in their ethnic background (as in Punjabi or Gujarati), or by religious background. These types of marriages - especially those between different ethnic backgrounds - do occur more often than those between different religions.

Interracial marriages amongst Indo-Canadians mainly occur between a White Canadian and an Indian, and is rarely seen between an Indian and a person of another race such as Black or East Asians. These marriages occurred more so when initial Indians settled in Canada, isolated from Indian culture and community, or when Indo-Canadians live in a community with few other Indians. Notable celebrities of biracial (Indian and White background) are Emanuel Sandhu, Lisa Ray and Shaun Majumder.

Television and radio

There are numerous radio programs that represent Indo-Canadian culture. One notable program is Geetmala radio, hosted by Darshan and Arvinder Sahota (also longtime television hosts of Indo-Canadian program, Eye on Asia).

A number of Canadian television networks broadcast programming that features Indo-Canadian culture. One prominent multicultural/multireligious channel, Vision TV, presents a nonstop marathon of Indo-Canadian shows on Saturdays. These television shows often highlight Indo-Canadian events in Canada, and also show events from India involving Indians who reside there. In addition, other networks such as Omni Television, CityTV and local Cable access channels also present local Indo-Canadian content, and Indian content from India.

In recent years, there has been an establishment of Indian television networks from India on Canadian Television. Shan Chandrasehkhar, an established Indo-Canadian who pioneered the one of the first Indo-Canadian television shows in Canada, made a deal with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to allow Indian television networks based in India to send a direct feed to Canada. In doing so, he branded these channels under his own company known as the Asian Television Network. Since 1997, Indo-Canadians can subscribe to channels from India via purchasing TV channel packages from their local satellite/cable companies. Indo-Canadians view such networks as Zee TV, B4U, Sony Entertainment Television, and Aaj Tak to name a few.

Radio stations in the Greater Toronto Area with Indo Canadian content include CJSA-FM broadcasting on 101.3FM. Another station is CINA broadcasting on AM 1650.

Although Indo-Canadians are privileged to have many television shows and programs available to them to watch, there is a lack of representation of Indo-Canadians on Canadian television as a whole. Indo-Canadians make up roughly 3% of the population, yet they are hardly visible on any major Canadian television network shows as characters or even on television commercials compared to other ethnic groups such as Chinese and Black Canadians, who make up a similar percentage of the Canadian population.

Notable Indo-Canadians Past and Present

The Indo-Canadian community has had many members involved in the areas of Entertainment, Academia and most notably Politics in Canada. For a full list of notable Indo-Canadians, past and present see the List of Indo-Canadians page.

Films with Indo-Canadian subject matter

See also


  1. Ethnic Origin (247), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census - 20% Sample Data
  2. Little India
  3. explorASIAN - Sikh-Canadian History
  4. Selected Ethnic Origins1, for Canada, Provinces and Territories - 20% Sample Data
  5. Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories - 20% sample data
  6. Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada Highlight Tables (choose desired city in the left column and look under the term "East Indian" in the chart)
  7. [1]
  8. [2]
  9. [3]
  10. [4]
  11. [5]
  12. [6]
  13. [7]
  14. [8]
  15. [9]
  16. [10]
  17. [11]
  18. [12]
  19. Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations - 20% sample data
  20. Indian Dating
  21. "Indo-Canadian Mixed Marriage," Context and Dilemmas By: Jacqueline A. Gibbons

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