Indians (commonly called Indo-Canadians or ‘East Indians’ in Canada) comprise one of the largest, most diverse and best educated ethnic minorities in Canada. In the early 1900s, however, there were only a few Indian immigrants in Canada, mostly Sikhs from the Punjab region of India. These early arrivals were mostly concentrated in British Columbia. The significant unemployment that followed the downturn in the British Columbia economy in the early 1900s had led to the formation of anti-immigration lobby groups, like the Asiatic Exclusion League. As in the US, immigration policy in the initial years in Canada had also been restrictive in nature and this continued through the Immigration Act of 1952 which permitted the refusal of entry to immigrants on several grounds. By and large, till the liberalization of immigration policy in the mid-1960s, Indian immigration to Canada remained insignificant. It started picking up from the 1970s onward, and became noteworthy in terms of numbers, diversity and socio-economic impact only in the last few decades. Today, the achievements of Indians abroad have not been confined to the US but are visible in different walks of life in Canada as well.
According to the quinquennial Census of Canada 2006, the population of Canada was 31.6 million. Among them, 6.5 million, constituting more than 20 per cent, were those born outside Canada (Table 2.1). Some of them were non-immigrants, some immigrants and some non-permanent residents of Canada. The Census of Canada defines ‘non-immigrants’ as persons who are Canadian citizens by birth (either born in Canada or to Canadian citizens abroad). ‘Immigrants’ are persons who are or have ever been categorized as ‘landed immigrants’ in Canada. A ‘landed immigrant’ is a person who has been granted the right to live in Canada permanently by immigration authorities. Some immigrants have resided in Canada for a number of years, while others are recent arrivals. Most immigrants were born outside Canada, and only but a small number in Canada.