Transnational geographies: Indian immigration to Canada
-Transnational nature of relationship must engage multiple sites and scales
-This paper captures the diverse transnational nature of immigrant networks between
India (Punjab and Delhi) and Canada (Vancouver, Toronto) and reveals the social and
spatial basis of recursive relations between these diverse geographical sites
1. India-Canada Immigration and Its Social and Spatial Characteristics: Creating a
a) The History of Indian Immigration to Canada
-Early relations with India were characterized by immigrant exclusion, illustrated most
obviously by the 1908 continuous passage Order-in-Council
-Early immigrants from India were mainly Jat Sikh sojourners from Punjab, drawn to BC
to work in the province’s resource industries th
-Due to the restrictive immigration policies and anti-Asian sentiment evident in early 20
century Canada, community formation was marked by close intraethnic social
interaction and segmented integration
-By the 1950s, as immigration rules eased and permitted limited family immigration from
non-European sources, the population slowly developed, resulting in a community
dominated by immigrants from Punjab.
-The majority of Indian immigrants in Canada at this time hailed not just from Punjab,
but primarily from one region within Punjab, known as Doaba
-Other Indian immigrants have commented on the dominance of Sikh Punjabis in
Canada and suggested that non-Sikh or non-Punjabi-origin Indian immigrants are often
deemed not apna, or not ‘our own’, by Sikhs
-Over 80 percent of the South Asian origin population in Canada resides in Ontario or
b) Composition of immigrant flows from India
-It was not until 1967 that immigration policy eliminated discrimination based on race,
religion or national origin, moving instead towards a points system based on various
-South Asian immigrant numbers changed only slightly throughout the 1960s, due in
part to institutional impediments: there was only one immigration office for the whole of
-In the case of family class immigration, Punjab continues to exercise a strong
influence, accounting for 80 percent of all applications in 1998, but it drops to just over
55 percent for all classes.
Recorded refugee numbers from India in the 1980s and 1990s exceeded 1,000
only in 1996, when 1,241 were admitted.
Refugees from India at this time were primarily interpreted as escaping the
violent unrest linked to the politics of Khalistan and Sikh separatism
One of the most famous Indian refugee incidents in Canada around this time was
the arrival in 1987 of the Amelie off the coast of Nova Scotia with 174 Sikhs
onboard. A number of those aboard the ship, however, were granted refugee status and
settled in the larger urban centers, where Indo-Canadian communities were well
15 to 20 percent of all Indian immigration to Canada was undocumented
It has also been suggested that the influx of these Sikhs, who were primarily
young, into the established Sikh Canadian community caused some tension,
especially with reference to how the Sikh religion was practiced
The skilled-worker category contains those immigrants selected through the
points system as outlined in the 1967 immigration policy.
The numbers of skilled Indian immigrants increased
This changing immigration pattern introduced the religious, geographical and
social diversity, increasingly incorporating individuals from regions other than
Punjab, especially Gujarat and Maharasta
This change in the nature of immigration has been coupled with an increase in
the role of immigration consultants.
In 1998, their clients received close to one-quarter of the total visas CIC issued to
independent immigrants from India.
This suggests that as this class increases, consultants will exercise a powerful
influence over the geography of immigrant source and destination.
Canada’s business category includes the self-employed, entrepre