Richmond, BC, Canada, July 17, 2007
It wasn’t long ago that Canada had only two
solitudes-British and French. However, Montreal’s Expo 1967
changed all that. This popular celebration of Canada’s 100
th anniversary brought the world to Canada’s doorsteps .Thus
began the process of change. This country began to transform from
predominantly English and French cultures to a multicultural one.
The Multiculturalism Act in 1971 made it all official. The subsequent
waves of immigrants from all over, during the 1970s, 1980’s
and 1990’s completely changed the human landscape of Canada.
Two regions of Canada-Toronto and Vancouver- have
been the chief beneficiaries of this influx. Both of these regions
have also become major centers of two dominant immigrant communities-Chinese
and South Asian. Even before these new waves, Vancouver was and
continues to be the main centre for both of these communities.
The Chinese community still considers Vancouver as its economic,political,
cultural and religious centre. However, the new immigrants, especially
South Asians, during the past twenty five years or so, have shifted
the focus to Toronto as well.
In many ways, Vancouver is still considered to
be the main centre for South Asians. However, Toronto doesn’t
seem to be far behind. Recently, this writer had an opportunity
to spend some time in the Toronto area. The progress made by members
of the South Asian community all around, is amazing. Be it business,
politics, technology, media or sports, South Asians in this “centre
of the universe” seem to be progressing by leaps and bounds.
A number of Toronto suburbs are fast becoming the
hubs for the South Asian community. There are mini Punjabs scattered
throughout the region. South Asians are dominating many aspects
of life in this largest city of Canada and its suburbs. There
is a vast array of newspapers in various South Asian languages.
An impressive array of places of worship-Gurdwaras, Mosques and
Temples – have become an integral part of this region’s
landscape. In this context, it was great to see one of the mainstream
newspapers recognize the efforts of this area’s 200,000
strong Hindu community.
In its July 7 edition, the Toronto Star carried
the story and picture of the soon to be opened Swaminarayan Mandir
on its front page. This $40 million temple has been described
as a marvel of architecture, a serenity that’s set in stone.
The newspaper went on to describe this wonderful place of worship
as something that happens once in a lifetime, but in Canada, only
once in many lifetimes.
The South Asian community, whether it is in Vancouver
or Toronto or anywhere else in Canada, has made a name for itself.
It is due the sacrifices of our pioneers as well as the hardwork,
perseverance and dedication of immigrants-old and recent- that
we can hold our heads high as proud Canadians of South Asian heritage.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist, Community
Activist and recipient of the prestigious Order of British Columbia
Award. He heads the Richmond Multicultural Concerns Society and
can be reached at