The Indian community here remained relatively small until the ’60s, but just a decade later, immigration from India increased from hundreds per year to tens of thousands per year. With immigration laws encouraging those with entrepreneurial skills, many of these Indians started successful businesses that are still in operation today. The vast majority of Indian immigrants settled in larger urban centres for the increased opportunities in business and employment. Greater Vancouver was a popular settlement area, particularly for those of Punjabi Sikh origin. In fact, although the largest Indian community resides in the Greater Toronto area, nearly half of the entire Indian community in Canada resides in Greater Vancouver. There are also large Indian communities in Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal. However, the reality is that almost every town and city in Canada most likely has a strong Indian community, especially those that have strong ties to farming and healthy economies. Vancouver’s face has changed greatly since my childhood. I love what the city has become and what it represents: a diverse urban centre of many cultures who embrace their differences and raise their children in a truly diverse city. Indian culture has so much to offer to all Canadians, from its strong sense of family values to its amazing food. I encourage everyone to seek out opportunities to learn and experience our people and our culture. Today, there are close to 200,000 Indo-Canadians who reside in Greater Vancouver live primarily in concentrated areas of Burnaby, Richmond, Abbotsford, Surrey, Delta and the Punjabi Market area of South Vancouver. This last neighbourhood, otherwise known as Little India, can be found near 49th and Main Street in Vancouver. This very lively, culturally rich area attracts many visitors from across the city and tourists from abroad for its wonderful selection of restaurants and shops. Little India is as
close to India as you can get here in Canada, and offers all the specialties that my culture enjoys: beautiful 24-carat gold jewelry (you will rarely see Indians wearing anything less than 24-carat gold); exotic, handmade silk garments and fabrics for every occasion; the latest and greatest Bollywood movies (in English too, if you like); and of course the famous Indian sweets that are unlike anything you have tasted before. For those who dabble in Indian cuisine, there’s no better place to find the fresh fruits and vegetables, specialty spices and imported goods the recipes call for. The Punjabi Market merchants are friendly and helpful – for the best service and fewer crowds, save your shopping for mid-week. My favorite reason to go to little India, aside from a great meal of butter chicken and daal, is to pick up a classic Indian movie – like my favourite, Sholay – to enjoy at home. Vancouver boasts many notable and local celebrities, politicians, entrepreneurs, activists, artists and other people of influence and service who are not only proud to call Vancouver their home but are also proud to be Indian. We have recently seen many Indo-Canadians ascend to prominent positions: the first Indo-Canadian Premier outside India Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh; the first Indo-Canadian Police Chief in North America, Kash Heed; the first senior cabinet minister in Canadian politics, the Honourable Herb Dhaliwal; and the first judge to leave the court of Appeal and enter politics, Attorney General Honourable Wally Oppal. And of course, I have to mention our newest Vancouver Canuck, Manny Malhorta, only the second Indo-Canadian to play for the NHL after Duncan’s Robin Bawa. Whether you are building a home, shopping for a new car, picking up local produce, or even cheering our home team, odds are you will meet one of Vancouver’s many successful Indo-Canadians.
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