Immigration from the Indian subcontinent to Canada began during the late 1800s. The majority was Sikhs from the Punjab region and most settled in British Columbia. They were often erroneously referred to by government authorities as Hindus. Some were discharged British soldiers; others were labourers who found work in the lumber, railway and mining industries.
In 1891, an increase in the Chinese Head Tax caused a decline in Chinese immigration to Canada, so booking agents began encouraging immigration from India to sell tickets on trans-Pacific ships sailing between Hong Kong and British Columbia. Between 1904 and 1908, over 5,000 Indian men arrived in B.C., with approximately 3,000 of them continuing to the United States.
This early immigration to Canada was met with much hostility in British Columbia. As a result of this, East Indian immigration to Canada decreased dramatically until the 1940s. Only after the First World War did Canada change its position on East Indian immigration and allowed the admission of women and children. However, other restrictions were applied over the years, such as the "continuous voyage" regulation of 1908.
Under pressure from a newly-created independent Indian government, Canada began to change its discriminatory immigration policies after the end of the Second World War. The initial quota for Indian immigrants was 150, but was subsequently raised to 300 a few years later. Gujarati immigration began in the 1950s and was characterized by two main groups: those who came directly from the Indian subcontinent, and often from Gujarat; and those who migrated from East Africa and Britain. Between 1961 and 1971 approximately 2,500 Gujarati immigrants settled in Canada. Most of these early migrants were various skilled professionals. Furthermore, between 1961 and 1982, approximately 32,000 people of East Indian descent arrived in Canada from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
During the 1970s and 1980s large numbers of people of East Indian descent migrated to Canada from the British Caribbean, most notably Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, as a result of economic difficulties existing in those countries. Approximately 90,000 East Indians migrated from the Caribbean between 1962 and 1992. There was, however, earlier migration of students studying and then residing in Canada from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, and Jamaica but their numbers were quite small. Most of these migrants settled in the province of Ontario with the vast majority settling in the Toronto region. There have also been smaller numbers of people of East Indian descent who immigrated to Canada from Fiji.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files
Other series of Records
Library and Archives Canada also holds other private records regarding Indian families. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or the name of an organization.
Research in Other Institutions
British Library - India Office Records
Families in British India Society
National Archives of India
The Digital South Asian Library
The Guyana / British Guiana Genealogical Society
The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago
Research in Published Sources
Assam & North-East India: Christian Cemeteries and Memorials, 1783-2003 by Eileen Hewson.
History of East Indians in America: The First Half-century Experience of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims by Harold S. Jacoby.
Kacheri Cemetery Kanpur: A Complete List of Inscriptions With Notes on Those Buried There by Zoë Yalland.
Passage from India: Asian Indian immigrants in North America by Joan M. Jensen.
The East Indians in Canada, by Hugh Johnson
The Genealogies and Genealogists of Mithila: A Study of the Panji and Panjikars by Ugra Nath Jha.
The ongoing journey: Indian migration to Canada by Kavita A. Sharma.
Search for other books on East Indians in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject keywords such as:
Family History in India
Sri Lanka Genealogy