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Asian and Middle East Culture

Who they are

  • Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres.
  • Asia covers 8.7% of the Earth’s total surface area (or 30% of its land area) and with approximately 3.9 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world’s current human population. During the 20th century Asia’s population nearly quadrupled.
  • The continent is more commonly divided into more natural geographic and cultural sub regions, including theCentral Asia, East Asia, South Asia, North Asia, West Asia and Southeast Asia. Geographically, Asia is not a distinct continent; culturally, there has been little unity or common history for many of the cultures and peoples of Asia.
  • There are 53 countries in Asia, which supports its designation as the largest and most populated continent in the world. Asia is divided into six regions:
      • Central Asia, including Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan;
      • East Asia, including Japan, and the People’s Republic of China
      • North Asia, which is Russia
      • Southeast Asia, including Vietnam and Cambodia
      • South Asia, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India
      • West Asia, which contains Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.

When they arrived

  • Canada has a long history of Asian immigration over the past 100 years. Immigration to Canada from Asia (China) started in 1788, when a group of 50 Chinese artisans accompanied Capt. John Meares on a journey to build a trading post on Vancouver Island.
  • For the first 60 years of the past century, European nations such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as the United States, were the primary sources of immigrants to Canada. Today, immigrants are most likely to be from Asian countries.  China was the leading country of birth among individuals who immigrated to Canada in the 1990s. It was followed by India, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Taiwan. These seven Asian countries alone accounted for over 40% of all immigrants who came to Canada in the past decade.
  • Today, Ontario is home to more than half a million people of Chinese ethnic origin. Chinese immigration in Ontario dates back to 1878 when Sam Ching was recorded as the first Chinese person to come to Ontario.
  •  The most popular destination for Middle East immigrants over this decade was Quebec, which accounts for over 51 % of the total, followed by Ontario at 37%,
  • The first wave of settlement from Japan to Canada happened between 1877 and 1928, when mostly young, literate men came to work as fishermen or lumbermen along the Pacific coast of British Columbia. They also settled in B.C.’s Fraser Valley and parts of Alberta.
  • The major periods of Chinese immigration (from 1858 to 1923 and since 1947) reflected changes in Canadian government Immigration Policy. The majority of emigrants before World War II were of the peasant class. Although there is no direct correlation between poverty and emigration, some looked for a new start after natural disasters or when Meiji policies, such as land filling or the deepening of bays to accommodate ocean-going vessels around Hiroshima, forced them to leave their homes.
  • During the 19th century, many Chinese arrived to take part in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Chinese who came from Guangdong Province blasted and chiseled the treacherous western stretch of railway through the Canadian Rockies.
  • The first Russians in Canada were fur hunters, based in present-day Alaska, who operated among the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) and along the coast farther south in the 1790s, and several Russian officers on detached service with the British navy, who were based at Halifax from 1793-95.
  • After 1953 Russian immigration declined severely (in the early 1970s the average per year from all of the Soviet Union was only 230), although the Soviet government began at that time to allow the emigration of some Jews
  • Immigration of peoples from Southeast Asia to Canada is fairly recent, with the majority of immigrants entering Canada post 1974.
  • Different groups of Southeast Asian immigrants were pushed or pulled to Canada for different reasons; for example, many Southeast Asians, especially from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, landed in Canada as Refugees.
  • Indochinese- Southeast Asians (from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) have come to Canada in 5 waves. Some arrived as students during the 1950s and 1960s and remained, so that by 1970 there were about 1200 Vietnamese and a few hundred Lao and Khmer living primarily in Québec.
  • By the end of 1978 there were 10,000 Indochinese in Canada, the majority of whom were Vietnamese, and most lived in urban centers. In late 1978, the exodus of predominantly Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Chinese “boat people” (a term referring to illegal immigrants or asylum seekers who emigrate in unsafe, overcrowded boats) increased dramatically, and 604 refugees entered Canada from the freighter Hai Hong.  As the situation for the boat people worsened, Canada accepted 59, 970 refugees and immigrants (1979-80).
  • By 1985, Canada had admitted over 98,000 refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, placing Canada in the top 5 countries admitting refugees from what was referred to as Indochina.  From 1981-86, many Indochinese continued to emigrate as refugees and designated class immigrants: 24,000 from Vietnam, 3,400 from Laos and 8,900 from Kampuchea (Cambodia); at the same time, 16,500 people (1984-86) came from Vietnam through standard immigration channels.
  • At the end of 1986, 130,000 (95%) of Indochinese population, were immigrants: 100,000 from Vietnam, 14,000 from Kampuchea and 15,000 from Laos. Efforts by Southeast Asians in Canada to reunify their families during 1987-96 increased the immigrant population by 50%. There has been a strong secondary migration of Indochinese between Canada and the US, and since 1990, a small return migration flow back to Vietnam as well.
  • The Indo-Canadian (South Asian) immigrants began arriving in Ontario at the start of the 20th century. The first South Asian migrants to Canada arrived in Vancouver in 1903. The pioneers were men, mostly Sikhs from the Punjab region in India; many were veterans of the British Army. The first known Caribbean based South Asian was Dr. Kenneth Mahabir, a Trinidadian medical student who came to Halifax in 1908 and stayed on. Faced with the coming independence of India, the federal government removed the continuous-passage regulation in the same year, replacing it in 1951 with an annual immigration quota for India (150 a year), Pakistan (100) and Ceylon (50).
  • Middle East immigration to Canada, according to official statistics between 1882 and 1992, reached a total of 215,331.  Of these, 14,510(almost 7%), arrived between 1882 and 1961. The remaining 200,821, or roughly 93%, arrived between 1962 and 1992. These are the two distinctive periods of Middle East immigration to Canada which are labelled as the “pioneer wave” and the “new wave” respectively.
  • As racial and national restrictions were removed from the immigration regulations in the 1960s, South Asian immigration mushroomed. It also became much more culturally diverse; a large proportion of immigrants in the 1950s were the Sikh relatives of pioneer South Asian settlers, while the 1960s also saw sharp increases in immigration from other parts of India and from Pakistan.
  • The Arab Canadian community began to take shape between 1891 and 1901 when increasing numbers of Syrian immigrants began joining their kin in Montréal and elsewhere, they started their new lives as peddlers. The geographical mobility of the peddlers motivated them to spread the Arabic community outward from Montréal and surrounding villages. They went where business was good and settled their families in Ontario cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, London, Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.

Language:  Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, Turkish, Korean, to name just a few.

  • There is no one language listed as the one main language but there are several major languages in Asia. Asia is a continent with great linguistic diversity, and is home to various language families and many language isolates. The majority of Asian countries have more than one language that is natively spoken.
  • The languages of the majority of the inhabitants of the former Soviet Central Asian Republics come from the Turkic language group. Turkmen is mainly spoken in Turkmenistan, and as a minority language in Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.
  • Kazakh and Kyrgyz are related languages of the Kypchak group of Turkic languages and are spoken throughoutKazakhsta and KyrgyzstanUzbek and Uyghur are spoken in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Xinjiang.
  • In Eastern Asia, languages have been greatly influenced by Classical Chinese and the Chinese writing system, in particular Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese (also known as CJKV). CJK is a collective term for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, which is used in the field of software and communications internationalization. The term CJKV means CJK plus Vietnamese, which constitute the main East Asian languages. The Chinese have had a written language for more than 3,000 years.
  • By 1984, there were fifty Chinese language schools in Canada, with the largest number in Vancouver (twelve) and Toronto (ten). With the introduction of heritage-language programs in the major cities, and the growing public awareness of global trade and relations, some public schools have started offering Chinese language instruction. By the mid-1990s, in the city of Toronto, for example, approximately three thousand children were attending such language classes. Several Canada universities have programs in Chinese language and culture
  • The most recent census (2006) reported the Chinese languages as Canada’s third most common mother tongue group, after English and French.
  • According to the 2005 census data for Canada, 44% of Pakistani-born immigrants in Canada were below the poverty line, being the second poorest group of immigrants in Canada, with many engineers, doctors and doctorates working as taxi drivers or security guards. Only 55% of Pakistani-born immigrants owned a home, and 44 percent lived in households with five or more people. On an average, the wages of Pakistani-born immigrants were 70% of that of Canadians.
  • About half of South Asian Canadians were born in India, where 14 major languages are spoken and hundreds of discrete ethnic groups exist.  South Asia is home to several hundred languages. The major languages spoken in South Asia can be ranked as: Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Telugu, and Marathi. SIL International (formerly the Summer Institute of Linguistics) Ethnologue lists 415 living languages for India.
  • A number of weekly Urdu language newspapers are printed and distributed throughout Canada.  Of these, the most notable, Urdu Times, is the largest circulated Urdu Newspaper of Urdu Language in Canada and is being published by Urdu Times Group of Publications. This group also publishes a weekly magazine called Times Mag and a weekend edition which is called Weekly Awam.  Awam means “Public” in the Urdu Language.
  • Middle East immigrants arriving since 1962 until now have reinforced the existing adaptability pattern because many have entered Canada with educational and occupational advantages. Overall, the educational attainment of Arab Canadians exceeds the Canadian average.
  • Middle East immigrants began to publish Arabic-language, and later Arabic-English– or Arabic-French–language newspapers, to instill pride in the ancestral heritage, disseminate news of the Arab community, and feature articles about the Arab world. After a few years of operation, however, these early newspapers ceased to publish because of insufficient community support. For example, the first Arabic-language biweekly newspaper to appear in Canada, the al-Shآhāb (The Meteorite) of Montreal, lasted for only two years (1908–10). Similarly, The Syrian-Lebanese Mercury of Toronto, an English-language monthly, began in 1935 but ceased publication in 1938.
  • In present day Sault Ste. Marie, Japanese language courses are offered in seven week sessions at the Sault Community Career Centre.  This class offers an opportunity for people to learn basic conversational skills from a native Japanese speaker.
  • Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology, through its Continuing Education program, offers Japanese and Indian cuisine classes in addition to language courses.


  • According to Statistics Canada (2006), the population of Asian ethnic origin in Canada is 3,403,350 people which represent 11.2% of the Canadian population.
  • According to Statistics Canada 2006, in Sault Ste. Marie, the Asian population is divided as such: North Asia (Russia) 265 inhabitants, West Asian (Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq) 60 inhabitants, South Asian(Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and India) 140 inhabitants, East and Southeast (Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia) 565 inhabitants. In Sault Ste. Marie, the Asian population represents 0.9 % of the population. The population has been increasing since then.
  • According to Statistics Canada 2006, 31% (or 795) of the 2,550 immigrants coming to Northern Ontario between 2001 and 2006, were born in Asia and the Middle East. Source:
  • When combined, the three largest visible minority groups in 2001 – Chinese, South Asians and Blacks – accounted for two-thirds of the visible minority population. They were followed by Filipinos, Arabs and West Asians, Latin Americans, Southeast Asians, Koreans and Japanese.
  • Ontario had the highest number of Chinese residents (481,500), but they comprised the second highest proportion (22%) of the visible minorities in the province, behind South Asians (573,250) (26%).
  • Immigrants from Asia represented 58% of all immigrants to Ontario in the 1990s, and 45% in the 1980s. Before 1961, just 2.3% of immigrants who came to Ontario were Asian-born. Source: Ontario Ministry of Finance.Census 2001 Highlights: Factsheet 5: Immigration to Ontario.
  • China (and its Special Administrative Regions – Hong Kong and Macau) was the leading country of birth among people who immigrated to Ontario in the 1990s. It accounted for 16% of all immigrants who came to Ontario in the past decade. Source: Ontario Ministry of Finance. Census 2001 Highlights: Factsheet 5: Immigration to Ontario
  • India was the next leading country of birth of immigrants to Ontario. Between 1991 and 2001, Indian immigrants accounted for 9% of total immigrants to Ontario. The third leading country of birth of immigrants was the Philippines (6%), followed by Sri Lanka (5.2%) and Pakistan (4.5%). Source: Ontario Ministry of Finance. Census 2001 Highlights: Factsheet 5: Immigration to Ontario
  • In 2006, immigrants from India represented almost 12% of new immigrants, followed by immigrants from the Philippines (7%) and Pakistan (5%) (The only immigrant population that is larger than that of the South Asians is that from China).


How did they contribute to life in Sault Ste. Marie

  •  Asian immigrants have made numerous and significant contributions to the mining,  health, agricultural, manufacturing, engineering, teaching,  religious, cultural, sports, military,  business, governmental and political life in Canada. Chinese railway workers made up the labour force for construction of two one-hundred mile sections of the Canadian Pacific Railway  It is noted that they risked their lives to help build Canada’s railroad in the 1880s. The Chinese often had the most dangerous jobs on the railway in carrying heavy rocks or planting unstable explosives. They were also paid about 30 to 50 per cent less than other workers.
  • Asian immigrants made numerous and significant contributions to life in Algoma and Sault Ste. Marie through several businesses and cultural associations  such as: Golden Dragon Restaurant & Tavern, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, China House, Hard Wok Cafe, Sun Kwong Restaurant, Hong Kong Restaurant, China House, Wok Express, Woking Chopstix,  Jade Yoga, Husky House  restaurant, Mac’s Convenience store, JC Sakura Japanese, Sportsman`s Grill and Restaurant, and the Sault Ste. Marie Japan Karate Association  to name just a few.
  • Asians brought the Asian-style diet where consumption of vegetables, grains and fruits are more emphasized than in the North American diet.  Also, Chinese medicine is helping to diagnose health imbalances, especially nascent illnesses.  The Chinese have long attributed various health-balancing properties to foods.
  • Japan is Ontario’s fifth largest trade partner and 9% of the foreign capital invested in Ontario is from Japan. In Ontario there are about 80 Japanese companies, operating over 350 business establishments, and employing about 25,000 people. Of Ontario’s Top Five Trade Partners, three are Asian: China, Hong Kong and India.Source: Statistics Canada, International Trade Division, March 2012.
  • In 2010, imports by Japan of Ontario goods were valued at $1.06 billion CAD while Japanese exports to Ontario were valued at $9.16 billion CAD.
  • The Asian have discovered, invented and designed many products that are used in Canada and around the world today. These inventions have improved industry, health, and everyday life such as domestication of wheat, rice and peas, domestication of animals, invention of the wheel, silk cloth, written language, ink , parasol, umbrella, Indo-Arabic numbers, paper, paper money(China), the game chess, cotton, sugar, Zinc, mining and medicinal use,  ( India), The digital camera, the Compact disc (cd), the flat panel display, the camcorder, the video cassette ( Japan)ruler,( Pakistan) , Yoghurt, television, transformers ( Russian) to name just a few.
  • There are now over 250 South Asian sociocultural associations in Canada. Folk and classical music and dance traditions are popular. In addition, South Asian Canadians now publish and support newspapers and newsletters across Canada.
  • In the mid-1990’s China’s annual production of rice was the largest in the world. China exports 1% of its rice, but it produces quantities that still rank it as the world’s sixth largest exporter. Today, the majority of all rice produced comes from China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, and Japan. Asian farmers still account for 92% of the world’s total rice production.
  • In the goldfields, Chinese mining techniques and knowledge turned out to be better in many ways to those of others, including hydraulic techniques, the use of “rockers”, and a technique whereby blankets were used as filter for alluvial sand and then burned, with the gold melting into lumps in the fire.
  • When they first arrived in BC (1877) the Chinese were involved in various kinds of work. Some were gleaners in the gold fields, often working abandoned claims; others became labourers, cooks, laundrymen, teamsters, domestic servants and merchants, providing auxiliary services to mining communities.
  • Between 1880 and 1885 the primary work for Chinese labourers was on the railway, and during the next 40 years, Chinese became involved in the rough work of a pioneer industrial economy. Skilled or semi-skilled Chinese worked in the BC sawmills and canneries; others became market gardeners or grocers, pedlars, shopkeepers and restaurateurs.
  • A major investor in Canada has been Li Ka-shing, who bought Husky Oil and Gas in Alberta in 1987 and began development of Pacific Place in Vancouver in 1988. His sons, Victor and Richard, are Canadian citizens. Extensive Hong Kong investments reinvigorated the economy and introduced a unique pattern of commercial values and business ethics founded on the traditional Confucian paradigm of interpersonal relationships. According to the 2009 Canadian Business Magazine, Brandt Louie was one of the 50 wealthiest Canadians.
  • Ontario goods exported to India in 2010 were valued at approximately $400 million CAD, while Indian goods imported by Ontario were valued at $1.2 billion CAD.
  • Indian enterprises that have set-up base in Ontario include: Essar Group (Algoma Steel Inc.) located in Sault Ste. Marie; Subex Ltd. (software systems) which has its North American head office in Richmond Hill; Piramal Healthcare Ltd. has a drug development services center in Aurora; Hexaware Technologies Ltd. (IT and process outsourcing) has an operation in North York; ICICI Bank Canada (financial services) located in Toronto. Ontario based companies also have charted success in the Indian market; such as the Bata shoe company.
  • Nadir Mohamed became the CEO of Toronto-based telecom company, Rogers Communications, in March of 2009. His parents were originally from India.
  • Indian-born investor Prem Watsa, known as the Warren Buffet of Canada, owns Fairfax Financial Holdings and currently has assets worth $27 billion.
  • Algoma Steel was founded in 1902 in Sault Ste. Marie. The company emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2004. In April 2007, Algoma Steel was purchased by India’s Essar Group for $ 1.63 billion USD, continuing operations as a subsidiary known as Essar Steel Algoma Inc. Essar Steel Algoma is currently the most profitable steel company per unit on a global scale and currently is the second largest steel producer in Canada. It is the largest employer in Sault Ste. Marie and currently has 2800 employees at the main plant.


 Religion, Values and Traditions

  • The Eastern philosophy and religion plays a major role in day to day life, with Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. One of the most complex parts of Asian culture is the relationship between traditional cultures and the Western world.
  • The music of Central Asia is rich, varied and is appreciated worldwide. Meanwhile, Central Asian cuisine is one of the most prominent cuisines of Asia, with cuisines from Pakistan, India, China and Azerbaijan showing significant influence from the foods of Central Asia. Some of the most famous Central Asian cuisine dishes are  the Shesh Kobab, Biryani, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka.
  • Islam and Buddhism is the religion most common in the Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan, Xinjiang and the peripheral western regions, such as Bashkortostan. Most Central Asian Muslims are Sunni, although there are sizable Shia minorities in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Central Asia has a long, rich history mainly based on its historic position on the famous Silk Road. Most Vietnamese practise Mahayana Buddhism and have formed Buddhist associations across Canada; members of these groups make use of Chinese Canadian institutions.
  • East Asia is usually thought to consist of China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan. The dominant influence historically has been China. Major characteristics of this region include shared Chinese-derived language characteristics, as well as shared religion, especially Buddhism and Taoism. There is also a shared social and moral philosophy derived from Confucianism.
  • 84% to 96% of the Japanese population subscribe to Buddhism or Shinto, including a large number of followers of a syncretism of both religions.  (Shintoism 83.9%, Buddhism 71.4%, Christianity 2%, other 7.8%) Source: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 
  • Shinto believes that all natural things have spirits. To pray to the spirits, people visit a Jinja. Buddhismbelieves that happiness comes from the way a person lives not from money or material possessions.
  • Summo is the national sport in Japan. Other popular Japanese sports are Yakyu or baseball and Sakkaa or soccer, matial arts Judo, Aikido, Kendo and Karate.
  • The flag of Japan is named Hinomaru. It became the official flag in 1870. Hinomaru is a red circle in the middle of the white box. The red circle stands for the rising sun. The Japanese call their country Nihon or Nippon. It means “where the sun comes from”.
  • In Asian tradition, respect for elders has a very important place in the society. They are respected for their knowledge and experience. In Vietnam, a baby’s first birthday is its most celebrated birthday with the giving of traditional gifts of gold rings or bracelets.
  • The script of the Han Chinese is the oldest writing system still in use in the world, and it has long been a unifying feature in East Asia as the communication vehicle for Chinese culture.
  • For five thousand years, Chinese culture has used special herbs in their diet to ensure a long and healthy life. Foremost among these herbs is Ginseng, which the Chinese consider to be the most important herb in their folklore and tradition. Traditional Chinese medicine is now popular around the world as an alternative to western drugs.
  • Marriage traditions in Japan are traditionally Shinto, during which the natural spirits, the kami, are called upon to bless the couple.  Alternatively, it might be a Buddhist ceremony during which two strings of beads are interwoven, symbolizing the joining of two families into one. Purple is the color of love and a young bride may choose to wear an elaborately-embroidered silk kimono covered in purple iris-flowers.
  • Chinese marriage traditions held that the gift of an entire roasted pig given by the groom’s family to the bride’s family was an appropriate engagement gift. The traditional wedding gown in China is bright red which symbolizes luck for the new couple. Chinese bridal gowns are traditionally adorned with elaborate golden phoenixes, chrysanthemums and peonies, symbols of wealth and good fortune. The groom traditionally wears a black silk coat over a robe embroidered with a dragon, and you can expect loud firecrackers at a Chinese wedding to scare off evil spirits.
  • An Asian custom it is common for more than 1,000 guests to be invited to the wedding reception and it is customary for the bride and the groom to greet each guest in a long receiving line before the reception festivities can begin.
  • Yin and Yang– It is a Chinese belief that the universe is made up of two forces Yin and Yang. Yin is feminine and Yang is masculine and they are opposites that work together to create balance. The well-being of the world, body and the souls depend on these forces staying in balance.
  • According to Confucius, the ideal person was polite, honest, courageous, and wise. For more than 2000 years Chinese society was based on the Confucian code of behavior.
  • Laotzu and Taoism are also very old philosophies and religions. It is based in a short book called the Tao Te Ching, written by a man known as Lao-tzu. Taoists believe that achieving the balance of the Yin and Yang is the key to achieving spiritual peace. Taoism teaches the importance of harmony with nature and encourages a simple way of life.
  • Bow– A Japanese bow is used when greeting each other. A bow can also mean “Thank you” or “I beg your pardon”. Cooperation and working together is also very important in Japanese Culture. That goes for people in a family, in a school, in a business or as a country.
  • Although Russian Canadians claim affiliation with a diversity of churches (in order of numbers: the United Church of Canada, Russian Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic), the Orthodox Church is still the traditional centre for the most vocal and active of those claiming Russian origin or descent.
  • While Hinduism, Islam and even Buddhism may be the dominant religions in South Asia, in Canada, Sikhs are one of Canada’s largest non-Christian religious groups and form this country’s largest South Asian ethnic group
  • Islam is the predominant religion in Pakistan and Bangladesh, yet both countries are culturally diverse. Sunni and Shi’a are the two main branches of Islam. Prayer is central to the Muslim faith. People pray five times each day, usually at a mosque. Everyday life is based on the traditions of Islam and the teachings of its holy book, the Quran. Traditional Islamic music called Qawwali is very popular.
  • Purdah tradition- (purdah is Persian for curtain). Purdah is practiced in various ways, depending on family tradition, region, class, and rural or urban residence. Purdah is the practice that includes the seclusion of women from public observation by wearing concealing clothing from head to toe, especially covering their head with a scarf called hijab. This tradition is observed in the high class level.
  • The Hajj is the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every Muslim who can afford to do so.
  • The Muslim community in Canada is almost as old as the nation itself. Four years after Canada’s founding in 1867, the 1871 Canadian Census found 13 Muslims among the population. A great number of Croatian Muslims (from Bosnia) came to American soil much like other Croatian Christians; some came prior to First World War.
  • People from India have strong religious convictions. Despite these convictions, people of different faiths can live side by side because Indian people are highly tolerant of one another. People of many races, languages, and beliefs live together peacefully. As a result of this, a fascinating mixture of different types of art, dance, music, cuisine and crafts flourished in India.
  • In Indian culture, religion is very important.  Two major religions are Hinduism and Buddhism both of which originated in India.
  • Holy water. For the majority of Indians, they believe water has sacred properties. Therefore, it is the focus of many of their religious rituals.
  • The Sari is the garment commonly worn by women all over India. Learning to put on a Sari takes practices. Some Saris are made of cotton, and others are made out of delicate silk. The finest ones glitter with threads of gold and silver. The salwar kameez is the typical clothing for Muslim and Sikh women.
  • One critical cultural commonality is that they all come from places where extended families, kinship and community relations are extremely important. Generally, immigrants from South Asia quickly accept many Canadian cultural patterns, but they have tried to maintain a core of continuity in family and community practice.
  • Marriage is an important cultural element amongst many South Asian Canadians, due to their heritage and religious background. Arranged marriage, which is still widely practised in India, is not as widely practised among Canadian-born or naturalized South Asians. However, marriages are sometimes still arranged by parents within their specific caste or ethnic community.
  • Sweets, eggs, and money are woven into to wedding themes of India. They symbolize, respectively, a sweet life, fertility, and prosperity. The Hindu wedding ceremony includes customary rituals to ward off evil spirits. After the wedding vows have been exchanged the groom’s father or brother showers flower petals on the newlyweds; then he holds a coconut over the bride and groom’s heads and circles it around them three times. An Indian groom often wears a turban with a veil of flowers streaming down in front of his face to protect him from evil spirits.  Traditional Indian brides wear pink and red saris on their wedding day, adorning themselves extravagantly with as much jewelry as possible. Henna staining, a customary art form, is still practiced by Indian brides to be. On the eve of her wedding vows, following a traditional ceremonial cleansing, the bride-to-be will have her hands and feet painted with henna, in beautiful paisley or medallion patterns. Then a special wedding gift is given to the bride, a necklace signifying her married status.
  • Most life events in Middle Eastern culture occur in the context of family and kin; these include birth, marriage, child rearing, education, occupational choice, politics, and death. Society is patriarchal and patrilineal. Polygamy is allowed, although it is uncommon. Children are often raised communally, so that most Afghans are close to their cousins. In the traditional culture, marriages are arranged by kin elders and first-cousin marriages are preferred. Women marry relatively young, often in their middle teens, and are expected to have a large family, preferably of sons. Divorce is possible but uncommon.
  • Ontario is home to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians. Built according to the principles of ancient Indian Shilpshastras and made with more than 24,000 pieces of marble and stone, the museum pays homage to 10,000 years of Indian art, architecture and history.
  • West Asia largely corresponds with the term the Middle East. However, the usage of the term Middle East is slowly fading out due to its obvious Eurocentrism as the region is east of Europe but it is south of Russia and west of India. West Asia consists of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The region is the historical birthplace of Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Baha’i Faith and Islam. Today, the region is almost 93% Muslim and is dominated by Islamic politics.
  • Culturally, the region is mainly Arab and Persian, alongside smaller numbers of Turkish, Greek, Kurdish people, Jewish, Assyrian, Armenian and Cypriot peoples. Iraq is a unique example of both Persian and Arab culture.
  • West Asian cuisine is a fusion of Turkish, Arabian, Greek, North African and Persian cuisine. It is immensely rich and diverse. The literature is also immensely rich with Arabic and Persian literature dominating. One of the most famous literary works of West Asia is 1001 Arabian Nights.
  • In the 2001 census the Chinese community was significantly different from the rest of the Canadian population, reporting that 58% have no religious affiliation, compared to 15% of the Canadian population as a whole. Other Chinese Canadians follow Buddhist, Islamic and other religions. Among Canadians of Chinese origin with a religious affiliation, 34% were Buddhist, 28% were Catholic and 22% belonged to a Protestant denomination. Unlike the declining membership in many of the Christian churches, Chinese membership in the Baptist Church has continued to grow. Many Chinese are also followers of philosophical Daoism, Zen Buddhism, and Qi gong.
  • The Vietnamese have developed formal community organizations across Canada for cultural celebrations, recreational activities and sociocultural maintenance. Nationally, the Canadian Federation of Vietnamese Associations has many local member associations and is concerned primarily with maintaining Vietnamese culture and facilitating social integration into Canadian life.
  • According to the latest source available Statistics Canada 2001, in Sault Ste. Marie, the largest non-Christian religion is Buddhism numbering 125 members, with very small communities of Jews (55), Muslims (55), Hindus(80), and Sikhs (10). The Asian population has been growing since this census was published.

Holidays and Celebrations

  • VAISAKHI April 13. Every spring, you can see them enthusiastically celebrate Vaisakhi, one of the major festivals of Sikhs. It is celebrated with as much enthusiasm in Vancouver as it is in the state of Punjab, India.  Held on the first day of Vaisakhi month — April 13, or the beginning of the solar year, according the Sikh calendar. Visakhi celebrations happen in both British Columbia and Ontario, with many including a Nagar Kirtan parade.
  • LUNAR NEW YEAR The major Chinese festival is the Lunar New Year (February or late January), which is celebrated in many Chinese communities with firecrackers as well as lion and dragon dancers. Other important festive days are “Bright-Clear,” which is a springtime sweeping of the graves of ancestors, and “Mid-Autumn,” which is a late summer occasion for moon watching
  • SOUTH ASIAN HERITAGE MONTH May 5.  Since 2001, each year is proclaimed as South Asian Arrival Day on May 5. In 2001 South Asian Heritage Month is the name given to the month long celebration in Canada, each May, of the presence and heritage of people with roots in the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, and Afghanistan.
  • DOLL’S FESTIVAL JAPAN March 3. Japanese families celebrate their daughters. During the festival, families display dolls dressed in fancy costumes, representing their daughters.
  • SHOWA DAY JAPAN April 29. A day dedicated to honouring Hirohito. Hirohito was emperor of Japan from 1926 to 1989.
  • NATIONAL FOUNDATION DAY JAPAN February 11. It celebrates the founding of the nation of Japan.
  • CHILDREN’S DAY May 5. Japanese celebrate the health and happiness of all Japanese children.
  • INDIA INDEPENDENCE DAY August 15. The anniversary of the day in 1947 when India became an independent country.
  • EID AL-ADHA October 26.  Feast of the Sacrifice or Greater Eid. It is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead. In 2012, in Sault Ste. Marie, this celebration was hold by Algoma University on November 2nd and the Islamic Association of Sault Ste. Marie on October  20,2012.
  • INDIA REPUBLIC DAY January 26. A most exciting holiday that celebrates when the Republic of India was formed on January 26, 1950.
  • PONGAL, FESTIVAL OF THE COW January 14. Pongal is celebrated in the month of January after the winter solstice.  Pongal is a four-day-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. For as long as people have been planting and gathering food, there has been some form of harvest festival. Pongal, is one of the most important popular Hindu festivals of the year.
  • THE PAKISTAN DAY PARADE August 14. The Toronto Pakistan Day Parade is an annual event which takes place at Toronto City Hall to mark Pakistan’s Independence Day (also known as Yom-e-Istiqlal or Yaum-e-Azadi). It is observed on August 14, the day on which Pakistan became independent from British rule.

Notable people of Asian Canadian Descent

  • Christina Saleeb. Egypt. Egyptian cuisine and Language instructor residing in Sault Ste Marie in present day.
  • Jhuma Dutta. India. Indian cuisine instructor in Sault Ste. Marie in present day.
  • Pramod Kumar Shukla. India. Chief Operating Officer of Essar Steel Algoma.  Pramod is a mechanical engineer from the Institute of Technology in Varanasi, India who also holds a Masters in Business Administration from Xavier Labour Research Institute in Jamshedpur, India.  As Chief Operating Officer at Essar Steel Algoma, he assumes accountability for the performance of all operational areas including central services, supply chain management and environment, as well as safety and emergency services.
  • Dr. Mehren Mogharrabi. India General Practitioner and Family Physician in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Dr. Ismeil Amhalhal. Cardiologist in Sault Ste Marie.
  • Shirling Kao. Taiwan. Yoga and Mandarin instructor in Sault Ste. Marie. Shirling received 200-hour hatha yoga teacher training with Yogi Vishvkatu in 2007 in Ottawa.  In 2009, she finished kids and family yoga training with Rainbow Kids yoga in Toronto.  Her warm and nourishing style of teaching creates space for students to explore their inner strength and peace, and cultivates a sense of calm and well-being.  Originally from Taiwan, Shirling enjoys life in her newly found hometown, Sault Ste Marie.
  • Chisato De Marco. Japan. Japanese cuisine and language instructor in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Lan Gao. China. Yoga, Dance, Chinese language Instructor. She is trained as a rhythmic gymnast and a classic Chinese dancer, and through this Lan has profound awareness of how life expresses itself through the movement of the body, breath and mind. She studied yoga at Shanghai Sports University where she got her B.A. and began to teach since 1998 as a certified instructor in China. She has been teaching yoga intensively in Toronto and Sault Ste Marie. Also, as an award-winning radio broadcaster in China and Toronto, Lan promotes multiculturalism through dance performance and teaching Chinese language.
  • Chandralekha Anandavally. India.   Practitioner of Ayurveda Medicine in Sault Ste. Marie.
  • Masumi Mitsui At Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Masumi Mitsui, a Japanese Canadian soldier, earned the Military Medal for bravery. He was a member of the contingent that lobbied the B.C. legislature to give Japanese Canadians the right to vote
  • Ai Thien Tran, a social worker, became the first Vietnamese Canadian to receive Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants Award. His life story shows courage, resilience and an indefatigable quest to succeed.
  • Senator Vivienne Poy. Hong Kong. Senator. She is the first Canadian of Asian descent appointed to the Senate of Canada.  She is an entrepreneur, author, historian and fashion designer. She was integral to establishing May as Asian Heritage Month in Canada. Ms. Poy was educated in Hong Kong, England and Canada and earned a PhD in history from the University of Toronto.
  • Dr. Tak Wah Mak, who was born in southern China, is a renowned Canadian scientist whose work in microbiology and immunology has had a significant impact on public health worldwide. His research concentrates on understanding the elemental biology of cells to determine how the immune system works and tumors form. He began his research at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, where in 1984 he solved one of immunology’s most complex problems when he discovered how the immune system recognizes pathogens.
  • William K. L. Lore, of Victoria, British Columbia, enlisted in the navy in 1943. He was the first Chinese to join the Royal Canadian Navy and the first Chinese officer in any of the British Commonwealth navies.
  • William Chong, born in Vancouver, British Columbia, is the only Chinese Canadian to be awarded the British Empire Medal, the highest honour given by the British government to non-British citizens.
  • Douglas Jung of Vancouver was the first Canadian of Chinese ancestry elected to federal office. During the Second World War, Mr. Jung served with Pacific Command Security Intelligence. After the war, he earned a law degree at the University of British Columbia, the first Chinese-Canadian veteran to receive a university education under the auspices of the Department of Veterans Affairs. His career as a lawyer, politician and international delegate broke many cultural barriers.
  • Norman Kwong became Alberta’s first Lieutenant-Governor of Asian descent in January 2005, however many people know him as the first Chinese Canadian to play in the Canadian Football League. He was born in Calgary; his parents had immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s from Canton, China, despite the $500 head tax.
  • Adrienne Clarkson. Hong Kong. Journalist, author and the first immigrant appointed as Governor General of Canada, Ms. Clarkson came to Canada as a small child in 1942 when her family left Hong Kong after the colony surrendered to the Japanese. Ms. Clarkson was one of television’s first female on-camera personalities.
  • Baljit Sethi came to Canada from India in 1972. She is the founder and executive director of the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society of Prince George, which provides settlement services to communities in Northern British Columbia. Ms. Sethi understood that newcomers could not become part of their new communities without multicultural programs and the active promotion of racial harmony.
  • Deepa Mehta is a prominent and respected filmmaker whose work is known worldwide for its honesty, beauty and universality. Her award-winning films have been shown at major film festivals and distributed worldwide.
  • Raymond Moriyama is an internationally acclaimed Japanese-Canadian architect and urban planner. He describes architecture as a social force that is “a relentless, investigative process.” His architecture is innovative as well as functional and has enhanced Canada’s reputation for architectural innovation. Mr. Moriyama’s work includes the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, which symbolizes the Canadian spirit, the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library and Sudbury’s Science North. His most notable project is the Canadian War Museum, which is devoted to exploring themes of memory and regeneration in the face of war.
  • Naranjan Singh Grewall, from India, was a prominent business owner and municipal official in Mission, B.C. In 1951, he ran for a seat on the board of governors of the Village of Mission. In 1954, he was elected chairman of the board of governors, making him one of the first Canadians of Indian descents to hold public office in Canada. Mr. Grewall moved from Toronto to Mission in 1941 and eventually owned sawmill operations across the Fraser Valley.
  • Kim Thúy, award-winning author, fled her native Vietnam with her parents and two brothers in 1978 to escape the country’s oppressive communist regime. Their journey included a harrowing escape in the nauseating hold of a fishing boat and staying in a Malaysian refugee camp before arriving as “boat people” in Quebec.
  • Paul Nguyen, filmmaker and advocate, was born in Toronto and is a second-generation Vietnamese Canadian whose parents fled Vietnam and came to Canada during the migration of the “boat people.” He uses the Internet and his passion for filmmaking to promote unity among people of diverse backgrounds.
  • Jon Kimura Parker of Vancouver, whose family originally came from Japan, is recognized worldwide for his virtuosity. As guest solo pianist, he has toured the world with several orchestras and performed for heads of state and dignitaries. He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1999. In the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Mr. Parker helped to organize a benefit concert, Dear Japan – With Love, 2011.
  • Juliette Kang, born in Edmonton to Korean parents, was a child prodigy who began violin lessons at age four and made her debut in Montréal at seven. By 11, she had attracted international attention, winning top prizes at the 1986 Beijing International Youth Violin Competition in China.
  • Novelist Shyam Selvadurai, who was born in Sri Lanka, is of Tamil and Sinhala heritage. The possibilities and impossibilities of “mixing” dominate his fiction. He immigrated with his family to Canada following the 1983 riots in Colombo, when he was 19. He has a remarkable ability to portray a world threatened by intolerance but still possessing beauty, humour and humanity. Mr. Selvadurai’s first novel, Funny Boy, won several awards for its frank depiction of its main character’s coming of age during the tumultuous years before the 1983 riots.
  • Zaib Shaikh is a Canadian-born actor, writer and director of Pakistani descent, but he has not been typecast into the shallow ethnic stereotypes common in North American pop culture. His early work included Metropiaand Da Vinci’s City Hall.
  • Margaret Jean Gee is the first woman of Chinese descent to be called to the Bar in British Columbia. She was born in Vancouver and grew up in the city’s Chinatown. She attended high school there and graduated from the University of British Columbia. Ms. Gee was called to the Bar on May 31, 1954, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen the following day and noted in Chitty’s Law Journal of 1954.
  • Sheela Basrur, Order of Ontario (October 17, 1956 – June 2, 2008) was a Canadian medical doctor and former Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health and Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Health. She resigned from these positions late in 2006 to undergo treatment for cancer.
  • Umair Ahmed – Mr Umair Ahmed is Pakistani descent and he is an owner of software house based in waterloo.
  • Yasmeen Ghauri (born March 23, 1971) is a Canadian model for Victoria secret.
  • Munir A. Sheikh, Ph.D., (born September 1947) is a Canadian-Pakistani public servant, economist, academic and the former Chief Statistician of Canada.
Masumi Mitsui
Ai Thein Tran
Senator Vivienne Poy
Tak Wah Mak
William K Lore
William Chong
Douglas Jung
Norman Kwong
Adrienne Clarkson
Baljit Sethi
Deepa Mehta
Raymond Moriyama
Naranjan Grewall
Kim Thuy
Paul Nguyen
JK Parker
Juilette Kang
Shyam Selvadurai
Zaib Shaikh
Margaret Gee
Chinese at work on CPR Canadian Pacific Railway in Mountains
Immigration Branch Certificate for Mah Chew Wah
Immigration Certificate China
Komagata Maru 1914
Presidential Palace Ashgabatturkmenistan
Senator Poy 2009 Toronto
Sikh Musicians
Sikh Passport 1949
Sikh Heritage
Sikh Soldier
Woman Tajikistan author Steve Evans