The ongoing stressful tussle between both India and Canada once again took a salty turn when their Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lately made a big statement stating that the Canadian security agencies have been “actively pursuing credible allegations of a probable connection between agents of the Government of India and the death of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar”.
Since that time, both countries have taken many steps in response to the diplomatic unrest caused by Canada’s ongoing allegations in connection with the death of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The Indian government then suspended all the visas, and also the electronic visas, for all the Canadian citizens with immediate effect until their further notice in reply to Ottawa’s inaction regarding threats against terrorist activities.
The increasing stress among India and the Western nations has once again put the Sikh population in Canada beneath the spotlight. Sikhs all together make 2.1 percent of the country’s total population, according to the recent 2021 Canadian census. And as Canada is home to a huge Sikh population outside of India, let’s take a look at the history to know how the Sikh relocation to the western country started and what difficulties they have experienced.
The population of Sikhs in Canada began to increase after 1991. The increase in relocation from the place of Punjab, India, occurred due to economic and employment reasons, which are, to date, known as the biggest reasons. In the beginning, the increase in the Sikh population coincided with the period of militancy in Punjab. Towards the 1960s and 1970s, tens of thousands of learned Sikhs, and some overly educated, got across Canada and more in the urban corridor from Toronto to Windsor. As their population started to increase, Sikhs started small gurdwaras in all big cities, and it is said that the gurdwara networking was one of the biggest reasons for the Sikh’s huge increase in Canada. The entry of Sikhs into Canada started with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Kesur Singh, a Risaldar Major in the British India Army, is said to be the first Sikh settler to arrive in the country in 1897. He was with the initial group of Sikh soldiers who came to Vancouver as part of the Hong Kong Regiment, which also had Chinese and Japanese soldiers en route for the jubilee. During Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, Sikhs had jobs in the Canadian Pacific Railway, lumber mills, and mines.
They had a lower salary than white workers but sufficient money to provide some of it to India for their families and make it possible for their people to migrate to Canada. Jobs have also encouraged Sikhs to come to Canada. The Sikhs didn’t have any problem finding jobs, but they faced hostility regarding the perception that they were stealing jobs from whites. The Sikhs also faced prejudice in regard to their race and culture. As an increasing number of Sikhs came into the nation, the situation began to get worse. But now Sikhs have a big role in Canadian politics and society.