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South Asian

Perhaps this section on South Asians needs definition more than other sections. South Asians are sometimes referred to as East Indians. The complexity of writing about South Asians is that they are diverse linguistically and culturally in many ways. People of South Asian decent may come from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Afghanistan, and Bhutan. Further, the majority of the people living in India reside primarily in villages as opposed to larger urban areas. These small communities each differ linguistically, culturally and religiously. There are, for example, at least a dozen different language groups within India, which are mutually unintelligible. Add to this a complex class and caste system as well as the movement and emigration of many South Asians and the endeavor of profiling South Asians in Alberta becomes increasingly complex. Although their history in Alberta is relatively a short one, they have contributed greatly to the province.

Just as there are great divisions between different cultures and groups within South Asia, there are also commonalities that make it logical for us to discuss the South Asians as a group. Hinduism is believed to come from the Arya people, in approximately 1500 BCE, who conquered the entire area of Pakistan and Northern India. From their beliefs imposed upon the people of that area, Hinduism was born. The moral and intellectual foundations of the religion, such as emphasis on family and interest in philosophy pervade the South Asians today. That is not all. The South Asians also have a shared history, specifically one of colonization. This is colonization from the Mogul people, although probably the most pervasive were the British whose effects can still be seen today.

As earlier mentioned, South Asians did not settle in Alberta until relatively late. Much of the reason was sadly the difficult immigration policy. Much like the outrageous entry tax for Chinese immigrants, Canadian policy was motivated by attempting to limit Sikh immigration. The resulting policy around 1907 stated that immigrants must come directly from their country of origin. At this time there was no possible way to get from India to Canada. This included wives and other family members of other South Asians already in Canada, most of which were in British Columbia. Finally, in 1919, they were allowed to bring over their wives, however the legislation remained in effect until 1947. The South Asians came together to fight this legislation but to no avail. Although this effectively stopped any immigration of new families, the South Asians that were here, even in the 1920s, quickly became University graduates and successful farmers

Then, during World War II, it was decided that Colonial India would be divided into India and Pakistan, and Ceylon would become independent. The Indian government would not accept the discrimination against its people. Therefore, in 1948 the Canadian government lifted the continuous passage legislation.

Relatively large immigration into Alberta, however, did not begin until the 1960s, as part of a trend of professional immigrants coming to Alberta. The South Asians who came to Alberta were generally skilled, educated and held somewhat high positions in their country of origin. Most of these people had a higher education in English and therefore adapted more easily to life Canada. In Alberta it is difficult to find or identify a place central to the South Asians of Alberta, whether a town or a neighbourhood within a city. The people of South Asia settled throughout the province.

Although the immigrants from South Asia were well educated and equipped to handle the change from their homeland to life in Canada, they had to and continue to face racism, making their adaptation only more difficult. The tendency in the past has been to group the South Asians together, assuming they are interchangeable and to adhere to and create a negative stereotype of what it means to be South Asian. However, the South Asian community is strong and its participation in Alberta can only enrich us by learning of a rich history and culture within our province.

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