Khalistan’s Diminishing Charms in Canada
Khalistani activists are coming under increased pressure to change their outlooks
In what could be a significant development, a Khalistan Rally In Canada on July 9 got overshadowed by a Pro-India gathering.
Apparently, a handful of pro-Khalistan supporters had gathered outside the Indian consulate in Canada’s Toronto, but they were severely outnumbered by members of the Indian community who waved the national flag and raised slogans like “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, “Vande Mataram” and “Long Live India”.
It may be noted that Canada is home to one of the largest overseas communities of Indian origin, with approximately 1.4 million Canadians of Indian heritage.
The number of Indians who became permanent residents in Canada (118,095 ) increased 260 per cent from 2013 to 2022, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada data.
According to Statistics Canada, approximately 25,000-30,000 Indians arrive in the country each year, making them second in number after the Chinese immigrants.
Most of the Indian population in Canada is Punjabi followed by Gujaratis, Tamilians, Keralites, Bengalis, Sindhis, and others. Due to such cultural and ethnic diversity, the Indo- Canadians speak various languages including Punjabi, Tamil,Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and Guajarati.
In 2022, at 118,095, Indian immigration to Canada dwarfed the next largest source countries for permanent residents: China (31,815), Afghanistan (23,735), Nigeria (22,085) and the Philippines (22,070). In 2014, Canada had more immigrants from the Philippines than from India.
According to the Census 2021, the total Indian Population in Canada is 1,858,755 (1.85 million) or 5.1% of the Canadian population. This number could have risen further in the last two years. So, one can say that the approximate population of Indians in Canada in 2023 is 1.9 million or 19 lakhs.
The Province of Ontario has emerged as the most popular among Indians, with more than 55% of the Indian immigrant population finding a home in the province. Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo, and Brampton are cities in Ontario with good Indian populations.
The province of British Columbia also hosts a sizable Indian population. Nearly 22% of Indians are spread across cities like Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, and others. As many as 13.6% of Indian immigrants live in Alberta province. Manitoba, Quebec, and Saskatchewan have significant Indian populations.
And when talks of Indians in Canada, it is to be noted that Canadian Sikhs are the largest Indian Community, numbering nearly 800,000 people and accounting for 2.1% of Canada’s population as of 2021, forming the country’s fourth-largest religious group.
Canada is home to the largest national Sikh proportion in the world and also has the second-largest Sikh population in the world, after India. They are the country’s fastest growing religious group.
The largest Sikh populations in Canada are found in Ontario, followed by British Columbia and Alberta. British Columbia has the third-largest Sikh proportion (5.9%) amongst all global administrative divisions, behind only Punjab and Chandigarh in India.
Today, Sikh lawmakers and officials serve at all levels of Canada’s government, and their burgeoning population is one of the most important political constituencies in the country.
In 2017, Jagmeet Singh, 39, became the first Sikh leader of a major Canadian political party when he took the reins of the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP).
It is a fact that the idea of Kalistan has a number of supporters among the Sikhs in Canada, as is the case in the USA, UK and Australia. But it is also an undisputed fact that not all Canadian Sikhs are Khalistan supporters. For most in the Sikh Diaspora in Canada, Khalistan is not a “hot” issue.
Terry Milewski , who has authored a book titled “Blood for Blood: Fifty Years of the Global Khalistan Project (2021)”, says that within the Diaspora, support for Khalistan has dwindled over the years. “There is a small minority that is clinging to the past, and that small minority remains significant not because of popular support, but rather because they are trying to keep up their political influence with various political parties both from the left and the right. They can rally supporters en masse who will vote for the politicians who can sing their song,” Milewski points out.
According to Milewski, “(Today) The Khalistan movement is not about popular support … It is about geo-politics. Countries like China and Pakistan can well tolerate, subsidise and assist in various ways the Khalistan movement on the basis that it is making trouble for their enemies in India.”
It is increasingly becoming obvious that Canada , despite its liberal democracy that guarantees freedom of expression and peaceful gatherings( which Kahalistanis have exploited well), and despite its political leaders wooing Sikhs for votes during elections, will not allow anything on its soil that will jeoparadise its ties with India. And this task is now easier, with more and more Canadian Sikhs deserting the ranks of Khalistanis.