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Pakistani Canadian

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Pakistani Canadian

Canadians of Pakistani descent
Total population
155,310 (by ancestry, 2011 Census)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Ontario 109,295
 Alberta 17,825
 Quebec 12,470
 British Columbia 9,770
Predominately English, French, Urdu, Punjabi
Predominately Islam and minority Christianity and Zoroastrianism
Related ethnic groups
Pakistani American, Pakistani diaspora, Muslim Canadians, Asian Canadian

Pakistani Canadian refers to citizens of Canada of Pakistani heritage or Pakistan-born people who reside in Canada.

History in Canada

People from the region that would later become Pakistan were among the pioneers who migrated from British India to British Columbia at the turn of the century. By 1905, as many as 200 participated in the building of that first community from modern-day Pakistan, which for a time had a small makeshift mosque in Vancouver. But most of these immigrants were sojourners rather than settlers, and they either returned to Pakistan in 1947 or moved on to the United States. Subsequently, Canada imposed a ban on South Asian immigration that remained in place until after World War II. When Canada opened its doors to South Asians again in 1949, Pakistan had been established as an independent state. Most of the Pakistanis who had settled in British Columbia were Punjabis and took advantage of the new immigration policy to sponsor members of their families.

Pakistanis began migrating to Canada in small numbers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Immigration regulations gave preference to those with advanced education and professional skills, and the Pakistanis who came during this period, and throughout the 1960s, generally had excellent credentials. Many of them considered themselves to be sojourners, who had come to earn but not to settle, or were students who intended to return home when their degree programs were completed. While some went back, others remained to become the founding members of the Pakistani-Canadian community.[2]

Pakistani nationals were registered in undergraduate and graduate programs at McGill University in Montreal as early as 1949, and at the University of Toronto from 1958 on. By the mid-1950s, there were five or six Pakistani families living in Montreal in addition to the students. This was probably the largest concentration of Pakistanis in the country at the time. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s most who arrived were young men pursuing graduate or professional studies.

In 1976, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau introduced the Immigration Act. Since then the number of Pakistani immigrants increased dramatically, with hundreds of Pakistanis entering Canada each year. Pakistani Canadians in the 1980s tended to be urban, well-educated, and professional and are more or less familiar with western culture and ways of living. However, the dependents and relatives that they have since sponsored for permanent residence and citizenship to Canada in the years after 1990 happen to be characterized by lower levels of education, due to immigration by sponsorship. However, most of the Pakistanis immigrating to the Canada are mainly students, professionals and economic migrants who do tend to have reasonable levels of education.[3]

Integrating into Canadian society

Pakistanis have integrated well into Canadian society, partly due to the Canadian Government's policies and assistance given to all immigrants settling in the country. Generally speaking, they are known to assimilate into Canadian culture more easily than many other immigrant groups due to fewer language barriers; English is widely spoken in Pakistan among professional classes and is the official language of all state institutions. As well they usually have more educational credentials, and come from a similar diverse and tolerant society. They have brought to Canada Pakistani cuisine and it has been established as one of the most popular cuisines in the country with hundreds of Pakistani restaurants in all major city and similar eateries in smaller cities and towns.[3]

Ethnic classification

Most Pakistanis who immigrated to Canada are either Punjabis, Kashmiris and Muhajirs. There is however a sizable population of Pashtuns living on Canada's west coast, mainly in Vancouver. There is also a small community of Bengalis in Canada who arrived during 1947 and 1971 and still identify themselves with Pakistan. Most Pakistani Canadians speak English or French. However many also speak a second or third language, as they often tend to keep hold of their native tongues, which includes Punjabi, Urdu, Sindhi, Kashmiri and Pashto. There is no official classification of Pakistani Canadians however they are usually defined under Asian or South Asian.


Figures from the 2006 Canadian Census from StatsCan indicate that there are about 124,000 Canadians who claim Pakistani ancestry.[4] There are however sources which show the data maybe inaccurate and is likely to be more than double this figure. With some sources estimating that the Pakistani Canadian population maybe as high as 250,000[5] and the Canadian Government quoting a figure of over 300,000,[6][7] adding that "they continue to make significant contributions to the prosperity and multi-cultural fabric of Canada."[6]

  • Toronto

Toronto has the largest Pakistani community in Canada, with the majority living in the localities of Rexdale, East York and its western suburb Mississauga. The center of Toronto's Pakistani community can be found on Gerrard Street East, in East York. A large Pakistani population resides in this area, and is home to many Pakistani restaurants and stores. Popular days to visit the street are during Eid and Yom-e-Istiqlal. Toronto's Pakistani community is quite diverse with people from Punjabi, Muhajirs, Kashmiri, Pashtuns and Sindhi backgrounds. A small proportion also reside in the Greater Toronto Area, including the cities of Hamilton, Markham, Mississauga, Milton, Richmond Hill, Pickering and Guelph.

The city of Mississauga, near the Toronto Pearson International Airport has large concentration of Pakistani families in which the male head of the household is working in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Many Pakistani families with female as head of the family resides in highrise apartment buildings with children since the 1980s. Many Pakistanis call Mississauga as "Begumpura" or ‘Colony of wives’.[8][9] Punjabi & Urdu is the top non-official languages spoken in Mississauga.[10]

  • Vancouver

Vancouver has one of the fastest growing Pakistani communities in Canada. Most Pakistanis who live in Metro Vancouver reside in areas such as Burnaby and Surrey, which is home to Punjabi Market. Other areas include Abbotsford, New Westminster and North Vancouver (city and district municipality).



Most Pakistani Canadians are Muslims. Religion figures prominently in the lives of Pakistani Canadian families and the majority of Pakistanis belong to the Sunni sect of Islam, although there are very large Ahmadiyya and Shi'ite minorities.[3] In smaller towns in Canada where there may not be mosques within easy access, Pakistani Canadians make trips to attend the nearest one on major religious holidays and occasions. Pakistani Canadians worship at Masjids alongside other Muslims who might trace their ancestry to all parts of the world; there are generally no separate Pakistani Canadian mosques. Pakistani Canadians also participate in and contribute to the larger Islamic community, which includes Arab Canadians, Iranian Canadians & Asian Canadians in Canada. [11] Pakistani Canadians have played important roles in many organizations including:


Although the majority of Pakistani Canadians are Muslims, there is also a sizable community of Christians as well. They worship at churches all over the country and share in the religious life of the dominant Christian culture of Canada. In recent times, Pakistani Zoroastrians (called Parsis) have come to Canada mainly from the cities of Lahore and Karachi and usually congregate with fellow Indian Parsis. Likewise, Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs tend to stay in their own communities and share religious and cultural life with fellow Indian Hindus and Sikhs.


Many Pakistanis have utilized an adaptation technique, and are accustomed to a bicultural lifestyle. At home they live as traditional a life as is possible. The old values and hierarchical decision-making patterns are generally respected, and traditional clothing, food, decorations, and language provide the warmth and reassurance of the familiar. This is due to Islam and their membership in the umma, the universal Muslim community. Much of the organizational and institutional base of Pakistani-Canadian community life is a reflection of the centrality of their religion, its laws, rituals, values, and way of life.


Most Pakistani Canadians live a comfortable suburban life, with the vast majority living in the middle-class and upper-middle-class. They tend to follow the residence pattern set by other Canadians in that they move to more affluent suburbs as their prosperity increases. Members of the community believe in the symbolic importance of owning homes.[12] Generally, Pakistani parents in Canada appear to have successfully transported to their new home a stable family structure and the value system that supports it. While there are many cases of marriage and family breakdown, most Pakistani-Canadian children and young adults appear to respect their parents’ traditional values. Most marriages are apparently still arranged by families, although the prospective brides as well as the grooms usually participate in the decision.

  • Women

An important aspect of Pakistani participation in the Canadian economy has been the increasing number of Pakistani-Canadian women who work outside the home. The need for two incomes to maintain a family’s standard of living has required many wives and mothers to leave the cloistered life at home that had been customary in Pakistan and seek work for wages. While the new situation has created problems within families, and particularly between couples, it has also provided the opportunity for women to participate more fully in Canadian society, and many have enthusiastically embraced the change. Women who arrived in the family-immigrant class possess a range of education and skills, but some who were from the middle class in Pakistan find themselves in working-class occupations in Canada. The result is a significant adjustment problem for them and their families. The percentage of Pakistani women generally who are in the Canadian workforce is higher that the national average.[13]

  • Children

Young people who were born in Canada or brought as children share a particular set of issues and concerns with their parents and the wider Pakistani-Canadian community. Their perspective regarding adaptation and integration is generally not informed by significant direct experience of the culture and values of the homeland, and, as a result, parents and grandparents take on a mediating role. They have to decide what aspects of their traditional lifestyle and values must be left behind and what can be transferred to and re-established in their new home. Most significantly, they generally assume the responsibility for making these choices for their children as well. The family – even in its truncated form in the diaspora – is both the base for substantial cultural transfer and the source of intergenerational conflict.[13]


  • Employment

Most Pakistani Canadians work as professionals or in skilled trades. Many Pakistanis are self-employed and own small businesses. Those who came to Canada from Pakistan via East Africa or the Gulf are more likely to be involved in business. A number of Pakistani Canadians are also traders and are primarily involved in exporting and importing goods to and from Pakistan. A few substantial enterprises are also owned by Pakistani-Canadian entrepreneurs. A small number of them own factories in Pakistan and are engaged in importing Pakistani manufactures. Others have established textile mills in British Columbia and Ontario and are involved in multinational trade. Canada’s economic relations with Pakistan have shifted from aid to trade in the past decade. A number of Pakistani-Canadian businessmen and companies have participated in this development.[12]

  • Labour Force

The Pakistani-Canadian labour force is dispersed, with no concentration in a particular kind of work, and there are no large Pakistani businesses that employ substantial numbers of Pakistani workers. The incomes of Pakistani Canadians are generally comparable to the national average. For the immigrant generation a number of problems – underemployment, difficulties in having their credentials accepted, concerns about bias in gaining employment, a glass ceiling on advancement once a job is secured – reflect the continuing challenges of settlement. For many, the transition has been relatively easy, but others have had to sacrifice a fully satisfying personal life in order to provide the opportunities that are now available to their Canadian-born children.

Pakistan is among the top 5 countries for skilled workers entering Canada.[14]

  • Income

The incomes of Pakistani Canadians are generally just above the national average. Some incidence of poverty may be present among the newer immigrants (especially in Toronto),[15] who tend to take low-paying jobs often due to a lack of 'Canadian experience'. Members of the family and the larger community tend to take care of each other, and to assist in times of economic need. Hence, it would be more common to turn to a community member for economic assistance rather than to a government agency. Relatively low levels of the community are therefore on welfare and public assistance, contrary to what many believe.[12]

  • Poverty

According to the 2005 census data for Canada, 44 percent of Pakistani-born immigrants in Canada were below the poverty line, being the second most poor group of immigrants in Canada, with many engineers, doctors and doctorates working as taxi drivers or security guards.[16] Only 55 percent of Pakistani-born immigrants owned a home, and 44 percent lived in households with five or more people.[16] On an average, the wages of Pakistani-born immigrants were 70 percent of that of Canadians.[16]

Relations with Pakistan

Most Pakistani Canadians maintain very close links with Pakistan and this has been kept alive with second and third generation Pakistani Canadians as well. They travel at least once every few years to Pakistan and often take back gifts of money, food, and clothing for friends and family, and donate generously to charities. Pakistan International Airlines serves Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport three times a week non-stop to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and has been one of the most profitable routes in the entire network.[17] The relationship between the Canadian and Pakistani governments in the past few decades has become close as well, and within the last ten years trade between the two countries has increased significantly. Pakistani Canadians maintain a deep interest in the society and politics of Pakistan. Funds are raised by the community for the different political parties and groups in Pakistan. Pakistani Canadians raised the third largest number of funds among the Pakistani diaspora to help Pakistan during the 2005 Pakistan earthquake. Annually Pakistani Canadians send remittances of approximately $50 million dollars to Pakistan.


  • Miss Pakistan World Pageant

The Miss Pakistan World Pageant[18] is an annual event which takes place in Toronto, and is open to all Pakistanis across Canada and the world. Started by Sonia Ahmed,[19] it has represented Pakistan in various international pageants and has become a global pageant for contestants of Pakistani background from North America, Europe and even as far as Australia. The MPW's mission is to find positive, energetic role model's who will represent and inspire the Pakistani youth within their great community as well as internationally. The pageant has been successfully running since 2002 and looks for intelligent and confident individuals representing Pakistan in international pageants like Miss Earth and Miss Tourism Queen International as well as other international pageants.

  • The Pakistan Day Parade

The Toronto Pakistan Day Parade is an annual event which takes place at Canadians of Pakistani origin and celebrate the Independence Day. Together with the High Commission of Pakistan in Ottawa, its mission is to project Pakistan in its true colour as a dynamic, moderate and peaceful country. The event usually lasts all day with a flag hoisting ceremony, as well an award ceremony, cultural programmes, mass marches and speeches. A few invited Pakistani singers end the off the show at night with songs and dance.

  • Sahara Cup (Friendship Series)

The Sahara Cup was a bilateral ODI cricket series between Pakistan and India, which was held annually from 1996 to 1998 at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. Since then, no matches between the two teams have taken place, however both team as well as the International Cricket Council have expressed interest in restarting the series along with Canada in a Triangular Series. Venues for the series are still in question, however Maple Leaf Cricket Club in King City recently hosted a Twenty20 Triangle Series between Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Canada, which drew 11,000 spectators per match.



A number of Canadian television networks broadcast programming that features Pakistani-Canadian culture. These television shows often highlight Pakistani-Canadian events in Canada, and also show events from Pakistan involving Pakistanis who reside there. Surprise CBC hit Little Mosque on the Prairie also features a Pakistani Canadian family. Recently with an upsurge in digital cable subscribers, Rogers Digital Cable now provides Geo TV, ARY Digital and Indus Vision. Some popular shows on Canadian networks include.

  • The Voice of Pakistan - Vision TV (Since 1971)
  • Kal Kahan Ab Yahan - OMNI TV
  • Yeh Karavan - OMNI TV
  • Dharti Sohni Pakistan - SHAW
  • Radio Pakistan Toronto (WTOR), airs daily from Monday to Saturday and is broadcast to much of the Greater Toronto Area and Western New York.
  • PakMusic, hosted by Adeel Suhrwardy every Sunday on Radio Rimjhim, which is heard across Canada and parts of the Northwest United States.
  • Dharti Sohni Pakistan airs a 2 hour daily radio show on CHIN-FM in the Toronto and Ottawa regions, which broadcasts news from Radio Pakistan as well as BBC Urdu, VoA Urdu as well as Pakistani songs and events happening.

Sunday Times Canada is leading Urdu Language weekly newspaper of Canada published every Thursday. A number of weekly Urdu language newspapers are printed and distributed throughout Canada most notably Urdu Times is the largest circulated Urdu Newspaper of Urdu Language in Canada, it is being published by Urdu Times Group of Publications. Group also publishes a weekly magazine called Times Mag and weekend edition which is called Weekly Awam. Awam mean " Public" in Urdu Language.




Embassy of Pakistan in Ottawa, Canada

Wajid Khan and Rahim Jaffer were members of the Canadian House of Commons. Wajid Khan represented the riding of Mississauga—Streetsville district of Ontario as a Conservative Member of Parliament[20] while Rahim Jaffer was a Conservative Member of Parliament for the Edmonton—Strathcona district of Alberta.[21] Pakistani Canadians can also be found in the provincial legislatures as well as on municipal councils. Salma Ataullahjan[22] and is also an artist.[23] is a Canadian Senator.[24] She was named to the upper house by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on July 9, 2010, and will sit with the Conservative caucus. With this appointment, Ataullahjan became the first Canadian senator of Pakistani Pushtun descent. Shafiq Qaadri is a family doctor and politician in Ontario, Canada. Shafiq Qaadri is a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the riding of Etobicoke North for the Ontario Liberal Party.[25][26][27]

Notable Canadians of Pakistani origin

See also


  1. ^ "Statistics Canada". 2010-12-07 -. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  2. ^ "Loss of security alarms Pakistani Canadian" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2008. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  3. ^ a b c The Muslim community in North America - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  4. ^ "2006 Census of Canada: Topic-based tabulations | Ethnic Origin (247), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census - 20% Sample Data". 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "Canada-Pakistan Relations". 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  7. ^ "Canadian- Pakistani Diversity Professor Advocates for Equity". 2010-03-30. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  8. ^ ‘Colony of wives’ thrives in Mississauga
  9. ^ Begumpura: The Wives Colony
  10. ^ Urdu top non-official language spoken in Mississauga
  11. ^ "96F0030XIE2001015 - Religions in Canada". Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  12. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of Canada's peoples - Google Books. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  13. ^ a b "Community Life and Family and Kinship | Multicultural Canada". Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  14. ^ "Canada Immigration :: Canadian Visa - Info on immigration to Canada - Attracting Skilled Immigrants". 2004-09-14. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c Haider, Murtaza (2012-05-16). "Pakistani-Canadians: Falling below the poverty line". Dawn. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  17. ^ "Pakistan International Airlines - Home". Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "DIVERSITY WATCH | Media | 2003 Archive". 2005-03-14. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  20. ^ Wajid Khan - Mississauga-Streetsville
  21. ^ Rahim Jaffer - Edmonton-Strathcona
  22. ^ "Salma Ataullahjan", Toronto Star
  23. ^ "PM appoints new senator before crucial budget vote", Toronto Star, July 9, 2010
  24. ^ "Salma Ataullahjan a Pakistani woman appointed to Canadian Senate". Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  25. ^ "Etobicoke North: Summary of valid votes cast for each candidate". Elections Ontario. October 2, 2003. 
  26. ^ "McGuinty Government Working To Reduce Injury In Ontario". Ottawa: Canada NewsWire. August 23, 2007. p. 1. 
  27. ^ "In Brief". South Asian Focus (Brampton, Ontario). December 13, 2011. p. 1. 

External links

  • Pakistan-Canada Association
  • Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada - Population by Ethnic Origin
  • Canadian Council on Social Development - Canada's Population from 2001-2004
  • Multicultural Canada website including digitized Pakistani-Urdu newspaper
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