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In Their Words : The Story of BC Packers
Indo-Canadian women pack fish at the BC Packers Steveston Cannery
Indo-Canadian women pack fish at the BC Packers Steveston Cannery.
Ray Allan/Vancouver Sun
Indo-Canadian women pack fish at the BC Packers Steveston Cannery

Indo-Canadian workers quickly encountered racial prejudice in a Canada filled with anti-Asian sentiment. Although Indo-Canadian men were considered British subjects, they were not acknowledged as such under Canadian law. During the early 1900s, Canada's immigration policy was discriminatory. Indo-Canadian men lost the right to vote and were prohibited from bringing their wives to Canada until 1919. Despite this hostile climate, some 5,000 men arrived in Canada between 1904 and 1908. Of the over 2,200 Indo-Canadians in BC in 1911 only three were women.

Eventually, government quotas were put in place to limit Indian immigration to Canada. Fewer than 100 people were allowed into Canada from India each year until 1957. This was meant to ensure that Canada remained a country of largely European origin.

British Columbia's Sikh pioneers worked hard to establish rights and freedoms in Canada. Their hard work helped their community become an integral part of Canadian society. British Columbia's modern fish processing industry reflects society at large and Indo-Canadians have been well-represented in the industry since the 1970s. Many Indo-Canadian men and women worked in the Prince Rupert and Steveston canneries of B.C. Packers until the Company was sold in 1999.

To learn more about the immigration hurdles faced by Indo-Canadians please visit our Learning Resources section for links and references.

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