The relationship between race, migration and the Indian diaspora is one of complexity. The Indian diaspora resulted in Indians in many areas of the world, which soon gave rise to migration. These migrant Indians are still heralded as Indian, despite many not having been born in India, and, through migration, race then becomes their defining characteristic. With this, race becomes the basis of comparison and praise for some, but brings with it racial tension. However, racial tension is often tempered by cuisine as a shallow form of acceptance and multiculturalism. Hence it can be said that the Indian diaspora lead to migration, which was followed by race as a defining factor and racial tensions that are shallowly mitigated by acceptance of Indian cuisine.
South Asian immigrants have a long standing history within Canada, and in British Columbia in particular. This Indian diaspora, the dispersion of Indians from their original homeland, is well rooted in Canada (Geary 2014). Indo-Canadians represent three percent of the Canadian population at large, and are the second largest minority behind Chinese-Canadians (Geary 2014). In fact, the South Asian populace as a whole is growing faster than overall Canadians, at a rate of thirty-three percent for South Asians versus four percent for Canadians as a whole (Geary 2014).
The earliest East Indian settlers arrived in the 19th century, primarily from the Punjab region (Geary 2014). Many of these immigrant were Sikh, and brought with them their rich culture and religion (Geary 2014). In 1906, the Sikh settlers established the Khalsa Diwan Society to look after cultural, religious, and political needs of its members (Geary 2014). Then, in 1907, the first Sikh temple was built (Geary 2014). This diaspora would set the grounds for Indian culture within Canada.
However, a racial barrier was faced by the early Indo-Canadians who attempted entry in Canada, including the 1908 ‘Continuous Journey Regulation’ that required immigrants to arrive by direct passage, despite the fact that there was no direct passage to India at the time (Geary 2014). This form of institutional racism continued on until after World War II, when the “racial” exclusion laws in Canada were lifted (Geary 2014). Migration and race then became entwined, as those immigrants who attempted to leave their homeland were barred entry due to their race. Diaspora, however, is the first step in the pattern of Indian migration and race.
Eventually, post-World War II, the removal of racist laws has resulted in immigration from India in droves, with tens of thousands of Indians arriving in Canada yearly (Geary 2014). With this immigration has come more acceptance and integration into Canadian Society. This integration, and migration of Indians to Canada, has led to a number of traditional Indian cultural norms becoming part of Canadian life.
There are, at present, 1.4 million Indians and South Asians living in the United States (Prashad 2000: 2)....