Laotian Canadians

Category:Harv and Sfn template errors Asian Canadians West Asian Canadians
Laotian Canadians
Total population
24,580 (2016)[1]
Lao, Tai-Kadai, Hmong, Canadian French, Canadian English[2]
Theravada Buddhism,[3] Mahayana Buddhism, Laotian folk religion, Christianity and Islam
Related ethnic groups
Lao people, Isan people, Shan people, Thai people, Ahom people and Asian Canadians

Laotian Canadians are Canadian citizens of Laotian origin or descent. In the 2016 Census, 24,580 people indicated Laotian ancestry.[1] Bilateral relations between Canada and Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), or Laos, were established in 1954 with the formalization of the independence of the Kingdom of Laos from France. In August 2015, Canada's first resident diplomat opened the Office of the Embassy of Canada in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

The term Laotian is wide, as it either refers to the people born in Laos and its many ethnicities [49 recognized by Laos] (the Hmong people per example) or, the real term for the majority Lao Loum (constituting 69% of the country) that is simply Lao. The “S” in Laos is actually silent, it was added as the plural of Lao during the French unification of the many Lao states in 1947 to form the Kingdom of Laos (unified from the Kingdom of Luang Phrabang, the Kingdom of Vientiane, the Kingdom of Champassak and the principality of Muan Phuang. All were previously ruled by Siam, and before that were part of the first Lao Kingdom of Lan Xang.)

Today, many Lao Canadians (like Lao Americans and Laotians in France) claim royal ancestry of the main dynasty of Khun Lo such as the House of Champassak in these former states.

Lao people have similar food, culture and language to the Thai of Thailand. Across Canada, restaurants serving Thai food are usually owned by Lao people or the ethnic Isan people. (See the famous Green papaya salad)

Most Lao still refer to themselves as Tai (not to be confused with Thai from Thailand), but from the large sub-group of the Tai people. The Lao identity first appeared during the major lost of the Khorat plateau in 1778 when the Rattanakosin Kingdom (Siam) took over Vientiane and the Lao rebellion (1826–1828) against Siamese rule. After the failed independence attempt, Rama III implemented forced tattooing to identify the ethnic lao population and accelerated huge population transfer into what is today Thailand. It would be officially proclaimed during French colonial rule when all states where unified in 1904, thus distinguishing them from Thais of Thailand.


Most Lao speak French because they were once under the French protectorate of Laos. But many also speak English as well as Spanish (often recent immigrants from Posadas in Misiones, Argentina. See Asian Argentines)

The French spoken in Laos (Also called the Lao créole) is based on standard Parisian French but has some minor differences in vocabulary as in other French dialects of Asia. Today, the French spoken in Laos is slightly different from french learned during the colonial period, giving them a little hard time translating in the homeland.

Many Lao can also speak and understand Thai, Northern Thai language, Phuan language and Isan. Other dialects related to the Kra-dai languages are also understood, such as Tai Dam language in Viet Nam, Shan in Myanmar, Ahom in Assam, India, Meitei in Manipur, India, and Chittagong, Bangladesh as well as Dai of the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in China.

There are also notable communities of Laotian Chinese that speaks the teochew dialect and Lao with Thai-Persian heritage clustered around canadians cities.(See the Iranians in Thailand) These groups cames as a result of the Laotian civil war fleeing the communist takeover.

Migration to Canada

The Laotian Civil War, also infamously known as the Secret War by the CIA, sparked the emigration of thousands of Lao. It was a brutal war between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Army. From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24-hours a day, for nine years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.

Mass migration from Laos to Cambodia peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s, consisting of both government-sponsored and privately sponsored refugees from camps in Thailand, where they had fled to due to the Laotian Civil War and the final victory of the Pathet Lao.[4] Between 1970s and early 1980s many Canadian families, especially in Quebec, sponsored many Lao. But by the 1990s, most refugees in the camps were instead repatriated to Laos. Canada took in 12,793 Laotian refugees.[5]

The Lao community is well assimilated to Canadian culture especially in the province of Quebec. This resulted in many mixed couples having children of mixed heritage.


Most migrants consisted of young families; there were few elderly among them. A significant proportion were drawn from among the community of ethnic Chinese in Laos.[2]

Most of the communities are settled in and more often outside of big Canadians cities such as Burnaby and Surrey in British Columbia, Kitchener, Ontario, where 995 Laotian Canadians live (0.004% of its population),[6] Markham and Calgary. In Quebec, most live in the North Shore (Montreal).



Laotian migrants in Canada mostly follow Theravada Buddhism with a mixture of animism also known as Tai folk religion, though Mahayana Buddhists are also found among those of Laotian Chinese ethnicity.[3]

In 1990, British Columbia had no Laotian Buddhist temple; the nearest was a Laotian American temple in Seattle.[3] Within Canada, Laotian Buddhist temples have been opened in Sainte-Julienne, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Ontario, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.[7]


There are perhaps 500 Christians, most of whom converted while living in refugee camps. Christianity is spreading within the community.[7] Recent immigrants from Posadas, Argentina of Lao descent mostly follows Roman catholicism.


There is a growing community of Lao muslims living in Canada. They are mostly Sunni and Ibadi. Many of whom were born in Laos and are of Indonesian, Thai, Katang (see the Katang people) and Malaysian descent.

See also



  1. ^ a b [1] Canada Census, 2016
  2. ^ a b Richardson 1990, p. 16
  3. ^ a b c Richardson 1990, p. 17
  4. ^ Van Esterik 1999, pp. 902–903
  5. ^ Van Esterik 1999, p. 903
  6. ^ Kitchener, City [Census subdivision, Ontario and Ontario [Province]], Statistics Canada
  7. ^ a b Van Esterik 1999