Pakistani Canadians

Ontario Pakistan Arab Canadians

Pakistani Canadians
Total population
215,560 (inc mixed race, 2016 Census)[1]
156,300 (by full ancestry)
Regions with significant populations
 British Columbia12,580
Predominantly English, Urdu, French, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi and Saraiki
Predominantly Sunni Islam with large minorities of Shia Muslims (both Twelvers and Ismailis) and Ahmadiyya, with much smaller minorities of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Irreligion
Related ethnic groups
Pakistani Americans, Pakistani diaspora, Muslim Canadians

Pakistani Canadian refers to the community in Canada of Pakistani heritage or descent. It can also refer to people who hold dual Pakistani and Canadian citizenship.

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 then largest concentration of Pakistanis in the country. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s most who arrived were young men pursuing graduate or professional studies.

In 1976, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau revised the Immigration Act, which saw an increase in Pakistani immigration to Canada. In the 1980s, during the Mulroney government, immigration levels were further increased. 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. 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 Canada are mainly students, professionals and economic migrants from the middle-class background 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.[4]

Ethnic classification

Most Pakistanis who immigrated to Canada are Punjabis, Kashmiris, Sindhis, Baloch or 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 between 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 Balochi, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Kashmiri and Pashto. There is no official classification of Pakistani Canadians. However, they are usually defined by Asian or South Asian.


Figures from the 2011 Canadian Census from StatsCan indicate that there are about 155,310 Canadians who claim Pakistani ancestry.[5]

Toronto has the largest Pakistani-Canadian community in the country, with a majority living in the localities of Rexdale, East York particularly in Thorncliffe Park and also its western suburbs, Mississauga and Milton, Ontario. The commercial centre 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, Pashtun, Memon, Baloch and Sindhi backgrounds. A small proportion also reside in the Greater Toronto Area, including Milton, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Pickering and Markham.

Many of the Pakistanis that live in Mississauga are from Karachi.[6][7] Urdu is also the top non-official language spoken in Mississauga.[8]

Milton has one of the fastest growing population of Pakistani-Canadians.[citation needed] Canadians of Pakistani-origin constitute about 4% of the population of Milton.[9]

Vancouver has the fastest growing Pakistani community 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 and New Westminster.



Most Pakistani Canadians are Muslims.[10] Religion figures prominently in the lives of Pakistani Canadian families. The majority of Pakistanis belong to the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam;[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. They 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, Turkish Canadians, and Asian Canadians.[11]

Pakistani Canadians have played important roles in many organizations, including:


Although the majority of Pakistani Canadians are Muslims, there is 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 Karachi. Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs also 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 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.[19]


Most Pakistani Canadians live a comfortable suburban life, with the vast majority living in the middle class and upper-middle class.[citation needed] 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.[20] 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.


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.[21]


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.[21]



Most Pakistani Canadians work as professionals or in skilled trades.[citation needed] Many 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.[citation needed] 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.[20]


As per Open Canada Statistics, 2200 Pakistanis were given temporary student visas in 2019.[22] IRCC has included Pakistan to its Student Direct Stream program in order to increase the count of Temporary Study Permits issued to Pakistani students[23][24].


The incomes of Pakistani Canadians are generally just above the national average.[citation needed] Some incidence of poverty may be present among the newer immigrants (especially in Toronto),[25] 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.[20]


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.[26] Only 55 percent of Pakistani-born immigrants owned a home, and 44 percent lived in households with five or more people.[26] On an average, the wages of Pakistani-born immigrants were 70 percent of that of Canadians.[26] Murtaza Haider of Dawn wrote that in response to an article she wrote about ethnic Pakistani poverty in Canada, he received responses from people not believing that this was true.[27]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[28] 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.[citation needed] Pakistani Canadians maintain a deep interest in the society and politics of Pakistan.[citation needed] Funds are raised by the community for the different political parties and groups in Pakistan.[citation needed] Pakistani Canadians raised the third largest number of funds among the Pakistani diaspora to help Pakistan during the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.[citation needed] Annually Pakistani Canadians send remittances of approximately $50 million dollars to Pakistan.[citation needed]


The Pakistan Day Parade

The Toronto Pakistan Day Parade is an annual event which takes place at Toronto City Hall to mark Pakistan's Independence Day (also known as Yom-e-Istiqlal or Yaum-e-Azadi) and celebrate the culture of the country. It is observed on 14 August, the day on which the Dominion of Pakistan became independent from British rule. The Parade Committee is a non-profit organization formed in 2005 to bring together Canadians of Pakistani origin. 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, an award ceremony, cultural programmes, mass marches and speeches. A few invited Pakistani singers end 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 teams 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.

Miss Pakistan World Pageant

The Miss Pakistan World Pageant[29] is an annual event which takes place in Toronto, and is open to all Pakistanis across Canada and the world. Started by Sonia Ahmed,[30] it has represented Pakistan in various international beauty 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 models who will represent and inspire Pakistani youth within their 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.



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 News, Hum TV among other Pakistani TV channels on its Urdu Elite Package.


A number of weekly Urdu language newspapers are printed and distributed throughout Canada including:


Embassy of Pakistan in Ottawa

Wajid Khan and Rahim Jaffer were members of the House of Commons of Canada. Wajid Khan represented the riding of Mississauga—Streetsville district of Ontario as a Conservative Member of Parliament[31] while Rahim Jaffer was a Conservative Member of Parliament for the Edmonton—Strathcona district of Alberta.[32] Currently there are two Pakistani-Canadian women serving in the 42nd Canadian Parliament: Iqra Khalid representing Mississauga-Erin Mills[33] and Salma Zahid representing Scarborough Centre.[34] Both women are Liberal Members of Parliament elected to seats in Ontario. Pakistani Canadians can also be found in the provincial legislatures as well as on municipal councils.

Salma Ataullahjan,[35] a Toronto artist and community activist,[36] was named a Canadian Senator by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on 9 July 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. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, representing the riding of Etobicoke North for the Ontario Liberal Party.[37][38][39]

Notable Canadians of Pakistani origin

See also


  1. ^ "Statistics Canada". 1 November 2017. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Loss of security alarms Pakistani Canadian". Retrieved 22 January 2011. Alt URL
  3. ^ a b The Muslim community in North America. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  4. ^ The Muslim Community in North America. p. 133.
  5. ^ "Tabulation: Ethnic Origin (264), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3), Generation Status (4), Age Groups (10) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2011 National Household Survey". 7 December 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  6. ^ "'Colony of wives' thrives in Mississauga – The Star".
  7. ^ "Begumpura: The Wives Colony – Documentary Series – OMNI Ontario English". OMNI Ontario English.
  8. ^ "Urdu top non-official language spoken in Mississauga". 14 November 2012.
  9. ^ "NHS Profile, Milton, T, Ontario, 2011". Statistics Canada. 8 May 2013.. Source says 3185 out of 83575 are of Pakistani origin.
  10. ^ "2014 World Population Data" (PDF).
  11. ^ "96F0030XIE2001015 – Religions in Canada". Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Welcome To Anjuman-E-Burhani (Toronto) Website".
  13. ^ "Canadian Islamic Congress -". Canadian Islamic Congress.
  14. ^ "The American Muslim (TAM)".
  15. ^ "Home – ISNA". ISNA.
  16. ^ canada, Muslim Association of. "MAC – Home".
  17. ^ Muslim Canadian Congress Archived 4 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Muslim Student Association of Canada Ahmadyya Muslim Community Archived 4 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Saleem A, Steadman KJ, Fejzic, J (5 August 2020). "Utilisation of Healthcare Services and Medicines by Pakistani Migrants Residing in High Income Countries: A Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis". Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. doi:10.1007/s10903-018-0840-4. PMID 30499044.
  20. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of Canada's peoples. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  21. ^ a b "Community Life and Family and Kinship | Multicultural Canada". Archived from the original on 5 February 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  22. ^ "Statistics Canada - Temporary Study Permits Issued". Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  23. ^ Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (9 September 2019). "Student Direct Stream (SDS)". aem.
  24. ^ "Pakistan listed as SDS Program member". CIC News. 29 January 2020.
  25. ^ "Alumni & Friends".
  26. ^ a b c Haider, Murtaza (16 May 2012). "Pakistani-Canadians: Falling below the poverty line". Dawn. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  27. ^ "The harsh reality of Pakistanis living in Canada". Dawn. 28 November 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  28. ^ "Pakistan International Airlines – Home". Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  29. ^ "Miss Pakistan World – Sonia Ahmed President".
  30. ^ "DIVERSITY WATCH | Media | 2003 Archive". 14 March 2005. Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  31. ^ "Wajid Khan – Mississauga-Streetsville". Archived from the original on 6 March 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2008.
  32. ^ "Rahim Jaffer – Edmonton-Strathcona".
  33. ^ "Profile – Khalid, Iqra". Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  34. ^ "Profile – Zahid, Salma". Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  35. ^ "Salma Ataullahjan", Toronto Star
  36. ^ "PM appoints new senator before crucial budget vote", Toronto Star, 9 July 2010
  37. ^ "Etobicoke North: Summary of valid votes cast for each candidate". Elections Ontario. 2 October 2003. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014.
  38. ^ "McGuinty Government Working To Reduce Injury in Ontario". Ottawa: Canada NewsWire. 23 August 2007. p. 1.
  39. ^ "In Brief". South Asian Focus. Brampton, Ontario. 13 December 2011. p. 1.