Pre – 1900



The East India Company, a British controlled trading entity, exercises military power and administrative functions over much of India.


Beginning of British government control of India, also called the British Raj, when the role of the East India Company is transferred to the crown (Queen Victoria).


A Sikh army regiment crosses Canada after attending Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in London, England.



A Sikh army regiment from Hong Kong crosses Canada on their way to the coronation of Edward VII in London, England. Some return to Canada, establishing themselves in BC.   


The first wave of South Asian immigrants, mostly Sikh males from the northern Indian state of Punjab, arrive in BC to work as labourers on railway construction, in lumber mills and in the forest industry. Over 5,000 would arrive by 1908.


Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy scriptures), brought to Canada by Arjan Singh, are kept at a house in Port Moody.

Banto (Betty) Gill’s grandfather, Bawa Singh Johal, is one of three brothers who settles in Kitsilano.


Census indicates 2,100 South Asians immigrate to Canada.

The first Sikh gurdwara (temple), meaning ‘gateway to the guru’, is established in Vancouver in a rented house.

Khalsa Diwan Society, an organization to build a strong community based on Sikh values and principles, is established.

Jagat (Jack) Uppal’s father, Dalip Singh, arrives in Vancouver.


Census indicates 2,623 South Asians immigrate to Canada.

South Asian are denied the right to vote when the BC government passes a bill to disenfranchise all natives of India not born of Anglo-Saxon parents.

Foundation stone of the 2 Avenue Gurdwara is laid at 1866 West Second Avenue in Vancouver.

Asiatic Exclusion League, an organization to prevent immigration of people of Asian origin, is formed in Vancouver.

An Anti-Asian Riot causes severe damage to Asian-Canadian businesses and homes in Vancouver.

Nine hundred Sikhs arrive in Vancouver on the Canadian Pacific steamer Monteagle.


Khalsa Diwan Society opens 2nd Avenue Gurdwara at 1866 West Second Avenue in Vancouver.

Bewa Singh Johal and his brothers help build the 2nd Avenue Gurdwara.

Canadian government implements the Continuous Journey act, requiring immigrants to travel directly from country of birth or citizenship to Canada. This provision, coupled with the requirement of having $200 upon landing, drastically reduces the number of South Asians arriving in Canada.

Canadian government proposes a scheme to deport all the South Asians from Canada to British Honduras (Belize).

Balwant Singh, a Sikh pioneer, is the first Granthi (priest) of the 2nd Avenue Gurdwara.

Professor Teja Singh, a Sikh scholar, teacher and author, arrives in Vancouver.


South Asians reject the Canadian government scheme to deport them from Canada to British Honduras (Belize).

Guru Nanak Mining and Trust company, an organization to secure the economic welfare of the Sikh community, is established by Professor Teja Singh.



Gurdwaras are built in Victoria, Fraser Mills, and Abbotsford.

Hardial Singh Atwal, son of Balwant Singh and Bibi Kartar Kaur, is the first Sikh born in Canada.


Ghadar Party, an organization founded by Sikhs in the US and Canada aimed at securing India’s independence from British rule, is established.

Husain Rahim, along with other South Asian activists, successfully challenge the Continuous Journey regulation in BC’s Supreme Court.

Canadian government prohibits artisans or labourers to land at any port of entry in BC on grounds the labour market is “overcrowded”.


Komagata Maru departs Hong Kong (April 4), making stops in Shanghai (April 8), Moji (April 14) and Yokohama (May 3) to pick up additional passengers. Punjabi businessman Gurdit Singh organized the transpacific journey to challenge the Continuous Journey regulation.

A Shore Committee, in preparation for the arrival of the Komagata Maru, is formed during a meeting at the 2nd Avenue Gurdwara. Led by Husain Rahim and Bhag Singh, the Committee consists of fifteen local South Asians (May17).

Komagata Maru arrives in Vancouver carrying 376 passengers – mostly Sikhs, but includes Hindus and Muslims. The Canadian and BC authorities prevent passengers from disembarking because they did not make a Continuous Journey from India to Canada (May 23).

Khalsa Diwan Society holds meeting with hundreds of South Asians and raises several thousand dollars in support of the Komagata Maru (May 30).

Husain Rahim, in the June issue (v.1, no.5) of the Hindustanee (the official organ of the United India League), writes an editorial entitled “Welcome to the Komagata Maru” (June 1).

Canadian Immigration Board of Inquiry hearings begin for 20 passengers who have previously resided in Canada. They are admitted, but officials refuse to admit the remaining 352 passengers, including Gurdit Singh. (June 1).

The Shore Committee sends provisions to the Komagata Maru (June 11).

Vancouver Mayor Baxter organizes a public anti-Asian rally where Conservative MP H.H. Stevens advocates for a “white Canada” (June 23).

BC Court of Appeal upholds the Board of Inquiry’s rejection of test case passenger (Munshi Singh), ruling passengers of the Komagata Maru did not arrive in Canada by Continuous Journey (June 29).

The Komagata Maru is served deportation order. A riot ensues on board as passengers seize control of ship, preventing crew from departing (July 17).

Armed police officers and immigration agents aboard the Sea Lion (a tugboat) attempt to board the Komagata Maru, but are chased off with bricks and other projectiles (July 18).

Prime Minister Borden orders a Canadian Navy vessel, HMCS Rainbow, to move the Komagata Maru out of Burrard Inlet by force if necessary. The Komagata Maru, escorted by HMCS Rainbow, departs without incident (July 23).

World War II begins when Britain declares war on Germany (August 4).

Immigration agent and government informant, William C. Hopkinson, reports that revolutionaries on Pacific Coast are urging South Asians immigrants to return to India to take up arms against British rule (August 11).

Komagata Maru arrives in India near Kolkata (Calcutta). Indian police attempt to force passengers onto a train destined for Punjab, but a riot results with 20 passengers being killed (September 29).

Mewa Singh shoots and kills immigration agent William C. Hopkinson at the Vancouver Courthouse to stop injustices being done to the Sikh community (October 21).


Mewa Singh is hanged in New Westminster. Veneration of Mr. Singh begins with annual observances in Sikh temples. (January 11).


Mayo Singh and Kapoor Singh Siddoo establish a saw mill (eventually called Paldi) near Duncan in the Cowichan Valley that over the years employs hundreds of South Asian immigrants.


Census indicates Sikh population in BC drops to approximately 700.

A Sikh temple at Paldi opens.

Bewa Singh Johal and his brothers start a lumber cartage business at the Cedar Cove Sawmill near False Creek.


Canadian government lifts immigration restrictions on bring wives and children under eighteen years old from India.



South Asian women and children begin arriving in Canada.


Census indicates 1,016 South Asians in Canada.


Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo, founder of East India Carpets in Kitsilano, is born in Punjab, the eldest of three children.


Banto (Betty) Gill’s father, Gurdas Singh Johal, arrives in Canada.


Khalsa Diwan Society has branches at Vancouver, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Golden, Duncan, Coombs, and Ocean Falls.

Jagat (Jack) Singh Uppal, community leader, is born in the village of Uppal Jagir in Punjab, India.


Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo’s father, Naranjan, comes to Canada and works in South Asian-owned sawmills on Vancouver Island.


Banto (Betty) Gill, community leader, is born in Vancouver, the second eldest of eleven children, and grows up in Kitsilano.



Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo, age 7, is sent to Canada to join his father.


Jagat (Jack) Uppal attends Lord Beaconsfield Elementary, one of the first Sikhs in Vancouver to go to public school.


Vancouver Sikhs form the India Grass Hockey Club.


A Sikh temple at Hillcrest sawmill opens.


Harjit Dhillon, community activist and women’s rights advocate, is born in the village of Bahowal in Punjab, India.



Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo joins the Canadian Airforce and works as an aircraft mechanic in Saskatchewan and the Yukon.


Census indicates 1,756 Sikhs in Canada, 98% live in BC.


Shushma Datt, broadcasting pioneer, is born in Nairobi, Kenya.

Banto (Betty) Gill marries Phangan Singh Gill, after he returns from serving in the Canadian Army during WW2.


South Asians are granted franchise to vote and become Canadian citizens.

Canadian government removes the Continuous Journey regulation from South Asian immigrants.

India gains independence from British rule.


Ajaib (Jab) Sidhoo opens a wholesale handcrafted carpet outlet, prior to founding East India Carpets in Kitsilano.


Indian Prime Minister Nehru visits 2nd Avenue Gurdwara in Vancouver with daughter Indira Gandhi.



Census indicates 2,148 South Asians in Canada.

Canadian government immigration quota of South Asians allowed into Canada set at India (150), Pakistan (100) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (50).


Harjit Dhillon immigrates to Canada and marries Manjit Dhillon, a union arranged by her father.


Canadian government immigration quota of South Asians allowed into Canada increased from 150 to 300 per year.



Census indicates 6,774 South Asians in Canada.


Canadian government drops the quota system in favour of non-discriminatory immigration law. During this period, immigration from other parts of India and from Pakistan increases, with many being professionals.


Shushma Datt moves to London, England, and works as a producer and host for the World Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation.


Canadian government introduces new immigration regulations based on point system.


Foundation stone for new gurdwara at 8000 Ross Street is laid.



Khalsa Diwan Society opens Ross Street Gurdwara (April 25).

Punjabi classes started at Ross Street Gurdwara.

Sucha Singh Claire opens the first South Asian business, Shan Sarees and Drapery, at 6576 Main Street in what would become the Punjabi Market.

Betty (Betty) Gill works as an interpreter for Canadian Immigration Service at the Vancouver Airport during an increase in immigration from South Asia.


Census indicates 67,925 South Asians in Canada.

Jagat (Jack) Uppal buys a saw mill on Mitchell Island in the Fraser River, where he sponsors and hires new immigrants to help give them a start in Canada.


All South Asians are expelled from Uganda – Canada accepts 7,000 refugees.

Immigrants from countries with communities of South Asian ancestry – including Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius – begin to arrive in Canada.

Shushma Datt moves to Vancouver.

The India Mahila Association, co-founded by Harjit Dhillon, provides support for South Asian immigrant women.


Banto (Betty) Gill is first woman elected to the board of the Khalsa Diwan Society.



Punjabi Market, at Main Street and 49th Avenue, with approximately 110 South Asian businesses, becomes the largest Indian market outside of India.


Operation Bluestar, a military attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab occurs. Thousands of innocent Sikhs were killed.

A protest denouncing the Golden Temple massacre is attended by 15,000 Sikhs in downtown Vancouver.


Air India Flight 182 explodes over the coast of Ireland. The attack was organized by a small group of Sikh extremists, in retaliation for the Indian government’s military actions in the Golden Temple. All 329 people on board were killed.

Wally Oppal, lawyer and politician, is appointed to the Supreme Court of BC.


Manmohan (Moe) Sihota elected to the Legislative Assembly of BC, first South Asian to be elected to a legislature in Canada.

Khalsa School, a full time private school, is established in Vancouver.

Khalsa Credit Union, to provide financial service to the Sikh Community, is established.


The Vaisakhi Festival, with an annual parade marking the Punjabi New Year, begins in Vancouver.


The 75th anniversary of the Komagala Maru incident.



Plaque commemorating the Komagata Maru incident is placed at Portal Park in Vancouver by the municipal, provincial, and federal governments.

Canadian government amends the RCMP dress code to allow a turbaned Sikh join the force. Constable Baltej Singh Dhillon is the first baptized Sikh to join the RCMP.


Three Sikhs are elected to the BC legislature – Harbhajan (Harry) Lalli, and Manmohan (Moe) Sihota and Ujjal Dosanjh, who hold various cabinet posts.


Shushma Datt receives the Order of British Columbia, the first female South Asian recipient, for outstanding service to the province.


Harbans (Herb) Dhaliwal, Vancouver politician, is one of four South Asians first elected as Members of Parliament in Canada.

Punjabi Market is officially recognized with bilingual signs in English and Punjabi.


Plaque commemorating 80 years since the Komagata Maru incident is placed in Vancouver harbor.


BC schools begin offering Punjabi language in its regular curriculum from grades five to twelve.

Sucha Singh Claire sells his business in the Punjabi Market, one of the many businesses that, in the following decades, that would either close due to high rents or relocate to Surrey to access the growing South Asian population.



Diwali Fest, an annual South Asian arts and culture festival based on the Hindu celebration of light, is founded to present diverse art forms and bring together people of all backgrounds.

Vancouver International Bhangra Festival, founded by Mo Dhaliwal, presents cultural programming that engages artists, communities and festival attendees across genres of performance and ethno-cultural boundaries.


Shushma Datt is the first woman in Canada to receive a license from the federal government to start an AM station – RJ1200.

The South Asian Arts Society, founded by Gurpreet Sian and Raakhi Sinha, creates performance and educational opportunities for professional and amateur artists and builds knowledge of South Asian culture.


Harjit Dhillon’s family opens a primary school in their ancestral village in Punjab, and awards annual scholarships to encourage students to continue their education.


BC government issues a formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologizes for the Komagata Maru incident at a community event in Surrey.



Census indicates 1.6 million South Asians in Canada, among a national population of 33 million.


Indian Summer Festival is founded to showcase and build public awareness of artists of South Asian origin in the performing, visual, literary and folk arts and to foster dialogue between Canada and South Asia.


Jagat (Jack) Uppal receives honorary doctorate, from Simon Fraser University, honouring his work for a more equal Vancouver, free from racism and discrimination.


Banto (Betty) Gill is awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to her fellow citizens, her community and her country.


Monsoon Arts Festival, founded by the South Asian Arts Society, showcases South Asian theatre and performing arts.


The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, apologies in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident.


South Asian Stories gratefully acknowledges the work of many historians, writers and researchers from the South Asian and academic communities upon which this chronology is based.

Buchignani, Norman, Doreen M. Indra and Ram Srivastiva. 1985. Continuous Journey: A social history of South Asians in Canada.
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd

Jagpal, Sarjeet Singh. 1994. Becoming Canadians: Pioneer Sikhs in Their Own Words.
Vancouver: Harbour Publishing.

Johnston, Hugh. 1989. The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh challenge to Canada’s colour bar. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Johnston, Hugh. 2011. Jewels of the Qila: The Remarkable Story of an Indo-Canadian Family. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Kazimi, Ali. 2011. Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru.
Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre.

Singh, Kesar. 1989. Canadian Sikhs (part one) and Komagata Maru Massacre.
Surrey, BC