The Indian Diaspora has evolved its own cultural practices in different parts of the world. In a country like Canada which has an open policy of multiculturalism instead of assimilation, people of Indian origin have been able to follow many of their own traditions even as they welcome a new way of life. One of the chief ways in which this is reflected is dating and matrimonial practices among the current generations of Indo-Canadians.
Canadians of Indian origin, also called East Indians or South Asians, number almost a million according to Statistics Canada 2006. With a population of 962665, Indo-Canadians make up around 3.1 percent of the entire Canadian population. Almost half of these numbers comprise the Sikh community who were among the earliest migrants to Canada from the Indian subcontinent and in fact Punjabi is the fourth most common language spoken in the country today. Most of Indo-Canadian population is concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area and the Metro-Vancouver/Fraser Valley Region. Besides these, there are growing communities of Indo-Canadians in cities like Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal.
The history of immigration from the Indian subcontinent to Canada goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century when men from Punjab decided to explore the New World in search of better economic opportunities. Many of them were veterans of the British Army who found their pensions inadequate or small farmers whose lands had been taken away by moneylenders. The first reception to these immigrants in the new land was far from welcoming. The local Canadians treated them with suspicion and there were racial clashes. However with change of Canadian government’s immigration policies after the Second World War, the first wave of immigrants were allowed to be naturalized Canadians and this encouraged more people from the home countries to emigrate to Canada. The later decades saw hundreds of thousands of people from India migrating to Canada on the basis of skills that were required in the North American country.
Indian Dating in Canada is a relatively new trend since by and large, Indo-Canadian families have been able to continue with the system of arranged marriages. This practice, even while taking into account personal preference of partners, remains faithful to the traditional requirements of a match within a specific religion and community. With a view to this end, Indo-Canadian families favor community events as the ideal venue for meeting with prospective partners as well as their respective families. This for one ensures a congregation of people with almost identical racial, religious and linguistic affiliations besides allowing a non-committal approach to any matrimonial negotiations. As a result religious festivals, marriages and cultural celebrations are often seen as a desirable platform for getting young people to know each other.
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However, today a majority of the young people of Indian origin in Canada are second or even third generation Indo-Canadians who have been educated in and exposed to the ethic of multicultural living in Canada. This turns out to be a crucial factor in encouraging young men and women to develop new relationships outside the home and immediate community. So it is only in recent years that dating in the manner of mainstream North American culture is becoming a trend among young Indo-Canadians. Even then the most definitive feature of the dating practice is a preference for partners within their own racial, religious and linguistic group. This not only limits the possibility of opposition from families but also guarantees a degree of similarity in culture and background which is good for any relationship.
With greater numbers of young Indo-Canadians seeking higher education in colleges and professional institutes, it is only natural for the campus to emerge as fertile meeting ground for prospective partners. Here individuals not only get to meet other members of their own community but also live and study with members of various other ethnic and racial groups. This intermingling of cultures is bound to lead to formation of new relationships, which may even go on to stand the test of time.
There are a number of dating sites which cater specifically to the requirements of the newer generation of Indo-Canadians. Sites like Indo-CanadianSpeedDating.com offer not only speed dating choices but also help young men and women to get in touch with each other over social networking and chat sites. On sites like these members can browse through and choose partners according to racial and ethnic groups, professional and geographical preferences. At the same time since these sites target the contemporary Indo-Canadians, members can look forward to connect with partners brought up according to the multi-cultural ethos of Canada and thus possessing a certain degree of liberality and open-mindedness.
Even though dating among Indians in Canada is becoming more common, it is less prevalent as compared to other ethnic groups such as those of African, Japanese or West Asian origin. In fact, Indo-Canadians have one of the lowest percentages of inter-racial marriages among all other visible minorities in Canada. According to data from Statistics Canada of 2006 Census, only 2.27 percent of South Asians which include Indo-Canadians are bi-racial as compared to 23.77% of Canadians of Japanese and 16.88% of Arab origin.
However with increasing acculturation of young Indo-Canadians to the norms of mainstream Canadian society, the earlier generations of Indo-Canadians have accepted that it no longer makes sense to compel their children to look for partners within the narrow limits of their local community. This has led to initiatives by community elders in setting up cultural associations on the lines of their linguistic and religious identity. For instance almost every Canadian city with a strong Sikh presence has its own gurudwara or place of worship in Sikhism while Bengalis in significant numbers at a city like Edmonton have set up their own Edmonton Bengali Association. These groups not only provide a sense of cultural pride and belonging to members of their own ethnic group but help young people to get in touch with each other within their own community. Besides these, there are Indo-Canadian associations based on business, academic and professional interests which also do their bit in bringing people together.
With a history going back to more than a century, Indo-Canadians accept that cross-cultural and even inter-racial relationships are a reality. In fact the community is at once proud of their vibrant cultural heritage as well as of their place in a progressive, multicultural Canadian society.