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Tamil Canadian

Tamil Canadian
Tamil children from Toronto
Tamil Canadian children in traditional garments in Toronto.
Total population
230,000 [1]
Regions with significant populations
Southern Ontario, Greater Montreal, Lower Mainland, Calgary-Edmonton Corridor
Tamil, Canadian English, Canadian French
Hinduism, Christianity, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Indian Americans, Indo-Canadians

Tamil Canadian or Canadian Tamils are Canadians of Tamil ethnic origins mostly from India and Sri Lanka. It is estimated that the Tamil diaspora in Canada is around 200,000.[2] From a population of fewer than 150 Tamils in 1983, it has become one of the largest visible minority population groups within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). In the 1991 census, Tamils were the fastest-growing ethnic group in Metropolitan Toronto. Canada's Tamil population is thought to constitute the largest Sri Lankan diaspora in the world with Toronto being considered as "the city with the largest number of Sri Lankan Tamils in the world".[3][4][5]


With the outbreak of riots and eventual civil war in Sri Lanka in 1983, Tamil migration to Canada increased significantly. In 2000, Sri Lanka was the sixth largest source country of immigrants to Canada, sending 5,841 people or 2.57% of Canada's immigrant total. Between 1991 and 2001, Sri Lanka was the fifth largest source country of immigrants to Canada, after China, India, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.[4]

Between 2001 and 2010 Sri Lanka's rank dropped to 17 in the list of immigrant source countries to Canada. Well behind the major source countries China (327,317), India (277,819) and Philippines (191,121).[6] In 2010 immigrants from Sri Lanka consisted of only 1.4% of Canada's immigrant total of 280,681.

Most permanent residents from Sri Lanka came as either independent immigrants or family class sponsored immigrants.

Refugee claimants are an independent category of Tamils from Sri Lanka who arrived in Canada and are claiming protection under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. After 2001 there have been no Government of Canada or private sponsored Tamil refugees to Canada. There are 141,074 UNHCR recognized Tamil refugees in non-signatory countries. There are a total of 589,639 refugees from Sri Lanka in 2011 who have registered with the UNHCR in non-signatory countries.[7]

Year[8] Permanent Residents Refugee Claimants Government/Private
Sponsored Refugees
1999 4,728 2,802 3
2000 5,849 2,898 7
2001 5,520 2,824 0
2002 4,968 1,589 0
2003 4,448 1,239 0
2004 4,135 1,134 0
2005 4,690 854 0
2006 4,490 862 0
2007 3,934 779 0
2008 4,509 1,013 0
2009 4,269 2,758 0
2010 4,181 2,778 0


A community directory of businesses and services for this community, Thamilar Mathiyil (Amidst Tamils), has been published since 1990 and has grown to several hundred pages in length. There are ten weekly Tamil language newspapers, four Tamil language radio stations, and three cinemas that show Tamil language films that are produced in Tamil Nadu and in Canada. Toronto is also home to the largest Tamil video and music stores in the world. There are also three television stations in Tamil serving the community.[3] The Monsoon Journal and the Tamil Mirror are popular English language papers created and targeted at Tamils.

Three local Tamil television channels; Tamil Vision International (TVI), Tamil One, and Tamil Entertainment Television broadcast a 24-hour service in Tamil.

Social and political activity

File:Grace trilingual sign.jpg
A signboard in English, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil at the Scarborough General Hospital in Toronto

Various political, social and religious organizations exists among the Tamil Canadian community. One such organization is Canadian Tamil Congress, which works as a community and lobby group to communicate on behalf of some Tamil Canadians at the municipal, provincial, federal, and international levels.[citation needed] The Canadian Tamil Congress is largest of these organizations with 11 chapters in the country.[citation needed] The smaller organizations are geared towards organizing kin and village groups from Sri Lanka, as well as supporting various political parties such as the Liberal Party of Canada, New Democratic Party and Conservative Party of Canada. Tamil candidates have participated in the political process representing various parties at municipal, provincial and federal level. In 2011, Rathika Sitsabaiesan was elected as the first Tamil-Canadian Member of Parliament, as a New Democrat in Scarborough-Rouge River. Previously, Logan Kanapathi was the first Tamil Canadian candidate to win election to large municipal government.[3][5][9][10] He currently serves his second term as Ward 7 councilor in the town of Markham. Many Hindu Temples have been built by the community to cater to its religious needs. Hindu Youth Network, an organization founded by Eelam Tamils, is currently the largest Hindu youth movement in Canada with thousands of Hindu Tamil students and over 80% of the Hindu student groups in the country under its umbrella.[11] There are also Christian churches that cater particularly to the Tamil community in Canada.[12]

Tamil Canadians have run multiple campaigns encouraging the donation of blood to the Canadian Blood Services organized by various Canadian Tamil organizations.[citation needed] The community also undertook a recent campaign to help SickKids Hospital, which treats 100,000 children every year. These campaigns were organized by the Canadian Tamil Congress, with the support of many social and community organizations.[citation needed] Some campaigns and non-profit charities in the Canadian Tamil community have also been linked to the funding of the LTTE, a designated terrorist organization in Canada.[13]

Sports and literature

Canada has attracted a number of internationally renowned writers from Sri Lanka, including Shyam Selvadurai. Despite his family's relative privilege and urban base, his family left Sri Lanka because of the 1983 riots. Canadian Tamils have also contributed to the sports fields such as the formerly ranked Canadian tennis player Sonya Jeyaseelan and cricketer Sanjayan Thuraisingam. Pradeeban Peter-Paul a Tamil Canadian table tennis player has been part of the Canadian National Team for the past 12 years. He was one of two Canadians who qualified to represent Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.[14] Soccer and cricket are two of the main sports played by the Tamil population in Canada. Two brothers Raman and Velan Nandhakumaran play ice hockey; Raman plays for Toronto Patriots and Velan selected for Windsor Spitfires and received the Wayne Gretzky Award for the season.[15][16]Events like the Tamil Eelam Challenge Cup for both soccer and cricket is held every year for the youth and the adults.


A law named "Tamil Heritage Month Act, 2014" was passed by Ontario government to proclaim the month of January as Tamil heritage month. This law is for remembering, celebrating and educating future generations about the inspirational role that Tamil Canadians have played.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Statistics Canada - Various Languages Spoken (147), Age Groups (17A) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census - 20% Sample Data
  2. ^ DIVERSITY WATCH - Ryerson University School of Journalism
  3. ^ a b c Cheran, R (2000). "Changing Formations: Tamil Nationalism and National Liberation in Sri Lanka and the Diaspora". Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Sociology, York University. 
  4. ^ a b Jennifer Hyndman (2000). "Aid, conflict and migration: the Canada Sri Lanka connection" (PDF). Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  5. ^ a b Sriskandarajah, Dhananjayan (2005). "Diaspora politics". Springer US. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  6. ^ "Immigration overview:Permanent and temporary residents". Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  7. ^ "2012 UNHCR country operations profile - Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  8. ^ "Facts and Figures 2009". Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  9. ^ Lak, Daniel (2003-05-03). "Canada's Tamils dream of peace". BBC. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  10. ^ "Tamil rebels 'coercing diaspora'". BBC. 2006-03-15. Archived from the original on 2010-05-15. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  11. ^ " National". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 
  12. ^ "List of Hindu temples in Canada". Tamil library. 2002-05-14. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  13. ^ "LTTE funding". National post. 2010-05-11. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  14. ^ "Table tennis at the 2008 Summer Olympics – Qualification". Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  15. ^ "Sri Lankan student selected for Canada’s Ontario Hockey League". Daily FT. April 28, 2015. Retrieved April 28, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Velan Nandhakumaran was drafted by the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League last Saturday". Tamil Guide. April 17, 2015. Retrieved April 28, 2015. 
  17. ^ Tamil Heritage Month Act, 2014

External links