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South Asian Canadians

South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities, also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east. Topographically, it is dominated by the Indian Plate, which rises above sea level as the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush. South Asia is surrounded (clockwise, from west) by Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Southeastern Asia and the Indian Ocean.

According to the United Nations geographical region classification, Southern Asia comprises the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. By other definitions and interpretations, Burma and Tibet are also sometimes included in the region of South Asia, home to well over one fifth of the world's population, making it both the most populous and most densely populated geographical region in the world.

Furthermore, people referred to as South Asians, Indo-Canadians or East Indians are one of the most diverse ethnocultural populations in Canada. Most South Asian Canadians are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from these countries, but immigrants from South Asian communities established during British colonial times also include those from East and South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji and Mauritius. Others come from Britain, the US and Europe.

In 2006, Canadians of Asian ancestry comprise the largest visible minority group in Canada, at 11% of the Canadian population, and is the fastest growing. Most "Asian Canadians" are concentrated in the urban areas of southern Ontario, the Greater Vancouver area, Montreal, and other large Canadian cities. In Canada, the term 'Asian' is pan-continental, in contrast to its usage in other English-speaking countries. According to the Statistics Canada in 2006, East Asian and Southeast Asian population is 7%, South Asian population is 4%, and West Asians make up the rest of the total Asian population.

In addition, immigrants from India represented almost 12% of new immigrants, followed by immigrants from the Philippines (7%) and Pakistan (5%) (the only immigrant population that is larger than that of South Asians is that from the People's Republic of China). These four Asian countries accounted for 38% of all new immigrants to Canada in 2006. Census figures on ethnic origin reported that there were more than 1.3 million South Asian Canadians in 2006 (almost doubling from 723 345 in the 1996 census). In Canada, the 2006 census reported almost one million people with Indian ancestry, followed by people from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

People referred to as "South Asian" view the term in the way that those from European countries might view the label "European." While they acknowledge that South Asians share cultural and historical characteristics, their basic identification is more specifically tied to their ethnocultural roots. In areas such as Metro Toronto, over 20 distinct ethnic groups can be identified within the large (more than 714 000) South Asian population.


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