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A pedestrian at the corner of Gerrard Street and Ashdale Avenue in Toronto's Little India Wednesday, June 8, 2011. (Darren Calabrese for The Globe and Mail/Darren Calabrese for The Globe and Mail)
A pedestrian at the corner of Gerrard Street and Ashdale Avenue in Toronto's Little India Wednesday, June 8, 2011. (Darren Calabrese for The Globe and Mail/Darren Calabrese for The Globe and Mail)

Voices from the Indian diaspora share perspectives on community Add to ...

The more than one million Canadians of Indian origin represent a kind of human bridge to one of the world's rising powers. That relationship was celebrated yesterday as the Day of Overseas Indians kicked off in Toronto. It's the first time such a significant conference focusing on the Indian diaspora has been held in Canada. It drew more than 550 delegates and speakers, from Indian business and government leaders to Governor-General David Johnston and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The conference is the first of many large events planned for 2011, declared the Year of India in Canada. The Bollywood Oscars, with a worldwide audience of 700 million, will be held in Toronto in late June.

Lata Pada

Artistic director of Sampradaya Dance Creations

Founder of renowned dance company, recipient of India's highest honour for members of the diaspora.

What's your relationship to India and to Canada?

I see myself as a global artist, a global person, and that's where my identity is. It's one that straddles both India and Canada with great ease. I see absolutely no dichotomy about those worlds and there's no hyphenation about who I am. I am both Indian and Canadian at the very core.

How did you come to Canada?

I arrived in Canada in 1964 as a young bride. I came to join my husband, who was a mining engineer in Thompson, Man. It was a shock to the system. But I'm very grateful for the experience looking back because it's one that forged my identity as a Canadian. It taught me how beautiful this land is, how vast this land is. I got a chance to travel, to experience the lives of the first nations. I often think that I would feel differently as a Canadian if I were a new immigrant who just gravitated to my own cultural community when I first arrived in Canada.

Shan Chandrasekar

President, Asian Television Network International

Indian student delegate to Expo '67 who went on to launch several multicultural TV channels in Canada.

How will the Canada-India relationship evolve over the next century?

The immigration pattern from India to Canada will be enormous over the next several years. The projections are that the South Asian community is going to be the largest [visible minority]community in this country so we're pretty excited. Needless to say it opens the door for trade relations between the two countries and both countries can benefit.

What can Canada learn from India?

India's a country where multiculturalism has been in existence for thousands of years. You have 17 officially recognized languages, 563 dialects, seven religions. And they all live together. Canada has already learned from that and it has been one of the biggest strengths in terms of its democracy, unity and diversity.

How is the Indian diaspora different from other diasporas in Canada?

There's a lot of similarities but there's a lot of family values in the Indian diaspora. As the next generation grows in this country, the second and third generation, multilingualism may fade but multiculturalism will still be strong. From that perspective, the Indian diaspora really keeps its culture together. The roots are very strong. But the Canadian way of life has become an integral part of the Indian immigrant's life in Canada.

Didar Singh

Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs

High-ranking civil servant in the Indian ministry that focuses on the country's 25-million-person diaspora.

What trends are you seeing in reverse migration?

India is recording one of the most positive examples of reverse migration. I think it's to do with the economic story. As the young Indian diaspora professional emerges in different parts of the world, he is a globalized individual and he will look for economic opportunity wherever he can find it. These young professionals don't think, 'I need to be only in Canada, the U.S., Australia or India.' For them, the world is a stage. And because the Indian story is so positive at the moment and because the opportunities are so many, a large number of the young professionals are beginning to see the advantages of this reverse migration, or circular migration, because they may go somewhere else, to come back and connect. We're getting a large number of start-ups in the technology and financial-services area from young professionals coming back from Canada, the U.S., the U.K., who are becoming a major growth story in the Indian economy. About 100,000 per year, which is large.

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