1950s: Canadian government agreement with government of Pakistan (which then included Bangladesh) establishing a quota of 100 individuals per year
1960s: Bangladeshi professionals began to migrate to Canada
1970s: Some Bangladeshis migrate to Canada to seek political asylum to escape war of independence
1971: People’s Republic of Bangladesh comes into existence
1971: Bangladesh Association of Canada comes about in the wake of the war with Pakistan
1991: Deshe Bideshe (monthly paper) founded on February 21st – available for purchase for $1.00
Some estimate that there are over 100,000 Bangladeshis in Canada, with most migrating to and settling in Ontario, and in particular in the Toronto area. For numbers who migrated prior to 1972, it is difficult to estimate (given that they would have been seen as East Indians, and subsequently Pakistanis).While it may be useful to consider languages spoken, those who speak Bangla can be Bangladeshi OR Indian Bengali. There are distinct differences, including around identity, religion, and residential settlement patterns. While this profile considers Bangladeshis, there may be some connections or disconnections between Bangladeshis and Bengalis in Canada, based on similarities and disconnections.
With high concentrations of Bangladeshis living in low-income areas of east Toronto including Crescent Town, community mobilizing has occurred within a neighbourhood context. One example is the South Asians Women’s Rights Organization (SAWRO). SAWRO has mobilized around the issues facing women in their neighbourhood, including
- Access to childcare – with barriers to accessing subsidized childcare and restrictive policies around independent childcare operation, many women in the Crescent Town area have mobilized, and joined forces with coalitions across the country advocating for a national child care strategy
- Credentials recognition – many of the women involved with SAWRO are highly skilled who had significant work experience in Bangladesh, but have faced barriers to employment
- Community connections and broader social justice – With community connections in mind, SAWRO has created opportunities for women to be engaged through skills development and the arts; in addition, SAWRO has worked for broader social justice through its connection with migrant justice and anti-poverty groups across the Greater Toronto Area
Presence in Quebec
Over ten thousand Bangladeshis live on the island of Montreal, with the bulk of community members migrating between 1991 and 2011. According to a recent article written by Dr. Mahbub Hasan, the presence of Bangladeshi shops – for food, clothing and other goods – has made Bangladeshis feel very connected to each other. The neighbourhoods of Parc-Extension and Plamondon are where many Bangladeshis reside.
In November 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed February 21st “International Mother Language Day,” and it has been observed every year since 2000. While the focus on promoting “the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world” is understood by many, the connection to Bangladeshi communities and struggles is extremely important to understand. The date selected, February 21, is chosen because on that date in 1952, students demonstrating for recognition of the Bangla language were shot and killed by police in Dhaka. The connections for Canada are quite deep – as it was two Bangladeshi community members in British Columbia, members of the organization “Mother Language Lovers of the World” who in 1999 proposed to UNESCO that February 21 be declared International Mother Language Day. After being told that only UN member states could put forward such proposals, these community members reached out to the state of Bangladesh, who did put the proposal forward, which was subsequently declared.
In Toronto, there are three weekly print newspapers for Bangladeshi communities ( Banglakagoj, Aajkal and Deshesr Alo), as well as two television channels (Bangla TV and Deshi TV). Online presence includes the current incarnation of Deshe Bideshe, the Bengali Times and others.
- "Bangladeshis." Multicultural Canada. n.d. http://www.multiculturalcanada.ca/Encyclopedia/A-Z/b1
- Bangladeshi Student Association at the University of Connecticut, “ International Mother Language Day: An Introduction,” 2004. Retrieved from http://sp.uconn.edu/~ubsa/imld/IMLD_flyer1.pdf
- Ghosh, Sutama, “Transnational ties and intra-immigrant group settlement experiences: A case study of Indian Bengalis and Bangladeshis in Toronto, 2007 (68:2/3).
- Hasan, Mahbub, “Bangladeshi Community in Canada: At a Glance,” 2012.
- Rahim, Aminur, “After the Last Journey: Some Reflections on Bangladeshi Community Life in Ontario,” Polyphony, 1990: 12. Retrieved from http://www.tgmag.ca/magic/mt23.html