Montreal’s Grand Indian Population and its Influence on Entertainment

Having such a large Indian population in Montreal and across Canada is only good for the country.

India boasts the world’s highest number of migrants each year, counting some 2.5 million, as well as one of the largest national diaspora populations on the planet. While only the seventh largest home to Indians living outside of India, the Indo-Canadian and Punjabi Canadian population is numerous and continues to have an influence on the buzzing multi-cultural setting of Montréal and British Columbia at large.

Census 2016 found that the percentage of people of Indian heritage living in British Columbia hit 6.7 percent, which was the largest in the country. That said, the population of 309,315 was less than half that of the far more populated province of Ontario, which counted an Indian population of 774,495. The population has surely grown in the years since, with immigration continuing to be a key part of Canada.

In fact, the population of Indians in Montreal, and the demand of Canadians wanting to travel east, has reached a point where Air Canada has expanded its flight plans. In September 2021, the company launched new direct flights from Montreal to Delhi. Having so many people from an overseas nation, naturally, begins to rub off on Canadians, with a great many of India’s best traditions and forms of entertainment growing in prominence right here in Montreal.

A growing Indian contingent across Canada

Both Canada and India have similar closely held beliefs, such as education being the key to success and a commitment to diversity. So, the cultural gap is easier to close than with many other switches between nations, helping the 1.4 million Indian Canadians to feel at home. That number only looks set to grow, too, with 2021 seeing nearly 100,000 Indians become permanent residents of Canada, making up nearly one-quarter of 405,000 new immigrants admitted. 

Importantly, while in the past, the US has been a welcoming place for immigration, the permanent residence pathways have been getting closed down in recent years. Canada, on the other hand, is more than welcoming to those with good education, money to settle, work experience, and language skills. Whenever immigration occurs, especially on this scale, people bring and integrate their favorite elements of their home nations into their new areas, resulting in new products and events being put on.

For Canada, the influx of Indian people and their descendants has certainly had an impact. In Montreal, we can see a great many Indian businesses, entertainment options, and festivals running across the city. Perhaps more pertinently, we’ve even seen some Canadians of Indian descent get excited about a few of the country’s favorite forms of entertainment: sports.

Punjabi Canadians in the NHL and CFL

Obviously, hockey is king in Canada. Of all of the sports, none earns such devotion as hockey; from pond and street games all the way to the NHL itself, Canadians are immersed in hockey almost from day one, and you never need to go far to find a game to play or watch. In the NHL, Canada has seen three players of Indian descent make it to the major league, with two of those playing for the Montréal Canadiens.

Starting his career in the late 1980s, Robin Bawa went on to play for 12 seasons, featuring on the books of the Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks. In 1998, the great Manny Malhotra took the NHL ice for the New York Rangers. Across a career that took him to Dallas, Columbus, San Jose, Vancouver, Carolina, and Montreal, Malhotra put up 116 goals and 295 points in 991 games.

Finally, we have an active player: Jujhar Khaira. Born in Surry, BC, Khaira was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers 63rd overall pick in 2012, with the hulking 6’4’’, 212 lbs left wing making his NHL debut in the 2015/16 campaign. He landed a regular roster spot in 2017 for the Oilers, but switched to the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He told The Hockey News, on his drafting, that “there are still minorities that feel that it is a big deal that it is mainly a Caucasian sport.”

There’s also a star of Indian heritage in the CFL. SukhChungh of the BC Lions is now in his third year with the team and seventh overall pick since being drafted second overall in the 2015 CFL Draft. Standing at 6’4’’ and 315 lbs, the offensive lineman continues to be a force at right guard, with Chungh eclipsing the 100-game mark this season.

Indian entertainment on the rise across Canada

If there’s one form of Indian entertainment that comes to mind, it’s the songs, dances, and pageantry of Bollywood. In Montreal, and doubtless many other cities across Canada, you don’t need to look far to find a Bollywood dance class, which has become a huge craze for fitness fanatics this year. Of course, it’s not just the performance arts that appeal to so many, but also the Sindhi Sarangi & Secular Songs of India music experience.

A staple of Indian home entertainment is gaming. With a whole host of festivals that emphasize communities coming together, Indians know so many communal games – particularly those that involve a deck of cards. This has been clocked by major entertainment brands, which is why the Canadian live casino now features Live Teen Patti and Live Andar Bahar. Both run players through simple-yet-fun card games for real money opposite a human dealer beamed in from elsewhere in the world.

Still, as has been seen across the world, where Indians put down roots, the locals can soon come to enjoy the flavor explosion that is Indian cuisine. Among the best restaurants for Indian food in Montreal are Bombay Mahal, Star of India, Pushap, Thali, and Chand Palace. It’s at these venues that Canadians can’t resist tucking into the ever-popular butter chicken, samosa, paratha, chaat, and dal makhani dishes.

Having such a large Indian population in Montreal and across Canada is only good for the country. Above are just some of the ways in which everyday Canadians can and do benefit from so much diversity.