Ajit Singh Sandhu will never forget the day he saw one of Pakistan’s most revered folk singers perform in Ottawa.
“You never thought this would happen as an event here … It just reflects what the community is like now, how big we are,” said Sandhu, who waited 13 years for a show that size to hit the nation’s capital.
In 2018, the New Delhi immigrant joined thousands of fans to pack the halls of Centrepointe Theatre to watch Rahat Fateh Ali Khan sing hit songs from Bollywood films.
For Sandhu, that moment represented a milestone in the growth of Ottawa’s South Asian community.
“Big names started coming to our city, [before] they would only go to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver,” said Sandhu.
When Sandhu first moved to Ottawa in 2005, there were 26,640 South Asians in the city, but by 2016 that number had grown to 40,725, according to Statistics Canada.
Like many recent Asian immigrants, Sandhu was drawn to Ottawa’s booming tech industry — commonly dubbed “Silicon Valley North.” It’s the latest in a series of immigration waves from Asia that have shaped the city since the first Chinese and Japanese railroad workers landed in Canada more than 160 years ago.
A closer look at the 2016 census reveals that nearly 20 per cent of residents in Ottawa identify as having Asian origins.