Sri Lankan Canadians refers to people from Sri Lanka who have arrived and settled in Canada. Among these immigrants include members from the Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, Malay, and Burgher ethnicities. According to 2016 census there are 152,595 Sri Lankans in Canada. Most Sri Lankan Canadians are concentrated in the cities of Toronto (the surrounding GTA) and Montreal. Many Tamil Canadians from Sri Lanka classify themselves as Tamil rather than Sri Lankan.
Tamil Heritage Month
Tamils began migrating to Ontario as early as the 1940s. Since that time, Tamil Canadians have overcome tremendous obstacles and have made significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of Ontario. January is an important month for Tamil Canadians. The Tamil Harvest Festival, Thai Pongal, as well as other Tamil artistic and cultural events, take place in January.
By proclaiming the month of January as Tamil Heritage Month, the Province of Ontario recognizes the valuable contributions that Tamil Canadians have made to Ontario’s social, economic, political and cultural fabric. Tamil Heritage Month is an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate future generations about the inspirational role that Tamil Canadians have played and continue to play in communities across Ontario.
Tamil Heritage Month takes place every January and has been recognized by the province of Ontario since March 2014 when the Tamil Heritage Month Act was passed.
Thai Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamils in Mississauga and in communities throughout the world. It is observed at the start of the month Tai according to Tamil solar calendar and this is typically about January 14. The festival is named after the ceremonial “Pongal”, which means “to boil, overflow” and refers to the traditional dish prepared from the new harvest of rice boiled in milk with jaggery (raw sugar) and symbolizes abundance and prosperity.
This marks an important occasion in the calendar year for Tamil, since it’s an opportunity to give thanks to nature for providing bountiful harvests, while at the same time acknowledging the promise and hope of new beginnings.
Stories of Sri Lankan and Tamil Canadians
Over the last couple of years we have been interviewing immigrants from other countries who now call Mississauga home. This project started with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and below are articles from individuals of Sri Lankan and Tamil heritage.