Ocean Falls on BC’s central coast was a remote community where South Asians found work in sawmills. “Road to Steamship Dock, Ocean Falls, BC” ca. 1918.  James Crookall photo, CVA 260-1097, City of Vancouver Archives.

Most South Asians arrived in Canada by ship, docking in Victoria or Vancouver. Some stayed in the area, although there was also considerable migration as workers learned of opportunities in places far outside the Lower Mainland.

Where there was work, faith went too. The Vancouver Khalsa Diwan Society was created in 1908 to combine Sikh religious establishments. From the establishment of the Society, both the organization and its members were intimately linked with the lumber industry. Many new Gurdwaras opened, and in turn, became important community spaces for new immigrants to make connections and learn about work opportunities.

The Society grew accordingly, with autonomous branches operating in Vancouver, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Golden, Duncan, Coombs and Ocean Falls by 1925. [1]

Shareholder signatures from these 1913 documents show South Asians were widely dispersed in British Columbia. Kesar Singh. Canadian Sikhs (Part One) and Komagata Maru Massacre, Second Edition. (Surrey: 1997), 58-59.

In 1908, BC Sikhs established the Guru Nanak Mining & Trust Company to ensure employment and security. The hometowns of the shareholders included Vancouver, Abbotsford, Haney, Victoria, Revelstoke, Wardner, Golden and Nanaimo. They also had strong connections with others living in California and Oregon.

This map illustrates the wide dispersion of early South Asian workers across British Columbia in locations such as Ocean Falls, Duncan, Enderby, Kaslo, Savona, Wardner, Vancouver, Victoria, Port Moody and other locations. Data compiled from census returns and newspaper articles prior to 1913. © BC Labour Heritage Centre, 2021.



  1. History of South Asians in Canada: Timeline, South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, 2018. https://www.southasiancanadianheritage.ca/history-of-south-asians-in-canada/


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Union Zindabad! Copyright © 2022 by BC Labour Heritage Centre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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