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Migration and Settlement

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Malaysians-singaporeans/Judith Nagata

Singapore is also noted for its strong central government as well as its paternalist and conformist social environment, characteristics which have pushed some of its citizens to seek greater freedom elsewhere. For young males, another principal reason for emigrating is to avoid compulsory military service. Between 1983 and 1988, 543 Singaporeans of every 100,000 emigrated. Unlike most Malaysians, however, Singaporeans tend to retain their citizenship in anticipation of possible return. Many emigrants from both countries are students. Between 1987 and 1991 some 1,500 to 1,800 Singaporean students were living in Canada, the vast majority of whom were ethnically Chinese. From Malaysia have come two categories of students: several hundred in any given year attending high school or university on government scholarships, who are bonded to return home, and a larger cohort of self-financed non-Malays, mostly Chinese, the majority of whom will not do so.

The bulk of immigrants to Canada from both Malaysia and Singapore are ethnic Chinese, who have some common interests with other overseas Chinese. They may thus have a self-identity different from their birthplace. Because of the non-assimilationist policies of Malaysia and the Chinese character of Singapore, most can speak, if not write, a Chinese dialect or Mandarin and practise customs that allow them to communicate with other Chinese. The limitations of Canadian census records make cross tabulations between immigrants’ place of birth and their ethnic origin difficult. Some Malaysians and Singaporeans of Chinese or Indian background identify themselves by their ethnic descent, others by the country that they left and/or were born in, still others by indicating a multiple ethnic origin.

During the 1970s arrivals to Canada from Singapore numbered less than 100 per year, while those from Malaysia were between 100 and 200. In the following decade, immigrants born in Singapore averaged between 200 and 400 and those born in Malaysia between 400 and 800. In the years 1989–91 arrivals from Malaysia rose sharply to over 1,500 annually and those from Singapore approached 1,000.

In the 1980s approximately one-third were living in Ontario, and of these over 70 percent chose Toronto. Figures from 1981 recorded 2,855 persons born in Malaysia and living in Ontario, of whom 1,835 were of Chinese ethnic origin, 790 Malay, and 155 Indian. The province also had 1,255 persons born in Singapore, and although there was no indication of ethnic background, it is likely that most were ethnic Chinese. In 1991 Census Canada recorded 16,100 residents who indicated Malaysia as their birthplace and 6,285 Singapore. The same census recorded 3,720 persons who claimed they were wholly (1,720) or in part (2,000) of Malay ethnic origin. Over 90 percent of them lived in three provinces: Ontario (1,795), British Columbia (870), and Alberta (725).