Migration, Arrival, and Settlement

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Thai/Penny Van Esterik

Thai have not immigrated to Canada in large numbers. While they are in Canada, Thai students, professionals, and visitors tend to re-create the important parts of their Thai identity in their Canadian communities and then return to Thailand at the end of their planned sojourns abroad. Civil servants and students are obliged to return home in order to pay back their employers, in service, for the period of their absence. Thai immigrants regularly express the desire to go back to Thailand, to return to their family, friends, and Thai style of life.

Thai immigrants who choose to remain in Canada have generally immigrated to study, to take up a business, or to marry a Canadian, and many claim that they did not originally intend to stay in Canada. It is difficult to determine the number of Thai in Canada. According to the 1991 census, there were 5,820 immigrants born in Thailand; 2,900 whose first language spoken at home was Thai; and 2,770 who claimed that they were of Thai ethnic origin (1,645 multiple origin and 1,125 single origin). The larger figure for immigrants is explained by the fact that a certain number are likely ethnic Chinese and perhaps Lao from Thailand. A reasonable estimate of the number of Thai in Canada is probably around 4,000. The Thai (single and multiple responses combined) are concentrated primarily in four provinces: Ontario (970), British Columbia (870), Quebec (380), and Alberta (340). The relative numbers in these provinces vary depending on the criteria being used.

Couples and small groups have settled primarily in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Regardless which criteria are used, there are substantially more Thai women than men in the country (1,775 versus 480, according to the criterion of ethnic origin). While most are professionals, students, or have married Canadian men, there are occasional instances of young women entering the country as artists and entertainers, or as visitors who become night-club dancers or seamstresses in illegal enterprises.

When Thai immigrants first arrive in Canada, they seek out other Thai to assist them in their adjustment. Many of the Thai associations in Canada have as one of their objectives to help other Thai settle comfortably in Canada. Over time, Thai immigrants gradually make Canadian friends through the workplace and neighbourhood. But the pleasure of being with other Thai does not diminish over time, and social gatherings continue to be important.