The Sri Lankan Community In Calgary


The Sri Lankan community is one of Canada’s fastest growing ethnic groups. Notably, the population “…has been one of the top ten sources of immigration to this country [Canada] in the late 1990’s and in the past few years.” (Jedwab, 1)  Many of the earliest Sri Lankan immigrants arrived in Canada along the East coast. In Victoria, they worked as laborers and gold prospectors. An 1871 Victoria census counted 58 Sri Lankan settlers among the contemporaneous population. (Origins, pp. 1)

After World War II, Sri Lankan immigration increased as,

“Sri Lanka gained independence from England in 1948, and many more Sri Lankan Burghers began to emigrate to English-speaking countries, including Australia. By 1966, the Sri Lankan community in Victoria had risen to 3,126.” (Origins, pp. 3)

Furthermore, the 1970s and 80s saw increased “…military coups, political instability, and ethnic conflict…” (Kaitlin, pp. 4), which forced many native Sri Lankans to seek refuge outside their homelands on a humanitarian basis. Notably in Toronto, communities formed along “…the Gerrard Street East area known as Little India, where a niche of cultural and religious centers similar to their own already existed.” also “…Scarborough,.. Eglinton Avenue, Lawrence Avenue, Birchmount Avenue, Steeles Avenue, Markham Road and McCowan Road…” (Kaitlin, pp. 5) were among the many cultural epicenters for the Sri Lankan community.

Calgary also has a variety of Sri Lankan communities who have chosen to settle here. In turn, they have also created community groups so as to help with acculturation. The Sri Lanka Canada Association (SLCA) being one of them. Their scope focuses on Calgary residents of Sri Lankan origin and was formally registered as a non-profit in December 1979. “Since then, it has expanded exponentially hosting spectacular cultural shows that had accommodated over 400 spectators.” (SLCA, pp. 2)

Their organizational vision is “…to promote the Two Thousand Six Hundred-year old heritage, culture, and traditions while incorporating them in our annual activities.” and “…to navigate the barriers in bringing all Sri Lankans together and to focus on the interests of the Sri Lankan community at large.” (SLCA pp. 4) In fact, their 2015 Cultural Show was held at the St. Vladimir’s Ukranian Orthodox Church Hall.

Canada has continued to have a friendly relationship with Sri Lanka with a Canadian High Commission housed in the commercial capital of Colombo. Also,

“As members of the Commonwealth, Canada and Sri Lanka have a reciprocal relationship. Trade between Canada and Sri Lanka accounts for roughly $450 million per year… Canada [has] established an assistance partnership with Sri Lanka in the 1950s… to conduct development work and deliver humanitarian assistance in Sri Lanka.” (Nanayakkara, pp. 10)

Currently, the SLCA in Calgary “…has taken a new direction in implementing policies to encourage the young generation to be involved in cultural and social activities that it organizes.” (SLCA Facebook, pp. 6) They annually host a Members’ Day, indoor cultural show, summer sporting events (with the popular sport of cricket being one of them), as well as Christmas celebrations and Sri Lankan holidays.