Recognizing Hinduphobia – A Canadian Perspective (Part 1)

This is one of the 10-part series of posts is based on the author’s detailed brief for the Human Rights Commission of Ontario highlighting the rising anti-Hindu sentiment in Canada in general, and Ontario in particular.

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Rise of Hinduphobia in Ontario and Canada – Introduction


Indeed, hateful speech and false information can create a climate in which . . . violence is to be expected . . . So how long will it be before a crazed gunman attacks a crowded Hindu temple…, believing, . . . that Hindus are possessed by demons? How many children will grow up believing Hinduism is a ‘filthy’ religion, or that Hindus worship the devil? When they grow up, how will such children treat their Hindu co-workers and neighbors? Will they give them the respect due to a fellow citizen and human being?

         -Jeffery D. Long, Chair, Department of Religious Studies Elizabethtown College [1]

I have prepared this brief overview of Hinduphobia, a term for anti-Hindu prejudice and hate, in Canada to respond to Ontario’s current Anti-Racism Strategic Plan Review consultation process. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (HRC) has invited individuals and groups to send in their comments by May 4, 2022, via an online form [2] or via email.

The need for this paper became evident when, in my advocacy work with school boards and other institutions and in my interactions with the Canadian public at large, including Hindus, I found that the term “Hinduphobia” was mostly unknown or misunderstood. This educational document aims to provide a brief background about what is Hinduphobia and the existence of Hinduphobia in Canada, both historically and currently.

Hindus are currently facing increasing levels of prejudice, hate, and discrimination in schools, workplaces, media, academia, and in public at large. At the same time, there is a huge lack of understanding or acknowledgment of Hinduphobia in all these spheres as a result of which the problem remains unaddressed. I give several examples of issues of Hinduphobia that the community is addressing with different institutions, agencies, and media.

This research paper aims to inform the Ontario Human Rights Commission, among others, about this glaring gap of understanding about Hinduphobia in Canadian society and the resulting harassment and discrimination that Hindus continue to be subjected to, in violation of the HRC.

The community hopes that the facts and arguments presented in this document will strengthen the Hindu community’s request for the term Hindupobia to be included in the glossary of terms of the Human Rights Code, which can become the foundation on which education about Hinduphobia can happen. As Jeffery Long, a Hindu scholar has pointed out, Hinduphobia is a learnt prejudice and behavior [3],

Like similar phobias, such as racism, the root causes of Hinduphobia are a combination of individual psychological and broader cultural factors: biases imprinted on the mind from an early age by one’s family and society, including the media and educational system

I wrote this paper, over a short period of a week, in the capacity of an independent Hindu scholar and community advocate. The contents reflect my own education and experience in working in different spheres as a volunteer. Over the past 30 years, I have been engaged in different volunteer capacities to educate about Hinduism and advocate for Hindu Human rights. Over the past 7 years, I have been working with many different Hindu community groups, organized and unorganized, in the Greater Toronto area to educate, and organize towards working collectively with them to address Hinduphobia in some mainstream Canadian institutions, for example, school boards, police services, libraries, and Children’s Aid Societies. Even though I did do some research for this paper, I acknowledge that this paper has its limitations in its scope and coverage of the issue of Hinduphobia. I apologize for any deficiencies in the citations and references; I did not have enough time. The paper is offered as a starting point or introduction for the OHRC and the Ontario Anti-Racism Strategic Plan Review to consider undertaking a comprehensive study of Hinduphobia in Ontario.

Hindus: A minority group in Canada

The major immigration of Indians to Canada began in the 1960s from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and other South Asian and Southeast Asian, African, and Caribbean countries, including Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, among other places.  As per Statistics Canada, the total population of Canada in 2011 was 32,852,320 of which the Hindu population was 497,960 or 1.52% of the total Canadian population. Over the past 10 years, immigration from India has increased, and taking into account a large number of international Hindu students, the population of Hindus is expected to be closer to a million today. Data on religious belief is only collected in every other census; the results of the 2021 census are not out yet. The latest data [4], collected in 2001, indicated that 77% of Canadians were Christian (43% Roman Catholic and 29% Protestant), 16.5% had no religion, 2% were Muslim. Other major religious groups were Jewish (1.1%), Buddhist and Hindu (1% each), and Sikh (0.9%).

Of the 497,960-total Hindus in 2011, 131,200 or 26.35% were born in Canada, 350,655 or 70.42% were Landed Immigrants/Permanent Residents and 16,105 were Non-Permanent Residents (possibly refugees, students, or temporary residents). (2011 National Household Survey, Statistics Canada. Before 1971, only 9,790 of a total of 1,261,080 immigrants, or 0.78% were Hindu. During the next four decades, Hindu immigration to Canada, both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the total number of immigrants, has increased significantly. This appears to be the result of the opening up of Asian immigration after the multicultural policies adopted by the then Pierre Trudeau Government.

Years Number of Hindu immigrants Percentage of Total Immigrants
1971 to 1980 32,235 3.70 %
1981 to 1990 49,735 5.24 %
1991 to 2000 1,05,105 6.83 %
2001 to 2011 1,53,800 7.14 %
Source: Statistics Canada[5]

Statistics Canada also collects data under “Canadians of East Indian origin” and reports that this group is “much more likely than the rest of the population to have a university degree. In 2001, 26% of adults who reported East Indian origin were university graduates, compared with 15% of the overall adult population.” [6]

While spread all over Canada, both in rural and urban areas, most Hindus live in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, with Toronto and Vancouver areas attracting most Hindus, including new immigrants.

Hindus of Canada are known for being hardworking, law-abiding, and successful citizens who contribute to and fully participate in the economic, social, arts, and pollical life of Canada.

Who is a Hindu?

The term Dharmic traditions is used to refer to faiths, referred to in Sanskrit as total panths or paths, that also have their roots in Sanatana Dharma: Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh. These diverse traditions have common beliefs such as karma and reincarnation, the idea of a Self as a witness to the body/mind complex, and the idea of aatma and Paramatma (individual and collective consciousness respectively). These traditions share common Sanskrit vocabulary and chants such as AUM, techniques, and rituals such as Japa, Dhyana, Mantras, Bhakti, Gurus. In India, the birthplace of Sanatana Dharma, they are celebrated and revered as national treasures and gifts to humanity for spiritual upliftment. Divisions between these traditions did exist but historically the traditions mostly co-existed with mutual respect. However, in the 18th century, with the arrival of western evangelicals and colonizers, a strategy of divide and rule was used to cause some divisions that continue today.  In the Indian constitution, the term Hindu is applied to all the four paths in the dharmic tradition: Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Hindu. For the purpose of this paper, I have only written about issues faced by Hindus.

It would be fair to conclude that Canadians of the other three dharmic faiths, who have the same or similar background of race, creed, languages, culture, traditions, ethnicity or country of origins, face similar racism and ‘Hinduphobia’.

  1. Rampersad, P, (2007) Exposing Academic Hinduphobia, pg., 20 in Invading the Sacred, Rupa, available online at
  2. On line form at
  3. Long, 2017, pg. 798
  5. 2011 National Household Survey”

Go directly to a specific part of this series
  1. Part 1: Hinduphobia in Ontario and Canada – Introduction
  2. Part 2: Why HRC does not fully address the problem of Hinduphobia
  3. Part 3: What is Hinduphobia?
  4. Part 4: A Theoretical framework to understand Hinduphobia
  5. Part 5: Generalized Hinduphobia
  6. Part 6: Appropriation and lack of acknowledgment of positive contributions of Hindu civilization
  7. Part 7: Canada’s White Only History policy: overcoming a legacy of Racism
  8. Part 8: Hinduphobia in the Media
  9. Part 9: Hinduphobia in Academia/Universities
  10. Part 10: Examples of Hinduphobic Incidents in Canada

Dr. Ragini Sharma, PhD, has worked for over 25 years with individuals, families and communities of diverse backgrounds to support their human dignity and for their economic, social and political rights. She is a passionate educator of Hinduism and has represented Hindu perspective at numerous interfaith events.

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