The 2021 census shows a significant increase in the local Indian population over the past five years, with more festivals and activities among the growing newcomer community
Hundreds of people gathered at the Elks of Canada Hall last weekend to celebrate Navratri, a nine-day Indian festival held annually to celebrate the victory of good over evil by the Hindu goddess Durga.
Navratri participants took part in traditional dances while wearing their authentic home robes, and a variety of delicious meals and dishes from India were prepared for the occasion.
Event organizer Abhishek Patel says it was the first locally held Navratri in nearly a decade, which he describes as a sign of growing culture in Sault.
“It’s growing fast,” he says. “I want to bring the community together and help it grow, and I want to spread love and peace to everyone.”
Their increased community presence is no secret.
According to Statistics Canada and the 2021 Census, the Indian population in the Sault has increased significantly between 2016 and 2021.
Of the dozens of non-official languages spoken in the mother tongue, Punjabi saw the largest increase over this period, from 20 speakers to 200.
Hindi-speaking residents have almost doubled from 70 to 120, and those who speak Gujarati have increased from 65 to 100.
Meanwhile, native Italian speakers in the Sault saw the largest decline over the five-year period, from 3,180 people to 2,270.
Like many Navratri attendees, Patel speaks Gujarati and he considers himself a tutor and mentor to many newcomers settling in the Sault.
“When someone new comes into the community, everyone helps them,” he says. “When they come here, it’s hard for them because everything is different. Eventually, they settle down. Many of them say the Sault is much more peaceful than Toronto. If you find a good job, you’re good to live your whole life here. Most of them want to live here.
Punjabi, Hindi, and Gujarati belong to the subset of Indo-Aryan, a large group of languages derived from South Asia and India. In the Sault, those speaking in this subset have increased from 230 in 2016 to 530 in 2021.
Patel thinks it has increased further since last year.
“He’s definitely grown since then,” he says. “A lot of students come to study at Sault College or Algoma, there are a lot of good programs here. Many people also obtain work permits.
Patel served as a physician in Ukraine and India before moving to Sault in 2020, and he recently graduated from Sault College’s Health Care and Administration program.
He says the city’s interest in their culture is also growing, which was also felt during the festivities last weekend.
“I invited Canadian friends on Saturday and they loved it,” he says. “We are all one here.”
Meanwhile, tickets are on sale for Diwali celebrations at Moose Lodge on Thursday, October 13 from 5-10 p.m.
Hosted by Harsh Goyal, Lovleen Sharma and Navraj Kaur, the event is open to all and includes dinner, games, dancing and a cash bar.
Tickets are $30 and can be purchased via e-transfer by emailing email@example.com. Interested participants are requested to include a phone number when sending the e-transfer. Tickets are on sale until October 7.