The word "Thai" in English generally refers to people who are citizens of the country of Thailand, while the word "Tai" is used to refer to the ethnicity that makes up the majority of Thailand's population. Tai people are also found in Burma, China, Laos and Vietnam, and speak languages from a common language family. Thailand also has many ethnic minority groups within its borders, notably Chinese, Malay, speakers of the Mon-Khmer and Austroasiatic family of languages, and many other groups. Tai ethnicity comprises approximately 75% of the population.
Important markers of the Thai national identity are the Thai language, allegiance to the Thai monarchy, and the practice of Theravada BUDDHISM. More than 90% of the population of Thailand identifies itself as Buddhist and the Buddhist temple is an important centre of almost every Thai community. Most Thai men become Buddhist monks for some period of time during their lives, usually shortly after they finish secondary school. Thailand has a constitutional monarchy, and the Thai monarchy is also almost universally revered by Thai people. The current king is the world's longest reigning monarch, having taken the throne in 1946.
Thais in Canada
Thais have not migrated to Canada in large numbers and the Thai population in Canada remains relatively small. In the 2006 census, approximately 10 000 Canadians reported having some Thai ethnic background (single and multiple response). Migration from Thailand to Canada has gradually increased since the 1950s, when a few Thai students first came to study at Canadian universities. Migration has continued at a slow pace since that time, with a brief increase after the 1997 financial crisis in Thailand, which resulted in more Thais looking for work and educational opportunities overseas. In sharp contrast to the 1960s, when Statistics Canada recorded only 125 immigrants from Thailand, almost 2000 Thai immigrants came to Canada between 2001 and 2006.
The majority of Thais in Canada are well-educated professionals who have migrated for the purposes of education, business or marriage. Educational links between Thailand and Canada are strong, and many young Thais travel to Canada for post-secondary education and return to Thailand at the end of their studies. Those Thais who stay permanently tend to work in professional fields such as banking, medicine, engineering and business.
Some Thais in Canada work in the restaurant industry and Thai cuisine, known for its balance between sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours and for its use of ingredients such as fresh herbs, coconut milk and galangal root, has become popular in Canada, particularly in urban areas. One notable example of a Thai in this industry is internationally acclaimed chef Sasi Meechai-Lim, who resides in Toronto, where she has opened several restaurants.
Social and Cultural Life
Thais who have settled in Canada have tended to seek out other Thais and together have formed networks and associations of Thai-Canadians, particularly in larger cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal. Thai identity remains important to most Thai migrants, and these groups help Thais in Canada maintain links to one another, continue to practice Thai traditions, celebrate religious events, and promote Thai culture in Canada. The first of such networks was the Thai Association of Canada, which was formed in 1982 and later narrowed its focus to become the Thai Society of Ontario (TSO). The TSO organizes social and cultural events, provides support to Thai-Canadians, and in 1993 started the Yanviriya Buddhist Temple II in Richmond Hill, Ont. There are several other similar associations in Canada, such as the Thai Association of Alberta, which officially registered in 1984, and the Thai Association of British Columbia, which officially registered in 2004.
The six Thai Buddhist temples across Canada have become important for Thai-Canadians for religious and cultural practices, for building community, and maintaining cultural identity. Vancouver's first Thai Temple, founded in 1992, was the first of six Thai centres founded across Canada by the senior monk Luang Pho Viriyang.
Thailand, Canada and the Global Community
Thailand is one of ten Southeast Asian countries comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic organization. In addition to promoting economic partnerships through ASEAN, Canada and Thailand have strengthened the relationship between the two countries through tourism and through educational and cultural exchanges. In 2007 approximately 9000 Thais visited Canada. Canada and Thailand also worked together as part of the Human Security Network (HSN), a multilateral group that was established in 1999 as part of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to build foreign policy strategies to support human rights. Thai representatives accepted the presidency of the HSN, effective from 2005-06 and with the platform "Freedom from Want" to address poverty and enable citizens to live in security and dignity.
Author AMANDA JOY
Links to Other Sites
This beautifully illustrated site explores the relationship between East and West from earliest times to the present with a focus on the very complex Asian experience in Canada. Search for specific topics and themes. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples
The website for the "Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples." Click on the links for feature articles about Canada's many multicultural communities, access to their extensive digital archives collection, learning modules, and much more. From "Multicultural Canada."
Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada
This website offers Canadian population data (2006) by ethnic origin. Also, find information for individual provinces and territories by clicking the "Select a view" window above the chart. For more information, click on the "Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada" link at the top of the page. From the website for Statistics Canada.
Asian Heritage in Canada
References and resources about Asian heritage in Canada. Check out the profiles of prominent Asian Canadians in the arts. From the Ryerson University website.
Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage
A wide-ranging online resource about Asian Canadian history and culture. Also features profiles of prominent Asian Canadians. From the Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc.
Alberta Thai Association
The website for for the Alberta Thai Association, a non-profit organization that promotes friendship, goodwill, and understanding within the Alberta Thai Community and Canadian Society. Check out the newsletter for the latest information.