South and Southeast Asians of Canada - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Both populations exhibit extensive informal community organization and considerable institutional development. Informal community networks provide psychological support, continuity of shared experience, and the means to maintain and modify key personal statuses. They are also useful sources of information about jobs, Government and private services, housing, and the home country. Residential concentration is high for new immigrants and working-class people. For both populations informal Community networks are ethnic group-specific. Individuals typically have far more social relations with other Canadians than with members of other regional ethnic groups. South Asian associations number over three hundred. Most prevalent are ethnic group sociocultural associations and organizations supporting local religious institutions. Helping and pan-South Asian organizations are rare. Formal organizations among Southeast Asians are less numerous, though each ethnocultural group typically will have at least one representative association established in a given city.

Political Organization. Neither population has had much impact on formal Canadian politics. Neither has exerted any special issue political leverage either, excepting South Asians concerning racial intolerance. Both, however, have been at the center of political debate: Southeast Asians over how many should be accepted by Canada as refugees (now more per capita than any other Western country), and South Asians (primarily Sikhs) over whether Canadian ethnic groups should be involved in source country politics. Intragroup political action is nevertheless intense in both Populations.

Among South Asians, some individuals are involved in homeland political causes, most notably Sikhs supporting an independent Sikh state (Khalistan) in Punjab. Tamils, Fijians, Guyanese, and others also support home-country minority groups. South Asian communities are highly political, as various individuals, cliques, and groups compete for status, and spokesperson and brokerage roles. Only Ismailis have established representative community leadership structures, which in their case link households to local, regional, national, and international councils. Most South Asian spokes-persons are self-appointed, or else represent an organization or association that itself is not widely based.

In the case of Southeast Asians, they can do little to affect home-country politics. Discussion and interpretation of the home situation nevertheless is intense, and political differences, both real and perceived, factionalize all non-Chinese communities. Key individuals contest for brokerage and spokesperson roles in much the same fashion as with South Asians.

Social Control and Conflict. Reconciliation of changes brought on by immigration with personal values and traditions often engenders considerable marital stress, which is typically resolved (if at all) within the household or with the assistance of close relatives. For South Asians the issue of children's cross-sex relations is often contentious, and Southeast Asians increasingly face intergenerational value conflict stemming from great cultural differences. Community and home-country conceptions of appropriate conduct place great conformity pressure on adults, though in no ethnic group save for Ismailis could there be said to be formal institutions of social control. Neither population makes extensive use of the courts, police, or social welfare institutions to address interpersonal conflict.

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