05/27/2015 06:49 EDT | Updated 05/27/2016 05:59 EDT

Indo-Canadians' fight to vote testimony to 'resolute determination' says Moe Sihota

Early South Asian settlers began arriving in B.C. in the early 1900s — but it wasn't until 1946, that their community was given the right to vote.

"It was a very significant [time] because it said that we now have our place in Canada," former NDP MLA Moe Sihota told the CBC.

"[Immigrants] came here and were told if they were Chinese, Indo-Canadian, or Japanese that they were going to be paid significantly less per hour than Caucasians.

"Against that backdrop, they fought for the right to live and prosper here and take their rightful place in Canadian society."

45 years after the South Asian community secured the voting right, Moe Sihota became the first Indo-Canadian to be elected to a legislature in Canada.

He says the magnitude of that moment didn't dawn on him until he saw the community's reaction.

"I didn't appreciate the significance until election night. I remember going to the hall where the victory celebration was, and I saw all these older Indo-Canadians."

"At that moment it dawned upon me the significance of being the first Indo-Canadian elected to a legislature. They were witnessing something they thought they would never see."

Sihota says he's incredibly proud of the impact that the South Asian community has had on Canadian culture since the first settlers arrived more than a century ago.

"We are seen in every community, and every profession, and every walk of life to celebrate Canada and help make it what it is.

"It's been an unbelievable journey of 100 years and a testimony of the resolute determination of the people who came here first."

To hear more, click the audio labelled: The South Asian right to vote in B.C. reflected on by first Indo-Canadian MLA.

To read other stories of South Asian pioneers, download Mehfil Magazine's digital commemorative book '100 Year Journey' at