Canada is a country known for its cultural and religious diversity. It has been and continues to be a chosen destination for millions of immigrants who have their own cultural traditions and religious beliefs.

Since colonial times, Canada has been a predominantly Christian country. Today, Christianity is still the biggest single religion in Canada but fewer people now identify as Christian. That is hardly surprising considering that no less than one hundred religious options were included in the last Canadian census in 2021.

In this article, we explore Christianity in Canada through statistics, including the number of Canadians who identify as Christians, which provinces and territories have the most Christians, and what are the biggest Christian denominations in Canada.

Christianity Statistics for Canadians

  • Christianity arrived in Canada in the late 1400s.
  • Over half of the Canadian population identifies as Christian according to the 2021 census.
  • In the 2001 census, over ¾ of Canadians identified as Christian.
  • Almost 30% of Canadians identify as Catholic which is the biggest Christian denomination in Canada.
  • Religious affiliation in Canada has decreased in almost all Christian denominations.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest portion of Christians, while British Columbia has the lowest.
  • Over ¾ of Canadian Christians come from the European ethnic group.

Christianity in Canada

Christianity arrived in Canada in the 1400s. It was first brought to Canada in 1497 when John Cabot, a catholic, landed on Newfoundland and claimed the land for the King of England Henry VII. However, the first Catholic colony in Canada was not founded until over a hundred years later when Samuel de Champlain founded a Catholic colony in Quebec City in 1608.

A few years after the founding of the first Catholic colony, both Catholic and Protestant missionaries began to convert the Indigenous population of Canada to Christianity. By the 1800s, colonial governments were working to establish Indian day schools and residential schools and some Indigenous religious practices were forbidden by the Indian Act. The results of this work are still visible in today’s Canada. For example in Nunavut where 73% of the population are Christians and 86% are Indigenous People.

Main Christian Denominations in Canada

  • Roman Catholicism: largest denomination largely due to the historical French and Irish influences in Canada.
  • United Church of Canada: a union of Congregationalist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches in 1925 and the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, known for its liberal theological stance.
  • Anglican Church of Canada: historically one of the leading denominations of Christianity, largely due to the British heritage, especially in the Atlantic provinces and Ontario.
  • Baptist: this denomination is made up of the Canadian Baptist Ministries and smaller independent Baptist churches.
  • Presbyterian Church in Canada: Even though many Presbyterian churches joined the United Church of Canada in 1925, many did not and the Presbyterian Church is still a notable Christian denomination in Canada.
  • Lutheran: mostly reported as their Christian affiliation by Canadians with German and Scandinavian roots. It has two main branches that are the Lutheran Church-Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
  • Pentecostal: the Pentecostal Church is known for charismatic worship practices and has seen increasing numbers of affiliated Canadians, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Over Half of Canadians Identify as Christian

The Canadian census has been measuring the religious beliefs of Canadians since 1871. Since then this information has been collected every ten years. The data is used by researchers, governments, and religious organisations to plan programs and to decide where to build churches and other religious buildings. The data also helps to understand the experiences of different religious groups.

The last time the census included questions on religion was in 2021. According to the census results, 19,373,330 Canadians identify as Christians. 10,242,010 of these Canadians were women and 9,131,320 were men.

19.3 million represents 53.3% of the population in Canada. While this means Christianity is still significantly bigger than any other religion in Canada, the portion of Christians is decreasing. In 2011, the proportion of Christians in the Canadian population was 67.3% and in 2001 it was 77.1%.

In contrast, the number of Canadians who have no religious affiliation is growing faster than any religion. Having increased from 16.5% in 2001 to 34.6% in 2021, the proportion of this group has more than doubled in the last 20 years. The proportion of people who identify as Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh has also more than doubled at the same time. In 2021, 4,29% of the population were Muslims (up from 2%), 2,3% were Hindus (up from 1%), and 2.1% were Sikhs (up from 0.9%).

Catholicism is the Largest Christian Denomination in Canada

The biggest Christian denomination in Canada is Catholicism. In 2021, 10.9 million Canadians reported they were Roman Catholic. This represents 29.9% of the Canadian population. The next biggest denomination is Protestants with 4,781,700 Canadians and representing 13.2% of the total population.

Protestants can be divided into several subcategories. The biggest denominations are the United Church of Canada with 1,214,185 people (3.3% of the population), Anglican with 1,134,310 people (3.1% of the population), and Baptist with 436,940 people (1.2% of the population). Just under 2.8 million Canadians reported being Christian but had no specific denomination. The number of Canadians who identify as non-specified Christians has doubled since 2011 and represents 7.6% of the population.

Religious Affiliation Decreased in Most Denominations

Between 2001 and 2021, religious affiliation has decreased in almost all Christian denominations. Other than those who reported being Christian without further specification, all main denominations saw their number decrease between the two censuses. For example, the number of Catholics in the population has dropped from 43.2% in 2001 to 29.9% in 2021. However, between 2011 and 2021, it only fell by 0.1%.

The number of Protestants has more than halved from 27.8% in 2001 to 13.2% in 2021. Out of the Protestant denominations, the bigger denominations saw the biggest decreases. The number of Canadians affiliated with the United Church of Canada fell by almost a third from 9.6% to 3.3%, while Anglican numbers fell from 6.9% to 3.1%.

Pentecostals and Mennonites saw the smallest decreases. In 2001, 1.2% of Canadians were Pentecostal compared to 1.1% in 2021. The portion of Mennonites decreased from 0.6% of the population to 0.4%.

Christianity Across Canada

The proportion of Canadians who report as Christian varies greatly from over 80% to less than 40%. The highest representation of Christians can be found in Newfoundland and Labrador where 82.44% report being Christian. It is followed by Nunavut with 73.53%. The least Christian areas are British Columbia with 34.27% and Yukon with 35.01% of the population. Below are the percentages for all Canadian provinces and territories.

  • Newfoundland and Labrador – 82.44%
  • Nunavut 73.53%
  • Prince Edward Island 67.62%
  • New Brunswick 67.52%
  • Quebec 64.82%
  • Nova Scotia 58.18%
  • Saskatchewan 56.31%
  • Manitoba 54.23%
  • Northwest Territories 55.16%
  • Ontario 52.14%
  • Alberta 48.11
  • Yukon 35.01%
  • British Columbia 34.27%

Catholicism is the Most Often Reported Religious Affiliation in Most Provinces and Territories

Unsurprisingly, since Catholicism is the most popular Christian denomination in Canada, it is also the most common Christian denomination in all provinces and territories except for Nunavut. Quebec has the largest Catholic representation with 53.8% of the population identified as Catholic. However, the percentage has fallen since 2011 when it was 74.7% of the population in Quebec.

The Atlantic provinces are more likely than average to have people affiliated with the United Church. 12.1% of the population in Newfoundland and Labrador, 9.7% in Prince Edward Island, and 7.5% in Nova Scotia report an affiliation with the United Church compared to 3.3% nationally. Saskatchewan also has a higher-than-average proportion at 7.4%.

Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador have significantly higher portions of people affiliated with the Anglican religion than the Canadian average of 3.1%. In Nunavut, 39.1% of the population reported as Anglican, while in Newfoundland and Labrador it was 21.5%.

Ontario and British Columbia Have the Highest Portions of People With Non-Christian Religious Affiliations

Ontario and British Columbia, with the most diverse populations, have the largest proportions of people who report other religious affiliations than Christianity. In Ontario, 16.3% of the population reported a non-Christian religious affiliation, the highest in the country. Ontario had a higher-than-average representation of Muslims and Hindus at 6.7% and 4.1%.

In British Columbia, 13.7% of the population reported different religious affiliation. In particular, British Columbia had the highest proportion of Sikhs at 5.9% of the population.

Canadians living in large urban centres were more likely to report a non-Christian religion than those living in small towns or rural areas. In urban centres, 15.4% of people had another religious affiliation compared to just 3.2% in small urban centres of 2.2% in rural areas.

Canadians with European Heritage Are the Most Likely Ethnic Group to Be Christian

The vast majority of Canadians who identify as Christian have European roots. 14,908,365 Canadian Christians have European roots. This is 76.95% of the total number of Canadians who are Christians. The next biggest groups are Africans with 5.52%, Filipinos with 4.64%, and Indigenous People with 4.39%.

In the last 20 years, the number of Christians with European roots has fallen from over 20 million to just under 15 million. In 2001, this group represented 88.87% of all Christians, which means their portion has fallen by over 10 percentage points.

In contrast, most other ethnic groups have increased in numbers. Some of the biggest increases have been seen among African Christians where numbers increased from 523,715 to 1,068,800, Filipino Christians from 300,025 to 898,050, Latin American Christians from 193,440 to 427, 065, and multiracial Christians from 39,395 to 147,375.

Conclusion

The religious landscape of Canada is continuously evolving and while Christianity remains the most common religion in Canada, its portion of the population has decreased, while the portions of non-religious Canadians and some other religions have grown.

The fact that the portion of Canadians who identify as Christians has decreased reflects the diverse range of people the Canadian population is made of. It is a testament to Canadians’ freedom to practice any religion they choose or none at all.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the 2021 census, over 19.3 million Canadians identified as Christian.

Catholicism is the most popular Christiand denomination in Canada. Almost 11 million Canadians identified as Catholic in the last census.

Newfoundland has the largest portion of Christians at 82.44%. It is followed by Nunavut and Prince Edward Island with 73.53% and 67.62%. However, based on numbers, Ontario as the most populous province has the most Christians, 7,315,815 according to the 2021 census.

The proportion of Christians out of the Canadian population is decreasing so in that sense, Christianity is becoming less popular. In 2021, 53.3% of Canadians were Christian compared to 77.1% 20 years earlier.

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