Canada has always been a popular destination for immigrants who have brought with them their language, culture, and religion. This has made Canada a country known for its cultural and religious diversity, which is a characteristic valued by 92% of Canadians aged 15 or older.

In this article, we focus on religion in Canada and look at the statistics from the latest Canadian census. You will find information on the biggest religions in Canada, how Canada’s religious landscape is changing, and what different religions are followed in Canada among other key statistics.

Religion Statistics for Canadians

  • The 2021 Canadian census included over 100 religions.
  • Over 50% of Canadians identify as Christians but the proportion is decreasing.
  • Quebec has the highest proportion of Catholics with over half of the population identifying as Catholic.
  • 12.6 million Canadians reported having no religious affiliation in the 2021 census.
  • Over half of the population in Yukon and British Columbia are not religiously affiliated.
  • The proportion of people following Islam or Hinduism doubled between 2001 and 2021.
  • Over 60% of Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus in Canada are immigrants.
  • Ontario and British Columbia have the highest proportions of people with non-Christian religious affiliations.
  • 81,000 people in Canada are affiliated with Indigenous spirituality.

Measuring Religious Diversity in Canada

The first Canadian census was conducted as early as 1871 and since then it has been used to provide a picture of the Canadian population, including their religious beliefs. Since its early years, the census has been constantly evolving to best capture the religious diversity in Canada.

For example, the electronic census questionnaire of 2021 included links to hundreds of examples of religions as well as ethnic and cultural origins. As a result, the latest census provides more detailed information on the religious diversity of Canada than previous censuses and includes over 100 religions, 450 cultural and ethnic origins, 450 languages, and 200 places of birth.

Why Does the Census Collect Information on Religions in Canada?

The Canadian census collects information on religions every ten years and the findings are used by local and federal governments, researchers, and religious organisations. The data can, for example, be used to determine where to build religious buildings such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples and to plan religious programs.

The information collected in the census also helps to understand how diverse the religious landscape in Canada is. It also provides valuable insight into the experiences of different religious groups in Canada.

Christianity Is the Main Religion in Canada

According to the 2021 census, 53.3% of the Canadian population identify as Christians. That means over 19.3 million Canadians reported belonging to a Christian religion. However, the proportion of Christians is falling rapidly in Canada. In 2011, 67.3% of Canadians identified as Christians, while in 2001, the percentage of Christians was 77.1% of the population.

Catholics form the largest Christian group in Canada with 29.9%, or 10.9 million people, reporting to the Catholic faith in 2021. The next biggest denominations in 2021 were the United Church and the Anglican Church with 3.3% and 3.1% respectively. Both denominations had over one million members in Canada.

1.7% of Canada’s population were Orthodox Christians and 1.2% were Baptists, while 1.1% were Pentecostals or other Charismatics. In addition, 7.6% of the population, representing 2.8 million Canadians, identified as Christian but without a specific denomination. This was double compared to the census from 2011.

The Affiliation to Christianity Varies Greatly Across the Country

Catholicism is the most often reported religious affiliation in all provinces and territories apart from Nunavut. In Quebec, over half of the population was Catholic in 2021 at 53.8% of the population. However, this is a much smaller proportion than it has been in previous censuses. In 2011, 74.7% of Quebec’s population identified as Catholic.

Affiliation with the United Church is highest in the Atlantic Provinces with 12.1% in Newfoundland and Labrador, 9.7% in Prince Edward Island, and 7.5% in Nova Scotia. Saskatchewan also has a higher-than-average affiliation with the United Church at 7.4%. Of the total Canadian population, 3.3% are affiliated with the United Church.

While 3.1% of Canadians are affiliated with the Anglican religion, both Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador have much higher proportions. In Nunavut, 39.1% identified as Anglican Christian, and in Newfoundland and Labrador the percentage was 21.5%.

Over a Third of Canadians Have no Religious Affiliation

The number of Canadians who say they have no religious affiliation has more than doubled since 2001 when 16.5% of the population had no religious affiliation. By 2011, the percentage had risen to 23.9% and in 2021, 34.6% of Canadians had no religious affiliation. 34.6% is approximately 12.6 million Canadians.

The main reason for the change is the increasing number of Canadians who reported a religious affiliation in a previous census but no longer identify as belonging to any religion. Another reason is the growing number of children who have no religious affiliation as their parents no longer identify with any religion.

Residents of Yukon and British Columbia Are the Most Likely to Have no Religious Affiliation

While just over a third of Canada’s total population has no religious affiliation, this proportion is significantly higher in Yukon and British Columbia. In Yukon, 59.7% of the population have no religious affiliation and in British Columbia, the proportion is 52.1%.

The Number of Muslims and Hindus Has Doubled in Twenty Years

Even though the proportion of people who are Muslim or Hindu is still small in Canada, the representation of these faiths is increasing in Canada. Islam is the second most common religion in Canada and in 2021, almost 1.8 million Canadians, or 4.9% of the population, belonged to the Islamic faith. This is more than double the 2% of the population in 2001.

Hinduism is the third most common religion in Canada and followed by 2.3% of the population. In 2001, only 1% of the Canadian population identified as Hindu. In the 2021 census, nearly 830,000 people reported they were affiliated to Hinduism.

Other Religions in Canada

Another religion that more than doubled between the 2001 and 2021 censuses was Sikhism. In 2001, only 0.9% of the Canadian population identified as Sikh. By 2021, 2.1% of the population were Sikhs. That is approximately 770,000 people.

About 1% of the Canadian population identified as Buddhist in 2021. This is almost 360,000 people. There was no change in the proportion of Buddhist people in the total Canadian population.

In 2021, 335,000 people stated they were Jewish in the 2021 census. There has been little change in the number of Jewish people in Canada with 330,000 Jewish people in 2001. Despite the small growth in the number of Jewish people, the proportion of people who follow Judaism decreased between 2001 and 2021 because of the total population growth. The proportion decreased from 1.1% to 0.9% in twenty years.

There are also several other religions in Canada, but these represent far smaller proportions of the total population. 

Non-Christian Religions Growing Faster Because of Immigration

One of the main reasons behind the growth of many non-Christian religions in Canada is the number of immigrants from countries that have non-Christian faiths. 68.9% of Buddhists, 63.1% of Muslims, 62.9% of Hindus, and 53.8% of Sikhs were immigrants. However, only 23% of the Canadian population were immigrants in 2021.

British Columbia and Ontario Have the Most Diverse Religious Landscapes

Ontario and British Columbia have the biggest proportions of people who are affiliated with a non-Christian religion. In Ontario, the highest proportion in the country, 16.3% of the population identify with another religion than Christianity. 6.7% of the population of Ontario are Muslims and 4.1% are Hindus, which are the highest percentages in Canada.

British Columbia, too, has a higher than average proportion of non-Christian population at 13.7%. The province has the highest proportion of Sikhs in Canada at 5.9% of the province’s population.

Non-Christian Denominations More Common in Urban Centres

The 2021 census found that non-Christianity was more common in large urban areas than in the rural areas of Canada. In rural areas, only 2.2% of the population had an affiliation with a religion other than Christianity. In small urban centres, the proportion rose to 3.2%. The proportion was significantly higher in large cities with 15.4%.

Religion Among Indigenous Peoples in Canada

In 2021, 81,000 people, which represents 0.2% of the Canadian population, had an affiliation to an Indigenous spirituality. Most of the people who chose this option in the census questionnaire were First Nations people at 90.2%.

The most common choice among Indigenous peoples when asked about religious affiliation was having no religious affiliation at 47%. The second most common choice was Catholicism with 26.9% of Indigenous peoples identifying as Catholic.

Catholicism was most common among Métis at 31.6%, while 24.5% of First Nations people and 17.4% of Inuit identified as Catholic. The proportion of Anglicans was higher among the Inuit population than among the overall Indigenous population at 37.4% compared to 6.1%.

Only Just Over a Third of Canadians Attend Religious Services Monthly

According to data published by the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA), the majority of Canadians do not attend religious services regularly. Only 34.2% of Canadians said they attend a religious service at least once a month. However, a larger proportion of the population identified as religious. 66.7% of Canadians said they were religious, Even bigger proportion said they spend time meditating or praying regularly at 76.7%.

Conclusion

Religious affiliation has been tracked in Canada since the 1871 census. The census questionnaire includes questions about religion every ten years and the latest census to include this was conducted in 2021.

The 2021 census included over 100 options for religious beliefs and it showed that while Christianity is still the dominant religion in Canada, the proportion of people who identify themselves as Christians is decreasing. In contrast, the proportion of people who follow non-Christian faiths or have no religious affiliations is increasing.

As Canada continues to attract immigrants from all corners of the world, its religious landscape is likely to diversify further. As it happens it is important that policymakers and the public alike continue to uphold Canada’s reputation and foster the freedom to choose your faith or, as is the case with a growing number of Canadians, no specified faith at all.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although the proportion of people who identify as Chrisian is decreasing in Canada, it is still the most common religion in Canada. Over half of the Canadian population identify as Christian. The next most common religions are Islam and Hinduism. However, a third of Canadians are not affiliated to any religion.

While religion is still seen as important by the majority of Canadians, an increasing number of Canadians feel that religious beliefs are not important in their lives. In 2019, 45.9% of Canadians did not see religion as important in their lives compared to 29% in 2003.

Unfortunately Canada, like most other countries, does have some religious hate crime. In 2021, the most likely group to be a victim of religious hate crime were the Jewush people. 55.09% of all religious hate crimes in 2021 were against people of Jewish faith. Catholics were the second most likely group to experience hate crime with 17.53% of the hate crime incidents. They were followed by Muslims with 16.29% and other religions with 11.09%.

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