Religion in Canada

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Religion in Canada (2011 National Household Survey)[1]

  Christianity (67.3%)
  Non-religious (23.9%)
  Islam (3.2%)
  Hinduism (1.5%)
  Sikhism (1.4%)
  Buddhism (1.1%)
  Judaism (1.0%)
  Other religions (0.6%)

Religion in Canada encompasses a wide range of groups and beliefs.[2] The preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to "God", and the monarch carries the title of "Defender of the Faith". However, Canada has no official religion, and support for religious pluralism (Freedom of religion in Canada) is an important part of Canada's political culture.[3][4] The 2011 Canadian census reported that 67% of Canadians claim adherence to Christianity, followed by no religion at 24%,[1] but rates of religious adherence have been steadily decreasing.[5]

Pre-colonization Aboriginal religion was largely animistic. This included an intense reverence for spirits and nature.[6] French settlement beginning in the 17th century established a Roman Catholic francophone population in Acadia, now Nova Scotia and Lower Canada, now Quebec, followed by English settlement that brought Anglicans and other Protestants to Upper Canada, now Ontario. The religious, cultural, and political antagonism between Canadian Protestants and Catholics remains a central theme of Canadian history.[5]

It has been recently suggested that with Christianity on decline, having once been central and integral to Canadian culture and daily life;[7] Canada has come to enter a post-Christian period in a secular state,[8][9] with irreligion in Canada on the rise.[10] The practice of religion is now generally considered a private matter throughout society and within the state.[11] Additionally a majority of Canadians consider religion to be unimportant, but still believe in God.[12]

Government and religion[edit]

Canada today has no official church, and the government is officially committed to religious pluralism.[13] While the Canadian government's official ties to religion, specifically Christianity are few, it more overtly recognizes the existence of God and even the supremacy of God. Both the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the national anthem in both languages refer to God. Nevertheless the rise of irreligion within the country and influx of non-Christian peoples has led to a greater separation of government and religion.[14] Demonstrated in forms like "Christmas holidays" being called "winter festivals" in public schools.[15] Some religious schools are government-funded as per Section Twenty-nine of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[16]

Centre Block of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa showing the holiday decorations

Canada is a Commonwealth realm in which the head of state is shared with 15 other countries, including the United Kingdom. The UK's succession laws bar Roman Catholics or those who marry Catholics from inheriting the throne,[17] and the reigning monarch is also ex officio Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Within Canada, the Queen's title includes the phrases "By the Grace of God" and "Defender of the Faith."[18]

Christmas and Easter are nationwide holidays, and while Jews, Muslims, and other groups are allowed to take their holy days off work, they do not share the same official recognition.[19] In 1957, Parliament declared Thanksgiving "a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed."[20]

In some parts of the country Sunday shopping is still banned, but this is steadily becoming less common. There was an ongoing battle in the late 20th century to have religious garb accepted throughout Canadian society, mostly focused on Sikh turbans. Eventually the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Royal Canadian Legion, and other groups accepted members wearing turbans.


To 1800[edit]

Le Grand Voyage du Pays des Hurons, Gabriel Sagard, 1632.

By 1667 the Jesuits had established a station near present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin. Before the arrival of Europeans, the First Nations followed a wide array of mostly animistic religions. See also Native American mythology. The first Europeans to settle in great numbers in Canada were French Latin Rite Roman Catholics, including a large number of Jesuits dedicated to converting the natives; an effort that eventually proved successful.[21]

The first large Protestant communities were formed in the Maritimes after they were conquered by the British. Unable to convince enough British immigrants to go to the region, the government decided to import continental Protestants from Germany and Switzerland to populate the region and counterbalance the Roman Catholic Acadians. This group was known as the Foreign Protestants. This effort proved successful and today the South Shore region of Nova Scotia is still largely Lutheran. After the Expulsion of the Acadians a large number of New England Planters settled on the vacated lands bringing with them their Congregationalist belief. During the 1770s, guided by Henry Alline, the New Light movement of the Great Awakening swept through the Atlantic region converting many of the Congregationalist to the new theology. After Alline's death many of these Newlights eventually became Baptists, thus making Maritime Canada the heartland of the Baptist movement in Canada.[22][23][24]

The Quebec Act of 1774 acknowledged the rights of the Roman Catholic Church throughout Lower Canada in order to keep the French-Canadians loyal to Britain.

The American Revolution brought about a large influx of Protestants to Canada. United Empire Loyalists, fleeing the rebellious United States, moved in large numbers to Upper Canada and the Maritimes. They comprised a mix of Christian groups with a large number of Anglicans, but also many Presbyterians and Methodists.

19th century[edit]

While Anglicans consolidated their hold on the upper classes, workingmen and farmers responded to the Methodist revivals, often sponsored by visiting preachers from America. Typical was Rev. James Caughey, an American sent by the Wesleyan Methodist Church from the 1840s through 1864. He brought in the converts by the score, most notably in the revivals in Canada West 1851-53. His technique combined restrained emotionalism with a clear call for personal commitment, coupled with follow-up action to organize support from converts. It was a time when the Holiness Movement caught fire, with the revitalized interest of men and women in Christian perfection. Caughey successfully bridged the gap between the style of earlier camp meetings and the needs of more sophisticated Methodist congregations in the emerging cities.[25]

St. Paul's Church, Halifax. The oldest Anglican Church in Canada still standing, built in 1750

In the early nineteenth century in the Maritimes and Upper Canada, the Anglican Church held the same official position it did in England. This caused tension within English Canada, as much of the populace was not Anglican. Increasing immigration from Scotland created a very large Presbyterian community and they and other groups demanded equal rights. This was an important cause of the 1837 Rebellion in Upper Canada. With the arrival of responsible government, the Anglican monopoly was ended.[26]

In Lower Canada, the Roman Catholic Church was officially pre-eminent and had a central role in the colony's culture and politics. Unlike English Canada, French-Canadian nationalism became very closely associated with Roman Catholicism.[27] During this period, the Roman Catholic Church in the region became one of the most reactionary in the world. Known as Ultramontane Catholicism, the church adopted positions condemning all manifestations of liberalism.[28]

In politics, those aligned with the Roman Catholic clergy in Quebec were known as les bleus (the blues). They formed a curious alliance with the staunchly monarchist and pro-British Anglicans of English Canada (often members of the Orange Order) to form the basis of the Canadian Conservative Party. The Reform Party, which later became the Liberal Party, was largely composed of the anti-clerical French-Canadians, known as les rouges (the reds) and the non-Anglican Protestant groups. In those times, right before elections, parish priests would give sermons to their flock where they said things like Le ciel est bleu et l'enfer est rouge. This translates as "Heaven/the sky is blue and hell is red".

By the late nineteenth century, Protestant pluralism had taken hold in English Canada. While much of the elite were still Anglican, other groups had become very prominent as well. Toronto had become home to the world's single largest Methodist community and it became known as the "Methodist Rome". The schools and universities created at this time reflected this pluralism with major centres of learning being established for each faith. One, King's College, later the University of Toronto, was set up as a non-denominational school. The influence of the Orange Order was strong, especially among Irish Protestant immigrants, and comprised a powerful anti-Catholic force in Ontario politics; its influence faded away after 1920.[29]

The late nineteenth century also saw the beginning of a large shift in Canadian immigration patterns. Large numbers of Irish and Southern European immigrants were creating new Roman Catholic communities in English Canada. The population of the west brought significant Eastern Orthodox immigrants from Eastern Europe and Mormon and Pentecostal immigrants from the United States and Ireland

20th century[edit]

In 1919-20 Canada's five major Protestant denominations (Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian) cooperatively undertook the "Forward Movement." The goal was to raise funds and to strengthen Christian spirituality in Canada. The movement invoked Anglophone nationalism by linking donations with the Victory Loan campaigns of the First World War I, and stressed the need for funds to Canadianize immigrants. Centred in Ontario, the campaign was a clear financial success, raising over $11 million. However the campaign exposed deep divisions among Protestants, with the traditional evangelists speaking of a personal relationship with God and the more liberal denominations emphasizing the Social Gospel and good works.[30] Both factions (apart from the Anglicans) agreed on prohibition, which was demanded by the WCTU.[31]

Domination of Canadian society by Protestant and Roman Catholic elements continued until well into the 20th century, however. Until the 1960s, most parts of Canada still had extensive Lord's Day laws that limited what one could do on a Sunday. The English-Canadian elite were still dominated by Protestants, and Jews and Roman Catholics were often excluded. A slow process of liberalization began after the Second World War in English-Canada. Overtly Christian laws were expunged, including those against homosexuality. Policies favouring Christian immigration were also abolished.

1960s and after[edit]

The most overwhelming change occurred in the Quiet Revolution Quebec in the 1960s. In 1950, the province was one of the most traditional Roman Catholic areas in the world. Church attendance rates were high, and the schools were largely controlled by the church. In the 1960s, the Catholic Church lost most of its influence in Quebec, and religiosity declined sharply.[32] While the majority of Québécois are still professed Latin rite Roman Catholics, rates of church attendance have decreased dramatically.[33] Common law relationships, abortion, and support for same-sex marriage are more common in Quebec than in the rest of Canada.

Inauguration of United Church at Mutual Street Arena, Toronto, on June 10, 1925

English Canada also underwent secularization. The United Church of Canada, the country's largest Protestant denomination, became one of the most liberal major Protestant churches in the world. Flatt argues that in the 1960s Canada's rapid cultural changes led the United Church to end its evangelical programs and change its identity. It made revolutionary changes in its evangelistic campaigns, educational programs, moral stances, and theological image. Membership declined sharply as the United Church affirmed a commitment to gay rights including marriage and ordination, and to the ordination of women.[34][35]

Meanwhile a strong current of evangelical Protestantism emerged. The largest groups are found in the Atlantic Provinces and Western Canada, particularly in Alberta, southern Manitoba and the southern interior and Fraser Valley region of British Columbia, also known as the "Canadian Bible Belt", as well as parts of Ontario. outside the Greater Toronto Area. The social environment is more conservative, somewhat more in line with that of the Midwestern and southern United States, and same-sex marriage, abortion, and common-law relationships are less widely accepted. This movement has grown sharply after 1960. The evangelicals increasingly influence public policy. Nevertheless, the overall proportion of evangelicals in Canada remains considerably lower than in the U.S. and the polarization much less intense. There are very few evangelicals in Quebec and in the largest urban areas, which are generally secular, although there are several congregations above 1000 in most large cities.[36]

Religious mix[edit]

Census results[edit]

In the Canada 2011 National Household Survey (the 2011 census did not ask about religious affiliation but the survey sent to a subset of the population did), 67% of the Canadian population list Roman Catholicism or Protestantism or another Christian faith as their religion, considerably less than 10 years before in the Canada 2001 Census, .[1] [37][38] Representing one out of three Canadians, the Roman Catholic Church in Canada is by far the country's largest single denomination. Those who listed no religion account for 24% of total respondents. In 2001 in British Columbia, however, 35% of respondents reported no religion — more than any single denomination and more than all Protestants combined.[39] Although much has been discussed about Christianity in its various forms, it is noteworthy that there have been substantial rises in non-Christian religions. From the 1991-2011 tables below, Islam grew by 316.14%, Hinduism 217.15%, Sikhism 208.58%, and Buddhism 124.48%. The growth of non-Christian religions expressed as a percentage of Canada's population rose from 4.1% in 1991 to 8.1% in 2011. In terms of the ratio of non-Christians to Christians, it rose from 21 Christians (95.37% of religious population) to 1 non-Christian (4.63% of religious population) in 1991, to 8 Christians (89.10%) to 1 non-Christian (10.90%) in 2011 - a rise of 135.42% of non-Christians to Christians, or a decline of 6.57% of Christians to non-Christians, in just 20 years. These changes suggest Canada's religious society is moving rapidly towards non-Christianity.

Top Religious Denominations in Canada
1991 2001 20113
Number  % Number  % Number  %
Total Population 26,944,040 29,639,035 32,852,300
Christian 22,503,360 83 22,851,825 77 22,102,700 67.3
- Roman Catholic 12,203,625 45.2 12,793,125 43.2 12,728,900 38.7
- Total Protestant 9,427,675 34.9 8,654,845 29.2
- United Church of Canada 3,093,120 11.5 2,839,125 9.6 2,007,610 6.1
- Anglican Church of Canada 2,188,110 8.1 2,035,495 6.9 1,631,845 5.0
- Baptist 663,360 2.5 729,470 2.5 635,840 1.9
- Lutheran 636,205 2.4 606,590 2.0 478,185 1.5
- Protestant, not included elsewhere2 628,945 2.3 549,205 1.9
- Presbyterian 636,295 2.4 409,830 1.4 472,385 1.4
- Christian Orthodox 387,395 1.4 495,245 1.7 550,690 1.7
- Christian, not included elsewhere1 353,040 1.3 780,450 2.6
No Religious Affiliation 3,397,000 12.6 4,900,095 16.5 7,850,600 23.9
Other 1,093,690 4.1 1,887,115 6.4 2,703,200 8.1
- Muslim 253,265 0.9 579,645 2.0 1,053,945 3.2
- Hindu 157,010 0.6 297,200 1.0 497,960 1.5
- Sikh 147,440 0.5 278,415 0.9 454,965 1.4
- Buddhist 163,415 0.6 300,345 1.0 366,830 1.1
- Jewish 318,185 1.2 329,990 1.1 329,500 1.0
1 Includes persons who report “Christian”, and those who report “Apostolic”, “Born-again Christian” and “Evangelical”.
2 Includes persons who report only “Protestant”.
* For comparability purposes, 1991 data are presented according to 2001 boundaries.
3The 2011 data is from the National Household Survey[1] and so numbers are estimates.
Province/territory[40] Christians  % Non-religious  % Muslims  % Jews  % Buddhists  % Hindus  % Sikhs  % Eastern religions  % Other religions  %
 Alberta 2,099,435 71.38 694,840 23.62 49,040 1.67 11,085 0.38 33,410 1.14 15,965 0.54 23,470 0.8 3,335 0.11 10,560 0.36
 British Columbia 2,124,615 54.92 1,388,300 35.88 56,220 1.45 21,230 0.55 85,540 2.21 31,500 0.81 135,310 3.5 9,970 0.26 16,205 0.42
 Manitoba 859,055 77.83 205,865 18.65 5,095 0.46 13,040 1.18 5,745 0.52 3,835 0.35 5,485 0.5 795 0.07 4,780 0.43
 New Brunswick 657,880 91.41 57,665 8.01 1,275 0.18 670 0.09 545 0.08 475 0.07 90 0.01 330 0.05 790 0.11
 Newfoundland and Labrador 493,480 97.13 12,865 2.53 630 0.12 140 0.03 185 0.04 405 0.08 135 0.03 110 0.02 135 0.03
 Northwest Territories 29,645 79.91 6,600 17.79 180 0.49 25 0.07 155 0.42 65 0.18 45 0.12 95 0.26 280 0.75
 Nova Scotia 780,535 86.96 106,405 11.85 3,545 0.39 2,120 0.24 1,730 0.19 1,235 0.14 270 0.03 565 0.06 1155 0.13
 Nunavut 24,855 93.21 1,655 6.21 30 0.11 0 0.0 15 0.06 10 0.04 0 0.0 65 0.24 40 0.15
 Ontario 8,413,495 74.55 1,841,290 16.32 352,530 3.12 190,795 1.69 128,320 1.14 217,555 1.93 104,785 0.93 17,780 0.16 18,985 0.17
 Prince Edward Island 123,795 92.81 8,950 6.71 195 0.15 55 0.04 140 0.1 30 0.02 0 0.0 105 0.08 100 0.07
 Quebec 6,432,430 90.27 413,190 5.8 108,620 1.52 89,915 1.26 41,380 0.58 24,525 0.34 8,225 0.12 3425 0.05 3870 0.05
 Saskatchewan 795,935 82.64 151,455 15.73 2,230 0.23 865 0.09 3,050 0.32 1,585 0.16 500 0.05 780 0.08 6,750 0.7
 Yukon 16,660 58.42 11,015 38.62 60 0.21 35 0.12 130 0.46 10 0.04 100 0.35 190 0.67 330 1.16

Abrahamic religions[edit]

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

The Canadian community is one of the earliest western communities of Bahá'ís, at one point sharing a joint National Spiritual Assembly with the United States, and is a co-recipient of `Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan. The first North American woman to declare herself a Bahá'í was Kate C. Ives, of Canadian ancestry, though not living in Canada at the time. Moojan Momen, in reviewing "The Origins of the Bahá'í Community of Canada, 1898–1948" notes that "the Magee family... are credited with bringing the Bahá'í Faith to Canada. Edith Magee became a Bahá'í in 1898 in Chicago and returned to her home in London, Ontario, where four other female members of her family became Bahá'ís. This predominance of women converts became a feature of the Canadian Bahá'í community..."[41] See Bahá'í Faith in Canada.


Canadian Christian bodies

The majority of Canadian Christians attend church infrequently. Cross-national surveys of religiosity rates such as the Pew Global Attitudes Project indicate that, on average, Canadian Christians are less observant than those of the United States but are still more overtly religious than their counterparts in Western Europe. In 2002, 30% of Canadians reported to Pew researchers that religion was "very important" to them. A 2005 Gallup poll showed that 28% of Canadians consider religion to be "very important" (55% of Americans and 19% of Britons say the same).[42] Regional differences within Canada exist, however, with British Columbia and Quebec reporting especially low metrics of traditional religious observance, as well as a significant urban-rural divide, while Alberta and rural Ontario saw high rates of religious attendance. The rates for weekly church attendance are contested, with estimates running as low as 11% as per the latest Ipsos-Reid poll and as high as 25% as per Christianity Today magazine. This American magazine reported that three polls conducted by Focus on the Family, Time Canada and the Vanier Institute of the Family showed church attendance increasing for the first time in a generation, with weekly attendance at 25 per cent. This number is similar to the statistics reported by premier Canadian sociologist of religion, Prof. Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge, who has been studying Canadian religious patterns since 1975. Although lower than in the US, which has reported weekly church attendance at about 40% since the Second World War, weekly church attendance rates are higher than those in Northern Europe.

As well as the large churches — Roman Catholic, United, and Anglican, which together count more than half of the Canadian population as nominal adherents — Canada also has many smaller Christian groups, including Orthodox Christianity. The Egyptian population in Ontario and Quebec (Greater Toronto in particular) has seen a large influx of the Coptic Orthodox population in just a few decades. The relatively large Ukrainian population of Manitoba and Saskatchewan has produced many followers of the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, while southern Manitoba has been settled largely by Mennonites. The concentration of these smaller groups often varies greatly across the country. Baptists are especially numerous in the Maritimes. The Maritimes, prairie provinces, and southwestern Ontario have significant numbers of Lutherans. Southwest Ontario has seen large numbers of German and Russian immigrants, including many Mennonites and Hutterites, as well as a significant contingent of Dutch Reformed. Alberta has seen considerable immigration from the American plains, creating a significant Mormon minority in that province. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims 178,102 members (74,377 of that is in Alberta) as of year-end 2007.[43] And according to the Jehovah's Witnesses year report there are 111,963 active members (members who actively preach) in Canada.

Canada as a nation is becoming increasingly religiously diverse, especially in large urban centres such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, where minority groups and new immigrants who make up the growth in most religious groups congregate. Two significant trends become clear when we examine the current religious landscape closely. One is the loss of ‘secularized’ Canadians as active and regular participants in the churches and denominations they grew up in, which were overwhelmingly Christian, while these churches remain a part of Canadians cultural identity. The other is the increasing presence of ethnically diverse immigration within the religious makeup of the country.

Notre-Dame Basilica, a Roman Catholic church in Old Montreal of Montreal, Quebec. On its completion in 1888, it was the largest church building in North America.

As Mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics have experienced drastic losses over the past 30 years, others have been expanding rapidly: overall by 144% in ‘Eastern’ religions during the 1981-1991 decade.[44] Considering Canada’s increasing reliance on immigration to bolster a low birth rate, the situation is only likely to continue to diversify. This increased influx of ethnic immigrants not only affects the types of religions represented in the Canadian context but also the increasingly multicultural and multilingual makeup of individual Christian denominations. From Chinese Anglican or Korean United Church communities, to the Lutheran focus on providing much needed services to immigrants new to the Canadian context and English language, immigration is making changes.[45]

For some Protestant denominations, adapting to a new secular context has meant adjusting to their non-institutional roles in society by increasingly focusing on social justice.[46] However the pull between conservative religious members and the more radical among the church members is complicated by the numbers of immigrant communities who may desire a church that fulfills a more ‘institutionally complete’ role as a buffer in this new country over the current tension filled debates over same-sex marriage, ordination of women and homosexuals, or the role of women in the church. This of course will depend on the background of the immigrant population, as in the Hong Kong context where ordination of Florence Li Tim Oi happened long before women’s ordination was ever raised on the Canadian Anglican church level.[47]

As well a multicultural focus on the churches part may include non-Christian elements (such as the inclusion of a Buddhist priest in one incident) which are unwelcome to the transplanted religious community.[48] Serving the needs and desires of different aspects of the Canadian and newly Canadian populations makes a difficult balancing act for the various mainline churches which are starved for money and active parishioners in a time where 16% of Canadians identify as non-religious and up to two-thirds of those who do identify with a denomination use the church only for it’s life-cycle rituals governing birth, marriage, and death.[49] The church retains that hold in their parishioner’s lives but not the commitment of time and energy necessary to support an aging institution.

Evangelical portions of the Protestant groups proclaim their growth as well but as Roger O’Tool notes they make up 7% of the Canadian population and seem to gain most of their growth from a higher birthrate.[50] What is significant is the higher participation of their members in contrast to Mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. This high commitment would seem to translate into the kind of political power evangelicals in the United States enjoy but despite Canada's historically Christian background as Lori Beaman notes neatly “...[forming] the backdrop for social process”[51] explicit religiosity appears to have not effectively moved the government towards legal discrimination against gay marriage. Much as many Roman Catholics in Quebec ignore the Church’s stance on birth control, abortion, or premarital sex, the churches do not dictate much of the daily lives of regular Canadians.[52]

Christianity remains a social justice and community force within Canada[citation needed] but its cultural loss of active and engaged participants has not been supplanted by the gains in immigrant numbers, thus Canada’s religious landscape has become increasingly diverse.[citation needed]

 Newfoundland and Labrador 97.1%
 Nunavut 93.2%
 Prince Edward Island 92.8%
 New Brunswick 91.4%
 Quebec 90.2%
 Nova Scotia 86.9%
 Saskatchewan 82.6%
 Northwest Territories 79.9%
 Manitoba 77.8%
 Canada 77.1%
 Ontario 74.5%
 Alberta 71.3%
 Yukon 58.4%
 British Columbia 54.9%


Four years after Canada's founding in 1867, the 1871 Canadian Census found 13 Muslims among the population.[54] The first Canadian mosque was constructed in Edmonton in 1938, when there were approximately 700 Muslims in the country.[55] This building is now part of the museum at Fort Edmonton Park. The years after World War II saw a small increase in the Muslim population. However, Muslims were still a distinct minority. It was only with the removal of European immigration preferences in the late 1960s that Muslims began to arrive in significant numbers.

According to Canada's 2001 census, there were 579,740 Muslims in Canada, just under 2% of the population.[56] In 2006, the Muslim population was estimated to be 0.8 million or about 2.6%. In 2010, the Pew Research Centre estimates there were about 0.9 million Muslims in Canada.[57] About 65% were Sunni, while 15% were Shia.[dead link][58][dead link]Some Muslims are non-practicing.[citation needed] As of May 2013, Muslims make-up to 3.2%[59][60] making them largest religious adherents after Christianity. Islam is the fastest growing religion in Canada.[59] Sunni Islam is followed by the majority while there are significant Shia Muslims. Ahmadiyya also has a significant proportion with more than 25,000 Ahmadis living in Canada.[61] There are also non-denominational Muslims[62]

In 2007, the CBC introduced a popular television sitcom called Little Mosque on the Prairie, a contemporary reflection and critical commentary on attitudes towards Islam in Canada.[63] In 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, visited the Baitun Nur Mosque, the largest mosque in Canada for its inaugural session with the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.[64]

A Mosque in Ottawa
A Mosque in Quebec
 Ontario 3.1%
 Canada 1.9%
 Alberta 1.6%
 Quebec 1.5%
 British Columbia 1.4%
 Manitoba 0.4%
 Northwest Territories 0.4%
 Nova Scotia 0.3%
 Saskatchewan 0.2%
 Yukon 0.2%
 New Brunswick 0.1%
 Newfoundland and Labrador 0.1%
 Nunavut 0.1%
 Prince Edward Island 0.1%


Aaron Hart is considered to be the father of Canadian Jewry

The Jewish community in Canada is almost as old as the nation itself. The earliest documentation of Jews in Canada are British Army records from the French and Indian War from 1754. In 1760, General Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst attacked and won Montreal for the British. In his regiment there were several Jews, including four among his officer corps, most notably Lieutenant Aaron Hart who is considered the father of Canadian Jewry.[65] In 1807, Ezekiel Hart was elected to the legislature of Lower Canada, becoming the first Jew in the British Empire to hold an official position. Hart was sworn in on a Hebrew Bible as opposed to a Christian Bible.[66][67] The next day an objection was raised that Hart had not taken the oath in the manner required for sitting in the assembly — an oath of abjuration, which would have required Hart to swear "on the true faith of a Christian".[68] Hart was expelled from the assembly, only to be re-elected two more times. In 1768, the first synagogue in Canada was built in Montreal, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of Montreal. In 1832, partly because of the work of Ezekiel Hart, a law was passed that guaranteed Jews the same political rights and freedoms as Christians.

The Jewish population saw a growth during the 1880s due to the pogroms of Russia and growing anti-Semitism. Between the years of 1880 and 1930 the Jewish population grew to 155,000. In 1872, Henry Nathan, Jr. became the first Jewish Member of Parliament, representing the Victoria, BC area in the newly created House of Commons. The First World War halted the flow of immigrants into Canada, and after the War there was a change in Canada's immigration policy to limit the immigration of people from "non-preferred nations", i.e., those not from the United Kingdom or otherwise White Anglo-Saxon Protestant nations. In June 1939 Canada and the United States were the last hope for 907 Jewish refugees aboard the steamship SS St. Louis which had been denied to land in Havana although the passengers had entry visas. The Canadian government ignored the protests of Canadian Jewish organizations. King said the crisis was not a "Canadian problem" and Blair added in a letter to O.D. Skelton, Undersecretary of State for External Affairs, dated June 16, 1939, "No country could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe: the line must be drawn somewhere." The ship finally had to return to Germany.[69] During the Second World War almost twenty thousand Canadian Jews volunteered to fight overseas. Nearly 40,000 Holocaust survivors moved to Canada in the late 1940s to rebuild their lives.

Today the Canadian Jewish community is the sixth largest in the world[70] and practices in both of the official languages of Canada. There is an increase in the number of people that use Hebrew, other than religious ceremonies, while there is a decline in the Yiddish language. Most of Canada's Jews live in Ontario and Quebec, with Toronto having the largest Jewish population centre. Recently, anti-Semitism has been a growing concern in Canada. In 2009, anti-Semitic incidents jumped a fivefold,[71] with over 113 incidents, and some reports listing 479 in Toronto alone.

Jews [53]
 Ontario 1.7%
 Quebec 1.3%
 Manitoba 1.2%
 Canada 1.1%
 British Columbia 0.5%
 Alberta 0.4%
 Nova Scotia 0.2%
 Yukon 0.1%
 New Brunswick 0.09%
 Saskatchewan 0.09%
 Northwest Territories 0.07%
 Prince Edward Island 0.04%
 Newfoundland and Labrador 0.03%
 Nunavut 0.0%

Dharmic religions[edit]


Hindus in Canada generally come from one of four groups. The first is primarily made up of Indian immigrants who began arriving in British Columbia about 100 years ago and continue to immigrate today (Hindus from all over India immigrate to Canada today, but the largest Indian subgroups are the Gujaratis and Punjabis). The second major group of Hindus immigrated from Sri Lanka, going back to the 1940s, when a few hundred Sri Lankan Tamils migrated to Canada. The 1983 communal riots in Sri Lanka precipitated the mass exodus of Tamils. A third group is made up of Canadian converts to the various sects of Hinduism through the efforts of the Hare Krishna movement, the Gurus during the last 50 years, and other organizations. Finally, the small Nepalese Canadian community is mostly Hindu.

According to the 2001 Census of Canada, there were 297,200 practitioners of Hinduism.[72] However, the non-profit organization Association for Canadian Studies estimates the Hindu population grew to 372,500 by 2006, or just under 1.2% of the population of Canada. The vast majority of Hindus reside in Ontario (primarily in Toronto, Scarborough, Brampton, Hamilton, Windsor & Ottawa), Quebec (primarily around the Montreal area) & British Columbia, (primarily around the Vancouver area). Have significant populations.[72]

The Hindu Population in Canada according to the 2001 Census.[73]

Province Hindus
Flag of Ontario.svg Ontario 217,555
Flag of British Columbia.svg British Columbia 31,500
Flag of Quebec.svg Quebec 24,525
Flag of Alberta.svg Alberta 15,965
Flag of Manitoba.svg Manitoba 3,835
Flag of Saskatchewan.svg Saskatchewan 1,585
Flag of Nova Scotia.svg Nova Scotia 1,235
Flag of New Brunswick.svg New Brunswick 475
Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador.svg Newfoundland and Labrador 405
Flag of the Northwest Territories.svg Northwest Territories 65
Flag of Prince Edward Island.svg Prince Edward Island 30
Flag of Yukon.svg Yukon 10
Flag of Nunavut.svg Nunavut 1
Flag of Canada.svg Canada 297,200


There is a small, rapidly growing Buddhist community in Canada. As of the 2001 count, 300,346 Canadians identified their religion as Buddhist[73] (about 1% of the population).

Buddhism has been practiced in Canada for more than a century and in recent years has grown dramatically. Buddhism arrived in Canada with the arrival of Chinese laborers in the territories during the 19th century.[74] Modern Buddhism in Canada traces to Japanese immigration during the late 19th century.[74] The first Japanese Buddhist temple in Canada was built at the Ishikawa Hotel in Vancouver in 1905.[75] Over time, the Japanese Jōdo Shinshū branch of Buddhism became the prevalent form of Buddhism in Canada[74] and established the largest Buddhist organization in Canada.[74]

The Buddhist Population in Canada according to the 2001 Census.[73]
Province Buddhists
 Ontario 128,321
 British Columbia 85,540
 Quebec 41,380
 Alberta 33,410
 Manitoba 5,745
 Saskatchewan 3,050
 Nova Scotia 1,730
 New Brunswick 545
 Newfoundland and Labrador 185
 Northwest Territories 155
 Prince Edward Island 140
 Yukon 130
 Nunavut 15
Canada Canada 300,346


The first official Jain temple was established in Toronto in 1988.[76] This temple served both the Digambar and Svetambara communities.[77]


Canadian Sikhs are the largest religious group among Indo-Canadians.[78] According to the 2001 census there are 278,410 [73] Sikhs in Canada. Sikhs have been in Canada since at least 1887. One of the first Sikh soldiers arrived in Canada following Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

The Sikh Population in Canada according to the 2001 Census.[73]
Province Sikhs
Flag of British Columbia.svg British Columbia 135,310
Flag of Ontario.svg Ontario 108,785
Flag of Alberta.svg Alberta 23,470
Flag of Quebec.svg Quebec 8,225
Flag of Manitoba.svg Manitoba 5,485
Flag of Saskatchewan.svg Saskatchewan 500
Flag of Nova Scotia.svg Nova Scotia 270
Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador.svg Newfoundland and Labrador 135
Flag of Yukon.svg Yukon 100
Flag of New Brunswick.svg New Brunswick 90
Flag of the Northwest Territories.svg Northwest Territories 45
Flag of Prince Edward Island.svg Prince Edward Island 1
Flag of Nunavut.svg Nunavut 0
Flag of Canada.svg Canada 278,410

Other religions[edit]


Census data showed Neopaganism grew by 281 per cent between 1991 and 2001, making it the fastest growing religion in Canada during that decade.[79]


In Neo-Druid history a notable community was the Reformed Druids of North America, one of whose four Founders was a Canadian, which was served the US Druid community as well as the Canadian Druid community. Neo-Druidism largely spread in Canada through the Ancient Order of the Druids during the 19th century.[80]


Unitarian Universalism[edit]

Unitarian Universalism is a religion characterized by support for a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning".[81] Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed; rather, they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth and by the understanding that an individual's theology is a result of that search and not obedience to an authoritarian requirement.

Other communities[edit]

Other religious communities include Aboriginal spirituality, Pagan, Wicca, Unity - New Thought - Pantheist, Scientology, Rastafarian, New Age, Gnostic, Satanist.[82]

Unaffiliated (Irreligion)[edit]

Irreligious Canadians include atheists, agnostics, and humanists. The surveys may also include those who are spiritual, deists, and pantheists. In 1991, they made up 12.3 percent which, according to the 2001 census, increased to 16.2 percent. The 2011 Canadian census reported that 23.9% of Canadians declare no religious affiliation.[1] Some non-religious Canadians have formed associations, such as the Humanist Association of Canada, Toronto Secular Alliance or the Centre for Inquiry Canada, as well as a number of University Campus Groups.

 Yukon 37.4%
 British Columbia 35.1%
 Alberta 23.1%
 Manitoba 18.3%
 Northwest Territories 17.4%
 Canada 16.2%
 Ontario 16.1%
 Saskatchewan 15.4%
 Nova Scotia 11.6%
 New Brunswick 7.8%
 Prince Edward Island 6.5%
 Nunavut 6.0%
 Quebec 5.6%
 Newfoundland and Labrador 2.5%

Agnostics and atheists[edit]

In 2011, a survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid shows that 47% believed religion does more harm in the world than good, while 64% believed that religion provides more questions than answers.[83] A 2008 Canadian Press Harris-Decima telephone survey of just over 1,000 Canadians found 23% were willing to state they do not believe in any god.[84]

The Canadian Ipsos Reid poll released September 12, 2011 entitled "Canadians Split On Whether Religion Does More Harm in the World than Good," sampled 1,129 Canadian adults and came up 30% who do not believe in a god. Interestingly, the same poll found that 33% of respondents who identified themselves as Catholics and 28% Protestants said they didn't believe in a god.[85]

A 2010 80-question mail-in survey of 420 Canadians by Carleton University Survey Centre and the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies found 30% agreed with the statement "I know God really exists and I have no doubts", 20% acknowledged they "have doubts" but "feel that I do believe in God", 10% answered they believe in God "sometimes", 20% said they don't believe in a "personal God" but "do believe in a higher power", 12% adopted the classic agnostic position and said they "don't know whether there is a God and don't believe there is a way to find out", and 7% said no god exists. Slightly more than half believed in heaven, while less than a third believed in hell, with 53.5% saying they believed in life after death. About 27% said they believe in reincarnation, and 50% expressed belief in religious miracles.[86]

Age and religion[edit]

According to the 2001 census, the major religions in Canada have the following median age. Canada has a median age of 37.3.[87]

  • Presbyterian 46.1
  • United Church 44.1
  • Anglican 43.8
  • Lutheran 43.3
  • Jewish 41.5
  • Greek Orthodox 40.7
  • Baptist 39.3
  • Buddhist 38.0
  • Roman Catholic 37.8
  • Pentecostal 33.5
  • No Religion 31.9
  • Hindu 30.2
  • Sikh 29.7
  • Muslim 28.1

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]