Buddhism in Canada

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Buddhism is among the smallest minority-religions in Canada, with a very slowly growing population in the country, partly the result of conversion, with only 4.6% of new immigrants identifying themselves as Buddhist.[1] As of 2021, the census recorded 356,975 or 0.8% of the population.[2]


Buddhism has been practised in Canada for more than a century. Buddhism arrived in Canada with the arrival of Chinese labourers in the territories during the 19th century.[3] Modern Buddhism in Canada traces to Japanese immigration during the late 19th century.[3] The first Japanese Buddhist temple in Canada was built at the Ishikawa Hotel in Vancouver in 1905.[4] Over time, the Japanese Jōdo Shinshū branch of Buddhism became the prevalent form of Buddhism in Canada[3] and established the largest Buddhist organization in Canada.[3]

A substantial expansion of Buddhism in Canada began in the last half of the 20th century. Changes in Canadian immigration and refugee policies corresponded to increasing communities from Sri Lanka, Japan, and Southeast Asian nations with Buddhist traditions. In addition, the popularity and goodwill ushered in by Tibet's Dalai Lama (who has been made an honorary Canadian citizen) put Buddhism in a favourable light. Many non-Asian Canadians (Namgyal Rinpoche, Glenn H. Mullin, and Richard Barron for instance) have embraced Buddhism in various traditions and some have become leaders in their respective sanghas.

In 2012, there were 489 Buddhist organizations in Canada,[5] including temples, centres, associations, retreats, charities and businesses. All lineages (Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and Navayana newer schools) are represented. The following universities in Canada have incorporated Buddhist Studies either as a sub-discipline of religious studies, or as a subsidiary to Asian Studies: the University of Toronto has two professors specialized in Buddhism,[6] and the University of Calgary also maintains two professorships related to Buddhism.[7] Smaller universities in Canada will typically have just one professor assigned to Buddhism (sometimes the same professor responsible for all Asian Religions) as, e.g., at the U. of Lethbridge.[8]

Although the temples constructed by immigrant communities in the major cities are more visible (e.g., the Sri Lankan Sinhalese "Maha-Vihara" of Toronto),[9] there are also examples of small Buddhist temples constructed by immigrants and refugees in Canada's smaller cities, such as Regina, Saskatchewan's tiny Lao temple.[10]

Various immigrant and refugee populations (Chinese, Tibetan, Thailand, Lao, Japanese, Korean, Burmese/Myanmar, and Vietnamese) have tried to replicate or maintain their traditions in Canada, while small numbers of Canadians of non-Asian ancestry have also been converting to Buddhism.[11] The book Choosing Buddhism[12] by the cultural anthropologist Mauro Peressini provides a survey of the history Buddhism in Canada and documents the conversion to Buddhism of eight notable contemporary Canadian Buddhists including Ajahn Viradhammo, Jim Bedard, Albert Low, Taigen Henderson, Zengetsu Myōkyo, Louis Cormier, Kelsang Drenpa and Tsultrim Palmo.


The Buddhist Population in Canada according to the 2011 Census.[13][14][15]

Historical population
1981 51,955—    
1991 163,415+214.5%
2001 300,345+83.8%
2011 366,830+22.1%
Year Percent Increase
1991 0.6%
2001 1% +0.40%
2011 1.1% +0.1%
Province Buddhists
 Ontario 163,750
 British Columbia 90,620
 Quebec 52,390
 Alberta 44,410
 Manitoba 6,770
 Saskatchewan 4,265
 Nova Scotia 2,205
 New Brunswick 975
 Newfoundland and Labrador 400
 Northwest Territories 170
 Prince Edward Island 560
 Yukon 290
 Nunavut 20
Canada Canada 366,830

The percentage of Buddhists by province/territory in canada

Province Buddhists
 Ontario 1.29%
 British Columbia 2.1%
 Quebec 0.68%
 Alberta 1.24%
 Manitoba 0.58%
 Saskatchewan 0.42%
 Nova Scotia 0.24%
 New Brunswick 0.13%
 Newfoundland and Labrador 0.08%
 Northwest Territories 0.42%
 Prince Edward Island 0.41%
 Yukon 0.89%
 Nunavut 0.06%
Canada Canada 1.1%

Prison population[edit]

Prison statistics for the year 2011 indicated that 2% of inmates are Buddhist in Canada's federal prison system.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1991 & 2001 Canadian Census data, summarized and displayed as a bar-chart at the following blog: http://a-bas-le-ciel.blogspot.ca/2012/08/religious-identity-in-canadian-census.html
  2. ^ Government of Canada, Statistics Canada (2022-02-09). "Profile table, Census Profile, 2021 Census of Population - Canada [Country]". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Retrieved 2022-10-26.
  3. ^ a b c d "Buddhism". The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ "A Journalist's Guide to Buddhism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-14. Retrieved 2009-01-20.
  5. ^ Negru, John H. (2013). Highlights from the Survey of Canadian Buddhist Organizations, Journal of Global Buddhism 14, 1-18
  6. ^ (1) Prof. Frances Garret & (2) Prof. Christoph Emmrich. http://www.religion.utoronto.ca/people/faculty/frances-garrett/ & "Emmrich, Christoph | Department of Historical Studies". Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  7. ^ "| Faculty of Arts | University of Calgary".
  8. ^ "Campus Directory: John Harding".
  9. ^ "Toronto Maha Vihara".
  10. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan | Details". Archived from the original on 2017-03-27. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  11. ^ John S. Harding, Victor Sogen Hori and Alexander Soucy (2010). Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canada. McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 978-0-7735-3666-1.
  12. ^ Mauro Peressini (2016). Choosing Buddhism: The Life Stories of Eight Canadians. Ottawa University Press; 1st edition. ISBN 978-0-776-62333-7.
  13. ^ "Religions in Canada—Census 2011". Statistics Canada/Statistique Canada. 8 May 2013.
  14. ^ "North America :: Canada — The World Factbook - Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. 20 May 2022.
  15. ^ Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census) Archived 2011-01-14 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Non-Christian prison chaplains chopped by Ottawa". CBC News.

Further reading[edit]

  • Harding, John, Victor Sogen Hori and Alexander Soucy, Eds. Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canada (2010)
  • Harding, John, Victor Sogen Hori and Alexander Soucy, Eds. Flowers on the Rock: Local and Global Buddhisms in Canada (2014)
  • Matthews, Bruce, Ed. Buddhism in Canada (2006)
  • McLellan, Janet Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto (1999)
  • Mauro Peressini (2016). Choosing Buddhism: The Life Stories of Eight Canadians. Ottawa University Press; 1st edition. ISBN 978-0-776-62333-7.

External links[edit]