Irreligion in Canada

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The percentage of people in North America who identify with a religion as opposed to having "no religion" (2001)

Irreligion is common throughout all provinces and territories of Canada. Irreligious Canadians include atheists, agnostics, and humanists.[1] The surveys may also include those who are deists, spiritual and pantheists. The 2011 Canadian census reported that 23.9% of Canadians declare no religious affiliation.[2] According to Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, among those estimated 4.9 million Canadians of no religion, an estimated 1.9 million would specify atheist, 1.8 would specify agnostic, and 1.2 humanist.[3]

Surveys and public opinion polls[edit]

In 2011, a survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid showed that 47% of the Canadian population believed religion does more harm in the world than good, while 64% believed that religion provides more questions than answers.[4] 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.[5]

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 with 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.[6]

A 2010 80-questions 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.[7]


Some non-religious Canadians have formed associations, such as the Humanist Association of Canada, Centre for Inquiry Canada, or the Toronto Secular Alliance. In 1999, some non-religious Canadians signed a petition to remove "God" from the preamble to the Canadian Constitution. Svend Robinson, who tabled this petition in Parliament, was subsequently relegated to the backbenches by his party leader.[8] Shortly afterwards, the same group petitioned to remove "God" from the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada", but to no avail.

Irreligion by province[edit]

The Canadian provinces and territories ranked by percentage of population claiming no religion according to the 2001 Canadian Census and the 2011 Canadian Census.[9]

Rank Jurisdiction  % Irreligious (2001)  % Irreligious (2011) Change (2001-2011)
-  Canada 16.2% 23.9% +7.7
01  Yukon 37.4% 49.9% +12.5
02  British Columbia 35.1% 44.1% +9.0
03  Alberta 23.1% 31.6% +8.5
04  Northwest Territories 17.4% 30.5% +13.1
05  Manitoba 18.3% 26.5% +8.2
06  Saskatchewan 15.4% 24.4% +9.0
07  Ontario 16.0% 23.1% +7.1
08  Nova Scotia 11.6% 21.8% +10.2
09  New Brunswick 7.8% 15.1% +7.3
10  Prince Edward Island 6.5% 14.4% +7.9
11  Nunavut 6.0% 13.0% +7.0
12  Quebec 5.6% 12.1% +6.5
13  Newfoundland and Labrador 2.5% 6.2% +3.7

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zuckerman, Phil (2010), Atheism and Secularity: Issues, concepts, and definitions, Praeger, ISBN 9780313351815, retrieved 2010-02-03 
  2. ^ "Religions in Canada—Census 2011". Statistics Canada/Statistique Canada. 
  3. ^ "Non-Christian religious data in Canada". Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  4. ^ "Canadians Split On Whether Religion Does More Harm in the World than Good". Sep 12, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  5. ^ "Almost a quarter of Canadians don't believe in any god, new poll says". CBC News. Jun 3, 2008.  A sample of the same size has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
  6. ^ "Canadians Split On Whether Religion Does More Harm in the World than Good | Ipsos". Sep 12, 2011. Retrieved 2012-10-17. 
  7. ^ The results of this survey are considered accurate to within 4.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
  8. ^ Kurt Bowen (2005). Christians in a Secular World: The Canadian Experience. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-7735-2712-6. 
  9. ^ StatCan Staff (2003-05-13). "Religions in Canada, 2001 Census". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2009-12-18. 

External links[edit]