Islam in Canada

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Canadian Muslims
Ottawa Mosque - 2018 (214842) (cropped).jpg
Grand Mosque in Ottawa
Total population

3.7% of the Canadian population[1]
Regions with significant populations
British Columbia79,310
Star and Crescent.svg Islam
Canadian EnglishCanadian French
Other languages of Canada

Islam is the second largest religion in Canada behind Christianity. Muslims have lived in Canada since 1871 and the first mosque was established in 1938. Most Canadian Muslims are Sunni, while a significant minority are Shia and Ahmadiyya. There are a number of Islamic organizations and seminaries (madrasas). Opinion polls show most Muslims feel "very proud" to be Canadians, and majority attend mosque at least once a week.[2]

The population of Muslims in Canada is 3.7% as of 2019[1] up from 3.2% as of 2011.[3] In the Greater Toronto Area, 7.7% of the population is Muslim, and in Greater Montreal, 6% of the population is Muslim.[4]

Demographics, concentration, and life[edit]

Historical population
1854 3—    
1871 13+333.3%
1901 47+261.5%
1921 478+917.0%
1931 645+34.9%
1971 33,430+5082.9%
1981 98,165+193.6%
1991 253,265+158.0%
2001 579,640+128.9%
2011 1,053,945+81.8%
2013 1,153,677+9.5%

The majority of Canadian Muslims live in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, there were 424,925 Muslims living in the Greater Toronto Area equalling 7.7% of the total metropolitan population.[6] It consists of people especially a large number of Muslims of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iranian and Egyptian/Arab descent. Greater Montreal's Muslim community was 221,040[7] in 2011 or nearly 6% of the total metropolitan population which includes a highly diverse Muslim population from Western/Southern Europe, Caribbean, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Canada's national capital Ottawa hosts many Lebanese, South Asian and Somali Muslims, where the Muslim community numbered approximately 65,880 or 5.5% in 2011.[8] In addition to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, nearly every major Canadian metropolitan area has a Muslim community, including Vancouver (73,215), where more than a third are of Iranian descent, Calgary (58,310), Edmonton (46,125), Windsor (15,575), Winnipeg (11,265), and Halifax (7,540). In recent years, there has been rapid population growth in Calgary and Edmonton because of the booming economy.[1]

Most Canadian Muslims are people who were raised Muslim.[citation needed] As with immigrants in general, Muslim immigrants have come to Canada for a variety of reasons. These include higher education, security, employment, and family reunification. Others have come for religious and political freedom, and safety and security, leaving behind civil wars, persecution, and other forms of civil and ethnic strife. In the 1980s, Canada became an important place of refuge for those fleeing the Lebanese Civil War. The 1990s saw Somali Muslims arrive in the wake of the Somali Civil War as well as Bosniaks fleeing the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. However Canada has yet to receive any significant numbers of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi War. But in general almost every Muslim country in the world has sent immigrants to Canada – from Pakistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania to Yemen and Bangladesh.[9]

The fertility rate for Muslims in Canada is higher than the rate for other Canadians (an average of 2.4 children per woman for Muslims in 2001, compared with 1.6 children per woman for other populations in Canada).[10][11]

There are halal restaurants across Canada, including over 1000 in the Greater Toronto Area.[12]

Table 1: Muslim Population of Canada in 1991,[5] 2001, and 2011[13]

Province Muslim 1991 % 1991 Muslim 2001 % 2001 Muslims 2011 % 2011
Flag of Ontario.svg Ontario 145,560 1.4% 352,530 3.1% 581,950 4.6%
Flag of Quebec.svg Quebec 44,930 0.6% 108,620 1.5% 243,430 3.1%
Flag of Alberta.svg Alberta 31,000 1.2% 49,045 1.7% 113,445 3.2%
Flag of British Columbia.svg British Columbia 24,925 0.7% 56,220 1.4% 79,310 1.8%
Flag of Manitoba.svg Manitoba 3,525 0.3% 5,095 0.5% 12,405 1.0%
Flag of Saskatchewan.svg Saskatchewan 1,185 0.1% 2,230 0.2% 10,040 1.0%
Flag of Nova Scotia.svg Nova Scotia 1,435 0.1% 3,550 0.4% 8,505 0.9%
Flag of New Brunswick.svg New Brunswick 250 0.0% 1,275 0.2% 2,640 0.3%
Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador.svg Newfoundland and Labrador 305 0.0% 630 0.1% 1,200 0.2%
Flag of Prince Edward Island.svg Prince Edward Island 60 0.0% 195 0.1% 660 0.5%
Flag of the Northwest Territories.svg Northwest Territories 55 0.1% 180 0.5% 275 0.7%
Flag of Nunavut.svg Nunavut 25 0.1% 50 0.2%
Flag of Yukon.svg Yukon 35 0.1% 60 0.1% 40 0.1%
Flag of Canada.svg Canada 253,265 0.9% 579,640 2.0% 1,053,945 3.2%

As the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religious expression, Canadian Muslims face no official religious discrimination but have been victims of many hate crimes which have been increasingly going up. Learn more about Islamophobia in Canada.

Under Section 2(a) of the Charter, the wearing of a hijab is permitted in schools and places of work, although Quebec has ruled that medical faculties are not required to accommodate Muslim women who wish to be served by female employees.[14] Religious holidays and dietary restrictions are also respected, but outside major urban areas it may be difficult to find halal food. It is also often difficult to observe Islamic rules against usury. Some Muslims in some parts of Canada have asked to have family dispute courts to oversee small family cases but were faced with rigorous opposition from both within the Muslim community (both conservative and liberal), and by non-Muslim groups.[15][16]

In 2011, the Harper government attempted to ban the niqab during citizenship ceremonies.[17] In 2015, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled against the ban,[18] and the Supreme Court turned down the government's appeal.


Uniform hat insignia for Canadian military Muslim chaplains.

Four years after Canada's founding in 1867, the 1871 Canadian Census found 13 European Muslims among the population.[19][20] The first Muslim organization in Canada was registered by immigrants from Lebanon living in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1934 in. The first Canadian mosque was constructed in Edmonton in 1938 when there were approximately 700 European Muslims in the country.[21] The 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 after the removal of European immigration preferences in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Muslims began to arrive in significant numbers.

Bosniaks and Albanian Muslims were the founders of Jami Mosque, the first mosque in Toronto in 1968, whose readjustment into masjid (originally an old Catholic school building) occurred on June 23, 1973. The mosque was readjusted for the Bosniaks, with the support of the local Christians. Later, with the action of University of Toronto professor Qadeer Baig, it was purchased by Asian Muslims, while Albanians and Bosniaks later founded the Albanian Muslim Society and Bosanska džamija (Bosnian Mosque) respectively. The oldest mosque in Toronto, with the oldest minaret in Ontario built in Osmanic style is in Etobicoke, part of the Bosnian Islamic Centre.[22]

The first Madrasa (Islamic seminary) in North America, Al-Rashid Islamic Institute was established in Cornwall, Ontario in 1983 to teach Hafiz and Ulama and focuses on the traditional Hanafi school of thought. The Seminary was established by Mazhar Alam, originally from Bihar, India, under the direction of his teacher the leading Indian Tablighi scholar Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi. Due to its proximity to the US border city of Massena the school has historically had a high percentage of American students. Their most prominent graduate, Muhammad Alshareef completed his Hifz in the early 1990s then went on to form the AlMaghrib Institute.

Toronto Dawah Centre, 2007

According to the Canadian Census of 1971 there were 33,000 Muslims in Canada.[23] In the 1970s large-scale non-European immigration to Canada began. This was reflected in the growth of the Muslim community in Canada. In 1981, the Census listed 98,000 Muslims.[24] The 1991 Census indicated 253,265 Muslims.[25] By 2001, the Islamic community in Canada had grown to more than 579,000.[26] Estimates for the Census 2006 pointed to a figure of 800,000.[27] As of May 2013, Muslims account for 3.2% of the total population, with a total of over a million, and Islam has become the fastest growing religion in Canada.[28][29]

In January 2017, six Muslims were killed in a shooting attack at a Quebec city mosque.

One of the first Islamic internet radio stations, Canadian Islamic Broadcasting Network, was started in 2019.

Canadian Muslim Social Organizations[edit]

There are several organizations working to support the Canadian Muslim community by representing their causes and voices, and channeling the efforts of Muslims for the greater good of Canadians as well as people struggling in other parts of the world. Some are listed below:

  1. Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) is a charitable organization and a grassroots movement to establish an Islamic presence in Canada that is balanced, constructive, and integrated in the social fabric and culture of Canada.[30]
  2. National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit organization that protects Canadian human rights and civil liberties, challenges discrimination and Islamophobia.[31]
  3. Islamic Relief Canada helps Canadian Muslims channel charitable contributions to not only Canadians but people in need across the globe. Their platform helps strengthen the relationship between donors and beneficiaries by providing a high level of transparency.[32]
  4. Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) is an organization dedicated to the empowerment, equality and equity of all Muslim women in Canada. It has chapters all over Canada and has launched several projects through community engagement, public policy, stakeholder engagement and amplified awareness of the social injustices that Muslim women and girls endure in Canada.[33]
  5. Muslim Welfare Canada works to fight hunger through its food banks and meals on wheels programs for senior citizens. They also run homes/shelters for women and children as well as refugees.[34][35]
  6. Salaam Canada is a volunteer-run national organization dedicated to creating space for people who identify as both Muslim and queer and trans.
  7. Canadian Islamic Broadcasting Network - An online radio station that was setup in 2019 with the intention of broadcasting Islamic information across Canada via internet radio. The main focus of the station is to provide Islamic Talk programming.

Recent controversies[edit]

On December 12, 2011, the Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issued a decree banning the niqab or any other face-covering garments for women swearing their oath of citizenship; the hijab was not affected.[36] This edict was later overturned by a Court of Appeal on the grounds of being unlawful.

In 2017 the Islamic Society of North America, Islamic Services of Canada and Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation were stripped of their status as charities by the government of Canada after an investigation revealed links to a foreign militant group. Both the stripped associations shared their postal address in Mississauga with ISNA Canada.[37]

In 2018, the Ottawa Islamic Centre and Assalam Mosque was stripped of its charity status by the Canadian government because many of its guest speakers were misogynistic, homophobic, racist and promoted violence.[38] The Canada Revenue Agency also raised concerns that radicalized individuals had attended the mosque, one of whom was imprisoned for having attempted to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[38]


Major Canadian cities have local Muslim organizations that deal mainly with issues pertaining to their home city, but that support national associations. Most Muslim organizations on the national level are umbrella groups and coordination bodies. Student-led initiatives are generally well supported and successful, including annual events such as MuslimFest and the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference, the largest Islamic event in Canada.

Sunni Muslims[edit]

The majority of Canadian Muslims follow Sunni Islam.[39]

Shia Muslims[edit]

Ahmadiyya Muslims[edit]

Stephen Harper (left) seated with Ahmadiyya Caliph Mirza Masroor Ahmad (right) at the grand opening of Baitun Nur, the largest mosque in Canada, July 5, 2008

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has about 50 Local Chapters scattered across Canada, mainly in southern Ontario. The community has good relations with the government and helps in humanitarian causes. Baitun Nur is the largest mosque in Canada.[40][41]

Progressive Muslims[edit]

In May 2009, the Toronto Unity Mosque / el-Tawhid Juma Circle was founded by Laury Silvers, a University of Toronto religious studies scholar, alongside Muslim gay-rights activists El-Farouk Khaki and Troy Jackson. Unity Mosque/ETJC is a gender-equal, LGBT+ affirming, mosque.[42][43][44][45]

Identity and beliefs[edit]

Opinion of Muslims[edit]

Voting results of Canadian Muslims, 2015[46]
Liberal Party
New Democratic Party
Conservative Party
Other party
Did not vote
Not eligible to vote

In a 2016 Environics poll, 83% of Muslims were "very proud" to be Canadian, compared with 73% of non-Muslim Canadians who said the same thing. Canadian Muslims reported "Canada's freedom and democracy" as the greatest source of pride, and "multiculturalism and diversity" as the second greatest. 94% of Canadian Muslims reported a "strong" or "very strong" sense of belonging to Canada. 78% of Canadian Muslims attend mosque at least once a week. 73% of women wear some sort of head-covering in public (58% wear the hijab, 13% wear the chador and 2% wear the niqab). Both pride in being Canadian and having a strong sense of belonging had increased in Canadian Muslims as compared to a 2006 survey. Mosque attendance and wearing a head covering in public had also increased since the 2006 survey.[2]

A 2016 survey found that 36% of Canadian Muslims (47% of those aged 18–34) agreed that homosexuality should be generally accepted by society, while 43% disagreed. Older Muslims (55%) and those with the lowest incomes (56%) were more likely to disagree. The acceptance of homosexuality was higher among the Muslims born in Canada(52%) and South Africa (42%) than Muslims born in Pakistan (0%), Middle east(0%) and Africa (0%)[2][47]

Opinion on Muslims[edit]

According to the surveys conducted by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI), 24% of the Canadians had a favorable opinion of Islam in 2013 which increased to 34% in the 2016 survey and in Quebec, it increased from 16% in 2013 to 32% in 2016.

The Liberal Party (45%) voters and New Democratic Party voters (42%) have more favourable opinion on Muslims, than compared to Conservative Party voters (24%).

A majority (75%) of the Canadians strongly support Muslim women wearing Hijab in Public. However, the wearing of full face and body covering niqab and burka is strongly opposed. Only three-in-ten Canadians are supportive of it.[48]


See also[edit]

Groups and councils[edit]


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  2. ^ a b c Grenier, Éric (April 27, 2016). "Muslim Canadians increasingly proud of and attached to Canada, survey suggests". CBC News. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
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  4. ^ The Profile of Muslims In Canada Archived February 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Abdul Malik Mujahid.
  5. ^ a b Muslim Demographics and History in Canada
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  9. ^ 2001 Census of Canada:
  10. ^ "Region: Americas". Pew Research Center. January 27, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  11. ^ Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada
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  15. ^ Boase, Sharon, "Women's groups fight sharia in Ontario; Two reports submitted by a Muslim women's organization say introducing Islamic law into the province will harm the rights of vulnerable women", Hamilton Spectator, September 16, 2004
  16. ^ Ogilvie, Megan, "Canadian Muslims give mixed reviews on moratorium; Debate urged on Islamic penal code Proposal would halt death penalty Proposal would halt stoning, death penalty Debate urged on Islamic penal code", Toronto Star, April 1, 2005.
  17. ^ Smith, Teresa (December 16, 2011). "Veiled threat: Niqab ban has some fearing a less tolerant Canada". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved December 17, 2011.
  18. ^ Fine, Sean; Galloway, Gloria (September 18, 2015). "Ottawa asks for stay on niqab ruling pending Supreme Court appeal". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
  19. ^ 1871 Census of Canada
  20. ^[bare URL PDF]
  21. ^ Saudi Aramco World: Canada's Pioneer Mosque: Archived May 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Shia Muslim Centres in Canada
  23. ^ 1971 Census of Canada
  24. ^ 1981 Census of Canada
  25. ^ 1991 Census of Canada
  26. ^ "Religions in Canada". Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  27. ^ Muslims and Multiculturalism in Canada Archived January 27, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. March 2007. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
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  29. ^ Canada's Muslims: An International Comparison:
  30. ^ "About Mac". MAC. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  31. ^ "NCCM - National Council of Canadian Muslims". NCCM - National Council of Canadian Muslims. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  32. ^ "Muslim Charity - Zakat, Sadaqah | Islamic Relief Canada". Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  33. ^ "Our Story". Canadian Council of Muslim Women. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  34. ^ "Halal Food & Essential Items Bank - Muslim Welfare Canada". Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  35. ^ "Muslim Welfare Home - Muslim Welfare Canada". Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  36. ^ Face veils banned for citizenship oaths. CBC. Published December 12, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-21.
  37. ^ "Government revokes group's charity status, audit cites possible funding of Pakistani militants". Global News. Retrieved August 19, 2017.
  38. ^ a b "Ottawa mosque loses charity status for promoting 'hate and intolerance'". Global News. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  39. ^ Press, Jordan (May 7, 2013). "National Household Survey shows Muslim population fastest-growing religion in Canada". Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  40. ^ Morton, Graeme (July 5, 2008). "Politicians and faithful open Canada's largest mosque". Canwest News Service. Archived from the original on October 12, 2008. Retrieved July 12, 2008.
  41. ^ "Big mosque on the Prairie opens in Calgary". CBC News. July 5, 2008. Archived from the original on July 10, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  42. ^ "El-tawhid juma circle". Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  43. ^ Mastracci, Davide (April 4, 2017). "What It's Like To Pray At A Queer-Inclusive Mosque". BuzzFeed. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  44. ^ Habib, Samra (June 3, 2016). "Queer and going to the mosque: 'I've never felt more Muslim than I do now'". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  45. ^ Gillis, Wendy (August 25, 2013). "Islamic scholars experience diversity of Muslim practices at U of T summer program". Toronto Star. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  46. ^ Neuman, Keith (April 2016). "Survey of Muslims in Canada 2016" (PDF). The Environics Institute. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  47. ^ "FOCUS CANADA: SURVEY OF MUSLIMS IN CANADA 2016" (PDF). Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  48. ^ "Religious Trends: Led by Quebec, number of Canadians holding favourable views of various religions increases". April 4, 2017. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  49. ^ "Reporter becomes Canada's first hijab-clad news anchor". The Guardian. Associated Press. November 26, 2016. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved April 28, 2019.

External links[edit]