Islam now second most popular religion in Canada

Statistics Canada's portrait of religious diversity shows the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh population has more than doubled.

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by Fabian Dawson
October 27, 2022
This week’s Diwali festival in Moncton, New Brunswick was a celebration of a dream come true for the local South Asian community.

Numbering about 2,000, many in the community came together at a rented space on Milner Road for the opening of a new Hindu Temple in their town — a vision that was many years in the making.

“This is going to grow,” Ketan Raval, an organizer with the Hindu Society of New Brunswick told the gathering of volunteers and devotees, adding that the new temple will not only be a place for worship but a support centre for newcomers to the area.

While immigration is driving non-Christian religions in the country, the majority of the Canadian population is Christian, but their share is decreasing, said Statistics Canada. Islam is the second most commonly reported religion.

In Saskatoon, a new mosque, school and community center are taking shape under the auspices of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (IAS).

Organizers stressed that the space wouldn’t just be for Muslims but a place to build bridges. If all goes well, the IAS expects to break ground on the $10 million project within two years.

At a quiet corner in the Metro Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam, Father Pio Kim and his largely Korean congregation recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of their new St Agnes Kim Parish Church.

According to the BC Catholic weekly publication, the goal of the Korean parish, the second of its kind in the Archdiocese of Vancouver is to become a “collaborating community” and “praying community.”
These are just a few examples of the nation’s growing ethnocultural and religious diversity, which Statistics Canada states is largely driven by immigration, according to its latest census report.

Drawing on data from more than 450 ethnic and cultural origins, 200 places of birth, 100 religions and 450 languages, Statistics Canada researchers said that immigration is one of the key drivers of religions, especially non-Christian faiths, in the country.

According to its analysis, immigrants represented the majority of Buddhists (68.9 per cent), Muslims (63.1 per cent), Hindus (62.9 per cent) and Sikhs (53.8 per cent) in the country.

By comparison, immigrants represented nearly one-quarter (23.0 per cent) of the Canadian population in 2021. In addition, a large proportion of immigrants admitted from 2011 to 2021 reported a non-Christian religion: 18.9 per cent reported being Muslim, followed by Hindu (9.0 per cent) and Sikh (5.8 per cent).

In 2021, more than 19.3 million people reported a Christian religion, or just over half of the Canadian population (53.3 per cent). However, this percentage is down from 67.3 per cent in 2011 and 77.1 per cent in 2001.

Catholics are the largest Christian denomination in Canada, with 10.9 million people (29.9 percent) in 2021. The United Church (3.3 per cent) and the Anglican Church (3.1 per cent), two other Christian denominations, each had more than 1 million people in Canada. Orthodox Christians (1.7 per cent), Baptists (1.2 per cent), and Pentecostals and other Charismatics (1.1 per cent) were the other Christian denominations most often reported.

Here are some of the other key findings from Statistic’s Canada portrait of the country’s religious diversity;

  • Approximately 12.6 million people, or more than one-third of Canada’s population, reported having no religious affiliation. The proportion of this population has more than doubled in 20 years, going from 16.5 per cent in 2001 to 34.6 per cent in 2021.
  • While small, the proportion of Canada’s population who reported being Muslim, Hindu or Sikh has more than doubled in 20 years.
  • After Christianity, Islam was the second most commonly reported religion in Canada in 2021, with nearly 1.8 million, or 1 in 20, people. In 20 years, the share of the Muslim population in Canada has more than doubled—up from 2.0 per cent in 2001 to 4.9 per cent in 2021.
  • In 2021, close to 830,000 people, or 2.3 per cent of the total population, reported affiliation with Hinduism. Like Muslims, the proportion of the population with Hinduism as its religion has more than doubled in the last 20 years, and is up from 1.0 per cent in 2001.
  • The share of the population who reported Sikhism as its religion also more than doubled since 2001, from 0.9 per cent to 2.1 per cent in 2021. About 770,000 people reported Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 Census.
  • Approximately 335,000 people reported being Jewish in 2021. This number has changed little over the last 20 years; in 2001, 330,000 reported a Jewish affiliation. Although Canada’s total population grew, the proportion of the population with Jewish religious affiliation decreased slightly from 1.1 per cent in 2001 to 0.9 per cent in 2021.
  • In 2021, close to 360,000 people, or 1.0 per cent of Canada’s population, reported Buddhism as their religion, the same percentage as in the 2001 Census.
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