Religion data from the 2001 Canadian census
Results from the 2001 Canadian Census:
Unlike the U.S., the federal census in Canada includes information on
people's religion. It is held every five years, on years ending with a 6 and 1, However, religious data is only collected on every other census -- those collected on years
ending in "1." So the most recent data available from Stats Canada is for 2001. The next religious data will be collected in 2011 and will probably be released in mid 2013.
We feel that with the currently rapid changes in religious affiliation and belief, collecting data only once a decade is inadequate.
Data for the 2001
census was released on 2003-MAY-13. It represents only religious identification
"Respondents were instructed to report a specific
denomination or group, even if they were not practising members of their group.
For infants or children, respondents were instructed to report the denomination
or group in which they will be raised. In most cases, this would normally be the
religion of their parents (or guardians). Persons who had no connection or
affiliation with any religious group or denomination were instructed to mark the
circle 'No religion'. However, if respondents considered terms such as "atheist"
or "agnostic" to be applicable to them, they were instructed to specify them in
the write-in area of the question." 1
||Christianity: The percentage of Canadians who identify themselves
Protestants or Catholics has decreased during the 20th century. The rate of decline is
|% of Protestant or Catholic Canadians
||% following other religions or no religion
By the time of the next census, non-Christians will probably exceed the
number of Protestants in the country.
||Activity: An increasing percentage of persons identify themselves with a
particular faith group, but are not active members. Statistics Canada's
General Social Survey reports that "attendance at religious services has
fallen dramatically across the country over the past 15 years."
||In 1986, 28% of respondents said that they attended religious
||In 2001, this declined to 20%.
||Non-governmental surveys of both the U.S. and Canada have been
conducted on a county-wide basis. The number of people entering
a church, synagogue etc. were counted on a given week. They reveal that the
true percentage of attendees is about half of the stated value. People
tend to lie on matters such as religious attendance. Thus about 10% of Canadian
adults regularly attend services at least once a week, even though 20%
say they do. The situation is similar in the U.S. where many surveys
report that 40% of the subjects claim to go to religious services at
least once a week, but only 20% do.
||In 1986, only 26% of adults reported that they had not attended a
religious service in the previous 12 months. In 2001, this number increased to 43%.
At this rate, a comfortable majority of Canadian adults will report on
the 2011 census that they had not attended a service in the previous
||Trends in membership of various religions (listed in alphabetic order):
Canada remains a predominately Roman Catholic nation. Islam now has many more
followers than does Judaism. Buddhism will probably overtake Judaism by the
time of the next census.
||Canada's ten largest various faith groups:
In decreasing size:
||% of total population
|Other Christian, Apostolic, Born-again, Evangelical
||Some general observations of the 2001 census data:
||The population of Canada was 29,639,030, an increase of 9.8% over the 1991 census.
||There are 34 faith groups with membership in excess of 20,000 adherents.
||The percentage of Canadians who identify themselves as Christian has been dropping by about 0.9 percentage points per year. This is
to the rate of decline in the U.S. If this trend continues, then by about the year 2023, non-Christians will outnumber
Christians in Canada.
||"NOTAS" (our term for "None Of The Above") who report themselves as Agnostic, Atheist, Humanist,
secularist, or simply "no religion " represent the second largest religious group in the country.
||NOTAS are now the second largest religious grouping in Canada, being exceeded in numbers only by Roman Catholicism.
||They amounted to fewer than 1% of the Canadian population prior to 1971. They increased in numbers
to 16.2% over the decade 1991 to 2001.
||Their median age in 2001 was only 31 years; the median age of Canadians is 37.
||About 37% of people in the Yukon, 35% in British Columbia, and 23% in Alberta reported no religion. This compares to 6% in Quebec, and
fewer than 2% in Newfoundland & Labrador.
||Several denominations suffered significant declines in popularity,
expressed as a percentage of the total population. In
order of percentage change, they are:
||Change since 1999
|Brethren in Christ
|Christian Reformed Church
We are at a loss to understand why there is such a precipitous loss in the
Presbyterian Church and Salvation Army. The loss in affiliation with the
Pentecostal denominations is also a surprise, because this group is growing very
rapidly elsewhere in the world.
||Wiccans and other Neopagans showed the greatest percentage growth of any religion,
to 21,080 members. To our knowledge, this fact was ignored by all media commentators. This was an increase of 281% between 1991 and 2001.
||Native Spirituality showed a 175%
growth to 29,820 members.
||The number of Muslims grew by 129% to 579,640 followers.
||Some denominations appear to be having difficulty attracting younger
members. The median age of members of the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodists,
Presbyterian, Ukrainian Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox, and United Church faith
groups are in the range of 43 to 46 years. This is significantly higher than
37 years of age, which is the median age for the Canadian population as a
whole. On the other hand, the average age
of Hutterites is 22, of followers of Aboriginal spirituality is 25, of Muslims
is 28.1, and of Wiccans and other Neopagans is 30 -- all younger than the
average age for Canadians.
||Other small religions with fewer than 20,000 members include: Baha'i Faith, Confucianism, Goddess Worship, Kabalarian, New Age Spirituality, Santeria,
Accuracy of the census data
It is important to realize that surveys and census data are based on self-disclosure: a
person is counted as a Christian if they call themselves a Christian. (This is
the same criteria that this website uses.) However, many
denominations define the term Christian differently. For example,
many conservative Christians do not consider Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses to be fellow Christians.
The government data are based on census data, which is made up from the responses of individual Canadians. The
data do not necessarily reflect the
way that individual religious groups record membership. Some churches count all baptized persons as
members; other faiths consider only active adult members in their data; others
include both adults and children; still others have
different criteria. Because of active persecution in Canada, we suspect that members of some widely hated
minority religions often lie to the census takers. The former feel safer pretending to be a
Christian or a person of no religion than to admit their actual religion and risk attacks.
We suspect that the actual numbers of Wiccans and Satanists are much higher than those
- "Religion: Part B - Detailed Definition," Statistics Canada,
2003-APR-22, at: http://www.statcan.ca/.
This appears to be no longer a valid URL. A chart remains online at the Stats
Can web site at: http://www12.statcan.ca/
- Included are persons who identify themselves as "Christian," "Apostolic," "Born-again
Christian," and "Evangelical."
Census data from "Statistics Canada...is used with the permission of
Statistics Canada. Users are forbidden to copy the data and redisseminate them, in an original or modified form, for commercial
purposes, without the expressed permission of Statistics Canada.
Information on the availability of the wide range of data from
Statistics Canada can be obtained from Statistics Canada's Regional
Offices, its World Wide Web site at http://www.statcan.ca,
and its toll-free access number 1-800-263-1136."
Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2010-FEB-10
Author: B.A. Robinson