Every five years Statistics Canada conducts a national census of the Canadian population. However, not every question is asked on every census. Statistics Canada has traditionally asked a question on religious affiliation every other census. The 2001 census asked each respondent to indicate his or her specific denomination or religion, regardless of whether he or she was a currently practicing member. There was also an option to indicate "no religion" instead of identifying a specific denomination or religion.
CATHOLICS: At the time of the 2001 census there were just over 12.9 million people who identified themselves as being affiliated with a Catholic faith. While the number of Catholics rose between 1991 and 2001, their percentage of the total population declined 2%. Catholics represented 44% of Canada's population in 2001. Prior to 1971 Protestants outnumbered Catholics in Canada. Since the 1960's the proportion of immigrants of Catholic faith entering Canada has remained the largest religious immigrant group. Nearly half of the Catholic population make their home in the province of Quebec. British Columbia has the lowest proportion of Catholics - 17% of B.C.'s population.
PROTESTANTS: The percentage of Protestants in Canada is showing no signs of alleviating the steep slide begun after the 1961 census. Those who identified themselves as Protestant in 2001 were older than the Canadian population as a whole. The median age of Protestants was 42 years while the median for the all inhabitants of this country was 37. (Median age is the point where exactly one-half of the population is older and the other half is younger.)
MAINLINE: The Mainline (or historic) Protestant decline in the last decade showed signs of slowing, but a 4.4% loss is still significant . Since 1961 Mainline Protestants have lost almost 1.7 million affiliates. In 1961 41.5% of the population indicated they belonged to a Mainline Protestant denomination while in 2001 only 19.9% responded the same way. This decline has affected all major denominational traditions within the Mainline Protestant family.
EVANGELICAL: Those who identified themselves as belonging to an Evangelical denomination represented 10.9% of Canada's population in 2001. Since 1961 Evangelical (or conservative) Protestants have gained just over 1.8 million affiliates. Among the larger evangelical denominational groupings it is remarkable that the number of Pentecostals dropped 15.3% since 1991. During that same period of time Baptists increased by 10% across the country.
EASTERN NON-CHRISTIAN: Changes in immigration patterns have had a tremendous effect on the religious make-up of Canadian society. During the past decade significantly higher numbers of immigrants have come from Asia and the Middle East, as opposed to European countries, which has meant a sharp decrease in the percentage of Protestants and a moderate drop in Catholics. While the proportion of Eastern non-Christian groups only represent 5% of Canada's population the growth has been remarkable. In 1961 these groups represented .1% of the population.
During the past decade the number of Muslims has more than doubled to just under 600,000. Islam is the largest Eastern non-Christian religious group in Canada. Other major grouping include Buddhists, whose number is now over 300,000; Hindus, which increased to 297,000; and Sikhs, at 278,000, an 88.8% jump.
NO RELIGION: Prior to 1971, less than 1% of the population reported having no religion. As of 2001, that percentage increased to 16%, or just under 4.8 million people. Those who reported they had no religious affiliation tended to be younger than the the general population. Almost 40% were under 25 years of age, an age group representing only 33% of the total population. Males were also more likely to report no religion than were females.
Canada. Statistics Canada. 2001 Census analysis series: Religion in Canada. (Catalogue no. 96F0030XIE2001015). Ottawa: 2003.
*This is a summary only of the report produced by Statistics Canada. For the complete report please visit http://www12.statcan.ca/english/census01/products/analytic/companion/rel/contents.cfm
For more detailed historical data please click on the images to view the graphs for either Canada or the individual provinces.
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