OTTAWA – A nation of non-believers?
The new National Household Survey suggests we could be becoming so.
While the largest faith in Canada remains Christianity, nearly one-quarter of Canada’s population has no religious affiliation, according to the 2011 National Household Survey released Wednesday.
That’s roughly 7.8 million people who don’t identify with a religion, up from 16.5 per cent of the population a decade earlier.
“We’re seeing an increase,” said Jane Badets, a spokeswoman for Statistics Canada. “It varies across the country.”
About 4 in 10 people in B.C. have no religious affiliation, compared to 2 in 10 in Toronto, she said.
And immigration has contributed to the population having no religious affiliation – although she couldn’t say why.
The non-religious population is also younger than the general population, the survey said, with the median age in 2011 of about 33 years old.
The largest faith in Canada is still Christianity, at just over 22 million people or two-thirds of the population, the survey said.
Roman Catholics were the largest Christian religious group, with 12.8 million people or almost 39 per cent of the population. It was followed by the United Church at just over 2 million people, then Anglicans.
Another 4.5 per cent said they were simply “Christian,” with Baptists forming the fifth largest denomination among the Christian faith at 1.9 per cent.
But consistent with changing immigration patterns, there were growing proportions of the population who reported religious affiliations other than Christian, the survey said.
The growing proportions were Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist. In 2011, about 2.4 million people, or 7.2 per cent of the population, reported affiliation with one of these religions – up from 4.9 per cent a decade earlier.
Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists accounted for 33 per cent of immigrants between 2001 and 2011, compared to just 2.9 per cent of immigrants who came before 1971.
Among those groups, Muslim was the largest, with just over one million people, the survey said. Muslim people represented 3.2 per cent of the population, up from 2 per cent in the 2001 census.
It was followed by Hindu at 1.5 per cent, Sikh at 1.4 per cent, Buddhist at 1.1 per cent and Jewish 1 per cent.
The survey collected information about religious affiliation only, regardless of whether it was practised or not.