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Sources of data

Statistics Canada is a reliable source of data on religious affiliation in Canada. It has measured religion in Canada every 10 years since 1871 though a long-form census questionnaire that is circulated to 25% of households. This survey asks participants to provide one specific denomination or religion to which they belong, whether they are practicing members of that religion or not. Data has been gathered on nonreligious affiliation since 1921 but results on ‘No Religion’ were not published until 1971. More information on nonreligion and the Canadian census is available in Brian Clarke and Stuart Macdonald’s 2017 book Leaving Christianity.

Religious affiliation is also measured by Statistics Canada through the General Social Survey, which was created in 1985 to gather more in-depth data on social trends. The sample sizes for this survey are smaller than that of the national census. Each survey has a different theme, but each one collects comprehensive socio-demographic information, including religion.

Data on religious affiliation was collected in 2011 through the optional National Household Survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census questionnaire. It reported that approximately two-thirds (67.3%) of the Canadian population were Christian, and nearly one-quarter (23.9%) have no religious affiliation. The mandatory long-form questionnaire was reinstated in 2016. A data table on (non)religious affiliation from the National Household Survey is available on the Statistics Canada website.

D 15 July 2021    ALauren Strumos

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