About 5% of Canadians are Muslim. Their population has doubled in size since 2011. About 2.3% of Canadians are Hindu and 2.1% are Sikh. The Jewish population numbers about 335,000, a slight increase over the last decade, but their proportion of Canadians has declined to 0.9%. They are slightly outnumbered by self-identified Buddhists.
Non-Christian religious adherents disproportionately live in large urban centers and their numbers have increased largely due to immigration. They make up 16.3% of the population in Ontario, with Muslims and Hindus the most populous. About 16.7% of British Columbia residents adhere to non-Christian religions and Canada’s Sikhs have their largest presence there.
Canada’s 1.8-million indigenous people are largely unaffiliated, with 47% reporting no affiliation. About 26.9% identified as Catholic. Only 81,000 people overall, about 0.2% of the total Canadian population, reported adhering to a traditional indigenous spirituality.
Catholic involvement with government-subsidized residential schools for indigenous Canadians has come under scrutiny in recent decades because of these schools’ efforts to eradicate indigenous culture and assimilate children to the dominant culture. Many of the schools were poorly run and poorly funded, while staff could be negligent or even abusive toward children. Thousands of children died of injury, neglect, or diseases like tuberculosis, often at a rate far higher than other children in Canada.
In 2021, reports suggested there were several hundred unmarked graves at two former residential schools. Though the suspected graves have not been exhumed, the reports led to a wave of protests and burnings and vandalism of churches, including churches that still serve indigenous communities.
The number of hate-based incidents targeting Catholics increased by more than 260% between 2020 and 2021, according to crime figures from Statistics Canada.
Pope Francis visited Canada in 2022 to apologize for Catholics’ role in the residential schools.
In addition to abuse scandals, Canadian law and culture continue to diverge from Catholic belief on abortion, euthanasia, and LGBT issues. There are also disputes over the identity and effectiveness of Catholic schools, some of which are state-funded but supervised by elected lay Catholics, not Church officials. These could be other factors in the decline of Catholic numbers in Canada.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.