OTTAWA, CANADA, April 8, 2013 (National Post): -- A growing number of Canadians are identifying themselves as having no religious affiliation, although more than two-thirds of the country's population says they're Christian. Statistics Canada's voluntary National Household Survey (NHS) released Wednesday also shows immigration is contributing to the growth of non-Christian religions, including Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist.
The NHS shows nearly one-quarter (about 7.85 million people) of the Canadian population had no religious affiliation -- a sizable increase from 16.5% a decade earlier. Roman Catholics easily remain the largest Christian group, with more than 12.7 million people identifying themselves as Roman Catholic, or approximately 38.7% of Canada's population.
Nearly half a million people said they're Hindu (1.5% of the population), with about 455,000 people identifying themselves as Sikh, and 366,800 as Buddhists. Most of the recent Hindu or Sikh immigrants came from India, while most Buddhists came from China. Ontario was home to 73.6% of the total Hindu population in 2011.
Immigration is responsible for the growing popularity of some religions in Canada and absence of faith among others, according to the National Household Survey. Among immigrants who arrived in Canada before 1971, only 2.9% identified themselves as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist. However, these religions accounted for 33% of immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2011.
In the latest survey, 16% of immigrants who came to Canada before 1971 had no religious affiliation, but that proportion rose to 22% among immigrants who came between 2001 and 2005, and 19.5% of recent immigrants.