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Past census results & future projections

“No Religion” by year, Census 1961-2001

No religion has gone from 0.5% in 1961, to 4.3% in 1971, to 7.4% in 1981, to 12.6% in 1991 and up to 16.5% in 2001.  According to the 2001 data, no religion represents the second largest religious demographic behind Christianity and is 2.6 times larger than all non-Christian denominations combined.

Change in population, Census 1991-2001

In the period between 1991 and 2001, “No Religion” was the fastest growing group in total numbers, increasing from 3.4 to 4.9 million. This was an increase of about 1.5 million, while all other denominations combined increased by about 1.2 million during this period.

“No Religion” by province, Census 2001

About 37% of people in the Yukon reported they had no religion, the highest proportion among the provinces and territories. It was followed by British Columbia at 35% and Alberta at 23%. In contrast, only 2.5% of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador reported no religion – which was the lowest – followed by Quebec at 5.6%.

“No Religion” by age, Census 2001

If examined by age, only about 6.3% of those over the age of 55 reported no religion, which is far below the 35% for the 25 to 44 year old range.  No religion also had among the lowest median ages of all major denominations in 2001 at 31.1 years.  Only Muslims and Sikhs were younger.  By contrast the Presbyterian median age was 46.  As well, among the immigrants admitted to Canada between 1991 and 2001, 21.3% claimed no religion.

Statistics Canada’s projections for the future

What does this mean for the future?  Perhaps you’ve been able to identify somewhat of a trend going on here.  Also, since 2001 we’ve had 9/11, we’ve had the so-called new atheists publish a series of best-selling books.  It’s safe to say that irreligion in general has had a far greater level of media attention and public debate in the last decade than in the decade before it.  So what can we expect in the future?

Well, according to StatsCan, not very much change at all.  In 2010, they released a publication called “Projections of the Diversity of the Canadian Population”.  In this paper their data modeling projected No Religion at 17.5% of the population in 2006, and increasing to 20.9% by 2031.

See the result of independent surveys.


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