Thursday, 9 May 2013

2011 National Household Survey: Self-Identifying Canadian "Nones" At 23.9%. But Only 12.1% In Quebec?

St Joseph's Oratory, Montreal.
So the 2011 National Household Survey results are finally posted on the StatsCan website. The Conservatives ditched the old long-form census and replaced it with a survey - much to the concern of StatsCan and those who actually care about statistics, but that's a whole other issue.

There is a good overview of how the new data - however reliable it is - affects the non-religious community over at the Canadian Atheist along with some spirited theorizing about the government's actual feelings towards us godless types.
We are now 23.9% of Canada, up from around 16.5% in the 2001 census. We’re especially present among non-immigrants, at almost a quarter (24.8%) and non-permanent residents at 27.9%.
You can also find a spiffy little video produced by the Globe & Mail that goes into all this in a friendly and accessible way.

The numbers are quite remarkable but something jumped out at me rather quickly when I looked at the interactive graphs provided by the Montreal Gazette.

Number of respondents with no religious affiliation with percent population breakdown per province.

See where it says Provincial breakdown - Proportion of population (%)? Check out Quebec, at only 12.1% of survey respondents having No religious affiliation.

Now contrast this with the 2012 QMI poll that found only 22% of Quebecers consider themselves to be religious.  Or the 2012 poll by the Association for Canadian Studies that found that the proportion of Quebec respondents expressing some form of attachment to religion was 34%.

The thing is, having religious affiliation or considering oneself to be religious is not really the same class of question as having no religious affiliation.  Without a doubt, the vast majority of Quebecers consider themselves Catholic - after all, they were baptized Catholic. But Catholique means something different to most Quebecers I've met than what I've encountered in other provinces.

One can be a Cultural Catholic and be non-religious or even atheist. Even Richard Dawkins has, in the past, identified as a Cultural Christian. And what about all those atheists who attend Unitarian Universalist churches?

Let's just put it this way, someone could take the results of this survey and say "Take a look at what a religious country Canada is!" or "Quebec is such an overwhelmingly religious province!" While I don't think they could get the same boost to religion out of the other two surveys.

I'll have more to say about this survey in an upcoming post.

Editor's Note (2013-05-09): Want to get counted as an atheist in Canada rather than a "No religious affiliation"? Check out the information about the Canadian Atheist Census over at Canadian Atheist blog! Thanks to Veronica over at Canadian Atheist for bringing this to my attention!


  1. The Montreal Gazette needs to check their style guide...

    NV = Nevada, NU = Nunavut
    yk = Yukon (web), YT = Yukon (postal)

  2. GodlessPoutine13 May 2013 at 22:20

    I knew the NV and the NU but not the yk or YT. What kind of Canadian am I?

    Thanks for the comment!


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