Metro Vancouver tops list of major non-religious cities in North America


Analysis: An exceptional 47% of residents in the diverse Metro Vancouver area report no religion.

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The 2021 Canadian Census shows that nearly half of Metro Vancouver residents now report having no religion – a much higher ratio than in virtually any major city in North America.

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This week’s census press release on religion and ethnicity revealed that British Columbia is Canada’s most secular province and that visible minorities have become the majority in the metro area over the past five years.

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The 47% of residents in the metropolitan area who report having no religion is significantly higher than in the equally ethnically diverse GTA, where only 26% are secular.

Metro’s rate of non-religious residents is much higher than in major North American citiesincluding New York, where people of color are also in the majority — but only a quarter of the population, according to Pew Research, has no religious affiliation.

The fact that Metro has the second highest proportion of immigrants of any Canadian city (42 percent), after Greater Toronto, continues to have a significant impact on the city’s religious and non-religious eclectic makeup.

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In addition to a few new arrivals contributing to secularism, the city has seen a drop in the number of Christians (863,000 or 33% of the inhabitants); a growing number of Muslims (110,000); Buddhists (71,000); and Hindus (67,000); and a stable number of Jews (20,000). While Christians made up 77% of all Canadians two decades ago, their proportion has fallen to just 53% of the nation in 2021.

For centuries, in countries where a single religion has predominated, some feared that accelerating religious diversity would lead to social fragmentation. But, BC-based observers generally believe that Canadians will unite around common values ​​that go beyond specific doctrines or worldviews.

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Kwantlen Polytechnic political scientist Shinder Purewal said Thursday that immigrant families, including those from India, tend to cling to the customs of their former country, often including religion, until to the second or third generation, to cement their group identity while trying to get by. in a new country.

Above all, he does not think that religion divides Canadians. He believes most Canadians are looking beyond what he calls their “primary identities,” based on faith and ethnocultural traditions, to focus on values ​​and beliefs that can unite citizens — such as democracy , freedom, concern for the environment and respect for different ways of life. life.

New Canadian census data on religion, which is only researched every ten years, shows that metropolitan Caucasians (who make up 43% of residents) and ethnic Chinese (who make up 20%) are the more non-religious. Fifty-six percent of white people in Metro say they have no religion, a ratio that rises to 71 percent among people of Chinese descent.

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In contrast, only 7% of Metro residents of South Asian origin (13% of the population) say they are not religious. Most are Sikhs, followed by Muslims and Hindus.

The city’s large Filipino population (11%) is also strongly religious, with only 7% stating no religion. The vast majority of Filipinos are Christians, primarily Roman Catholics.

The Statistics Canada press release, titled: A rich portrait of the country’s religious and ethnocultural diversity, says that “immigrants are much more likely than non-immigrants to place importance on their ethnic or cultural origins”. This is illustrated geographically, for example, by the high degree of religiosity among residents of North Surreywhich has a high concentration of immigrants and people of South Asian descent, many of whom are Sikhs.

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While almost half of Metro residents, or 1.2 million out of a total population of 2.6 million, say they have “no religion”, this proportion drops to less than one in 10 in most of the Surrey. Of Metro’s 222,000 Sikhs, 99% are from South Asia.

Given the growing ethnic and religious heterogeneity of Canadians, especially residents of the metropolitan area, Andy Yan, head of the city program at Simon Fraser University, is similar to Purewal in recommending Canadians focus on connections and values that can link divergent cultures.

“I would like to see the big picture as one where Canadian society is a complex but intertwined fabric, as opposed to a fragile mosaic of glass. Will these trends bring us together or separate us? This latest census data should start a conversation about how our diverse civic and governmental institutions can together facilitate a great society and economy.

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Professor Paul Bramadat, director of the Center for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria, understands concerns about relatively weak cohesion in a multicultural and multi-religious nation, but is not particularly worried.

Referring to studies showing how highly religious people tend to become less so after migrating to a more secular society, Bramadat said the estrangement from historical traditions “is both the source of real pain for the often conscientious people who are deeply attached to them, and a source of hope for those interested in movements and institutions designed for the challenges – ethical, political and environmental – that we all face.

Bramadat says the 2021 census “highlights the need for creativity and openness” between devout Christians, members of growing minority faiths and the many who embrace a secular worldview.

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For what it’s worth, Roman Catholics, the nation’s largest religious organization, emerges from the data as one of the most ethnically inclusive religious groups in the city. Of Metro’s 355,000 Catholics, more than half are members of visible minorities. This includes 98,000 Catholics of Filipino and approximately 25,000 of Chinese ancestry, 21,000 of Latino descent, 8,000 rooted in South Korea, 7,000 from South Asia and 4,000 Black Canadians.

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  1. Statistics Canada’s 2021 census data on religion – as it relates to ethnicity

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  4. SkyTrain in Surrey.

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