Religion of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on April 18, 2011


Religion refers to the person's self-identification as having a connection or affiliation with any religious denomination, group, body, sect, cult or other religiously defined community or system of belief. Religion is not limited to formal membership in a religious organization or group.

For infants or children, religion refers to the specific religious group or denomination in which they are being raised, if any.

Persons without a religious connection or affiliation can self-identify as atheist, agnostic or humanist, or can provide another applicable response.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programmes.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard is compatible with the recommendations for censuses contained in the United Nations' Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2, 2008. In its discussion of religion, the UN notes that religion can be defined in two ways, "as either (a) religious or spiritual belief of preference, regardless of whether or not this belief is represented by an organized group, or (b) affiliation with an organized group having religious or spiritual tenets." They go on to state that each country "should use the definition most appropriate to its needs." This standard is more compatible with the first of the UN definitions in that affiliation with an organized group having religious or spiritual tenets is not required.

The standard classification is similar to the classification recommended in the Conference of European Statisticians Recommendations for the 2010 Censuses of Population and Housing. However, it differs from this recommendation in providing different detail under "Christianity" and in providing no detail under "Islam". These differences reflect the relative predominance of these religions in Canada at this time and the level of specificity provided by respondents.


Relation to previous version

  • Religion of person April 18, 2011 to current

    March 18, 2013 - The classification has been revised. The category Other Eastern religions has been removed and its contents moved to Other religions. The detailed form of the classification is no longer part of the standard because these additional categories are developed from the responses received in specific surveys. Possible categories for a more detailed classification are shown in the classification Detailed religion, of the National Household Survey.

    April 18, 2011 - This replaces the previous standard, Religious denomination. The earlier standard focused on membership in a religious group. However, actual practice has employed the more inclusive notion of religion contained in this new standard. The classification has been revised to better reflect current response patterns.

  • Religious denomination July 15, 1998 to April 17, 2011
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