Religion of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on April 1, 2021.


Religion refers to the person's self-identification as having a connection or affiliation with any religious denomination, group, body, 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 programs.

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 3, 2017. 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 List of Religions 2021 is similar to the classification recommended in the Conference of European Statisticians Recommendations for the 2020 Censuses of Population and Housing. However, it differs from this recommendation by providing different detail under the upper level categories. These differences reflect the relative predominance of various religious denominations, groups, bodies, and other religiously defined communities or systems of belief in Canada at this time, and the level of specificity provided by respondents.


Relation to previous version

  • Religion of person April 01, 2021 to current

    The definition of religion has been slightly modified. The list of religions has been expanded to provide greater detail under the upper level categories.

  • Religion of person April 18, 2011 to March 31, 2021

    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

    This was the departmental standard from July 15, 1998 to April 17, 2011.

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