Sunday, October 4, 2020

Saskatchewan Demographics by Census Stated Religion

 Since I posted about Saskatchewan last week, I thought I would tackle this. The back story is that about 10 years ago, a Regina Leader Post article criticized the government for opening the legislative session with prayer. The article was posted on Facebook and drew comments from the usual crowd. Including me. I said that the province had come a long way since it was pretty much either Catholics or Protestants, (with very few exceptions). Christian prayer may have made sense then but not now. 

Whereupon I was shat upon from great heights by two lovely ladies who informed me that Saskatchewan had NEVER been just Catholics and Protestants. I quoted the census data that said otherwise. Their argument was that the First Nations had been forced to give up their traditional beliefs so whatever they put down didn't count. I was cool with that and asked for a reference, suggesting they couldn't just go around making up numbers. They said the census was made up numbers. That ended the conversation.

Since I know people who know people, I was able to get census religious tables with whatever detail they contained for 1901 to 1971. I should have asked for 1981 and 1991 too as what I was able to find was not very detailed. Census tables for 2001 and 2011 were the jackpot when it came to detail. Almost too much.

The reporting format from one 10 year census to the next changed every time. What religion was counted and what was lumped under OTHER was at the whim of the apparatchiki in Ottawa. Just because a religion showed up on one census and not on another did not necessarily mean it wasn't there; it was either pulled out or ignored.

Between 1901 and 1971, there was little change in the overall religious composition. Protestant denominations were added or disappeared but non-Christian religions were almost non-existent. However after 1971, immigration to Saskatchewan took off, especially after 2001. I can hardly wait to add the 2021 census data in a couple years. 

The following tables look at religious distribution in 1911, 1951, 1971 and then 2001 and 2011. 

As the population increased, so did the number of religions. Some were new to the province and some were split out from "Other". The relatively large "Other" in 1911 made me wonder about the attitudes of the tabulators.

The tabulators made up for it in the new century. Not sure what the cutoff was or why some were not listed like the Hutterites (did they ask to be blended in?). People tend to be whatever religion their parents were and will defend to the death the notion that it is the one true faith. The numbers of "No religion" have really taken a jump. Of course, religion is as much a culture as a belief system, like the Irish joke, "Are you a Protestant Atheist or a Catholic Atheist?" 

The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 from four organizations, including Methodist and 2/3 of the Presbyterian churches. It became the largest Protestant denomination, though membership has steadily declined since 1961. Roman Catholicism dwarfs all the individual Protestant denominations. Anglican and Lutheran membership have declined every census since 1921. Presbyterian membership dropped sharply between 1921 and 1931 with the advent of the United Church. Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox membership reflects the large inflow of "peasants in sheepskin coats" from Eastern Europe and I am quite sure they were present before 1941.

The Jewish religion was listed separately in every census. Given Canada's history of anti-Semitism, I do not imagine it was out of respect to the Jews. Most of the non-Christian religions showed up after 1971 and especially since 1991. The 2021 census will certainly add to the numbers in these religions. I was pleased to see that Traditional Aboriginal Spirituality was not only listed but increased rapidly between 2001 and 2011. White Man's religion did them nothing but harm. The fastest growing religion seems to be "None" and represented almost 25% of the population in 2011.

So we still have Catholic schools and Public schools but the latter are no longer Protestant school as they were in my father's and my time. They are all-inclusive and need to take that into account so no one is excluded or slighted. The number of religions that celebrate something during our traditional winter holiday season quite astounded me.


  1. These stats are BOGUS! WHERE are the numbers for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, huh? HUH?

  2. Interesting! As you say, the increasing variety of religions probably has more to do with the census takers than with the respondents. I think the saying "No two people have ever read the same book" also applies to religion.

  3. Diane, certainly until the last few decades when we got an increasing number of immigrants from non-European countries. No two people have ever read the same bible would certainly apply to the numbers of different so-called Christian denominations. Each one claiming God revealed to them...

  4. I had no idea there were so many different religions to choose from. Many of them I have never heard of. And some of them have very small congregations, less than 25 people.

  5. Shammickite, there are thousands of different Christian religions alone once you start breaking them down by denomination names. Many I am sure do not differ in their theology enough to warrant a separate name but ministerial egos play a huge part.

  6. An interesting post.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  7. Ol'Buzzard, thank you. It was fun to research

  8. as a pagan I resent being tossed in with 'others'

  9. Jackiesue, Pagans were listed separately in 2001 and 2011. Be proud. There were 600-700 of like minded souls.


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