OTTAWA, July 7, 2010 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today commented on changes being made by Statistics Canada to the next federal census, including its decision to exclude religious affiliation information from the mandatory portion of the 2011 census. Instead, the information will be gathered in the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS), which will replace the long form of the Canadian census that to date was sent to 20% of Canadian households.  

The new NHS will be sent to a little over a third of Canadian households, but unlike the census, the NHS will be voluntary.

“Information about religious affiliation and religious practice are helpful to many Canadians in their understanding of society and, more specifically for some faith groups, in planning for the needs of their community,” said Joanne McGarry, League executive director. “Such information is also extremely useful for historians and sociologists, both now and in the future, as well as to Canadians researching their own family histories.”

A voluntary multi-page form will probably have a much lower return rate than the census, completion of which is mandatory. Many people will not take the time to complete it. As a result, the role faith plays in many Canadians’ lives will likely end up being under-represented.

Historically census numbers have been viewed as an objective count of a religious group’s numerical position. In the League’s view, it would be more helpful to retain the question on the census, and accompany it with a question about religious activity, since numerous surveys show that religious practice is a better predictor of volunteerism and charitable giving than affiliation itself.

Unfortunately, Statscan’s choice appears to be reflective of a trend to keep matters of religion off the public radar. This is unfortunate, since some of the better research about the relationship between faith and philanthropy comes from the agency’s own research (E.g., Faith and volunteering.)

Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians. The 2009 study by Statistics Canada and Imagine Canada about numerous aspects of volunteerism in Canada.

About CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League ( assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244;