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According to Canada's 2001 census, there were 579,740 Muslims in Canadamarker, just under 2% of the population.

Demographics, concentration, and life

Most Canadian Muslims are people who were raised Muslim. There are also small numbers of converts to Islam from other religions. As with immigrants in general, Muslim immigrants have come to Canada for a variety of reasons. These include higher education, security, employment, and family reunification. Others have come for religious and political freedom, and safety and security, leaving behind civil wars, persecution, and other forms of civil and ethnic strife. In the 1980s, Canada became an important place of refuge for those fleeing the Lebanese Civil War. The 1990s saw Somali Muslims arrive in the wake of the Somali Civil War as well as Bosnian Muslims fleeing the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. However Canada has yet to receive any significant numbers of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi Civil War. But in general almost every Muslim country in the world has sent immigrants to Canada — from Albaniamarker to Yemenmarker to Bangladeshmarker.

The majority of Canadian Muslims — and not coincidentally a large proportion of the country's immigrants — live in the province of Ontariomarker, with the largest groups settled in and around the Greater Toronto Area. According to the 2001 Census, there were 254,110 Muslims living in Greater Toronto.

British Columbiamarker also has a significant Muslim population. Assuming that most immigrants from the Middle East and Iranmarker are Muslims, the two largest Muslim communities in Vancouver were Middle Eastern (>50,000) and Iranian (>30,000). Canada's national capital Ottawamarker hosts many Lebanese and Somali Muslims, where the Muslim community numbered approximately 40,000 in 2001. Greater Montreal's Muslim community neared 100,000 in 2001. It is home to large numbers of Canadians of Moroccan, Algerian and Lebanese descent, as well as smaller Syrian, Iranian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Turkish communities. These communities are not exclusively, but predominantly, Muslim. In addition to Vancouvermarker, Ottawa, and Montrealmarker, nearly every major Canadian metropolitan area has a Muslim community, including Halifaxmarker (3,070), Windsormarker (10,745), Winnipegmarker (4,805),Calgarymarker (28,920), Edmontonmarker (19,580), Vancouvermarker (52,590), where more than a third are of Iranian descent, and Torontomarker (30,230).

Table 1: Current Muslim Population of Canada

Province Muslims
Ontariomarker 352,530
Quebecmarker 108,620
British Columbiamarker 56,220
Albertamarker 49,040
Manitobamarker 5,095
Nova Scotiamarker 3,545
Saskatchewanmarker 2,230
New Brunswickmarker 1,275
Newfoundland and Labradormarker 630
Prince Edward Islandmarker 195
Northwest Territoriesmarker 180
Yukonmarker 60
Nunavutmarker 30
Canada 579,640

As the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religious expression, Canadian Muslims face no official religious discrimination. Under Section 2 of the Charter, the wearing of the hijab is permitted in schools and places of work. Religious holidays and dietary restrictions are also respected, but outside major urban areas it may be difficult to find halal food. It is also often difficult to observe Islamic rules against usury. Muslims in some parts of Canada have asked to have family dispute courts to oversee small family cases, such as the ones available to Jews, but were faced with rigorous opposition from traditional groups, Pro-Israel lobbies and liberal muslim groups, labeling the request as a move towards imposing a 'Sharia' Law. These proposal was opposed by the Muslim Canadian Congress, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and non-Muslim women's groups. In light of publicity, Muslims in Canada have elected to put the subject to rest.


The Muslim community in Canada is almost as old as the nation itself. Four years after Canada's founding in 1867, the 1871 Canadian Census found 13 Muslims among the population. The first Canadian mosque was constructed in Edmontonmarker in 1938, when there were approximately 700 Muslims in the country. This building is now part of the museum at Fort Edmonton Parkmarker. The years after World War II saw a small increase in the Muslim population. However Muslims were still a distinct minority. It was only after the removal of European immigration preferences in the late 1960s that Muslims began to arrive in significant numbers.

According to the Canadian Census of 1971 there were 33,000 Muslims in Canada. In the 1970s large-scale non-European immigration to Canada began. This was reflected in the growth of the Muslim community in Canada. In 1981, the Census listed 98,000 Muslims. The 1991 Census indicated 253,265 Muslims. By 2001, the Islamic community in Canada had grown to more than 579,000. Preliminary estimates for Census 2006 point to a figure of almost 800,000.

Compared to Muslims in Europe, Canadian Muslims have not faced the same set of problems. The Muslim community in Canada is just one among many ethnic, religious, racial and cultural communities that together make up Canada. At the same time, it must be noted that although Canadian Muslims may be classified as Muslims for official governmental statistical and policy-making purposes, that does not necessarily mean that all who are identified as such are practicing Muslims. In other words, they may be culturally Muslim, while at the same time leading secular lives, as the case with many Christians who may be identified as such but have never consider themselves as Christians.


The Muslim community in Canada is represented by several organisations: the Canadian Islamic Congress, which purports to represent the orthodox mainstream in the community and has the support of most mosques, the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) which has its foundation rooted in traditional Islamic ideology with a focus on dynamic application within the current Canadian context, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) which has now become one of the leading advocacy and civil liberties organisations on behalf of the Muslim community, the Muslim Canadian Congress, a progressive, liberal group that was founded in 2002, the Canadian Muslim Union another liberal group which split from the MCC, as well as other large organisations such as Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). These are only some of the key organisations within the Muslim Canadian community. As the community is large and diverse with well over 60 ethno-cultural groups various organisations are continually emerging as they seek to meet the needs of community members.

Student-led initiatives are generally well supported and successful, including annual events such as MuslimFest and the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference, the largest Islamic event in Canada.

The issue of many Lebanese Muslims becoming Canadians of convenience to escape the conflicts in Lebanon, re-arose in April of 2009.

In the Media

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board has developed programing that shares the perspective of live as a Muslim in Canada.
  • Homegrown Muslims a Documentary by Iranian-born filmmaker Saide Kardar documents Torontomarker's Muslim community and provides a look at the conflict of identity among young Muslims living in Canada.
  • Little Mosque on the Prairie is a Canadian sitcom on CBC Television, created by Zarqa Nawaz. The series focuses on the Muslim community in the fictional prairie town of Mercy, Saskatchewan (population 14,000).
  • Zarqa Nawaz with the National Film Board has also produced Me and the Mosque (2005) a documentary about the role of women in Islam, both throughout history and in contemporary Canada, told from a personal perspective.

Further reading

Bakht, Natasha, ed. (2008) Belonging and Banishment: Being Muslim in Canada. Toronto: TSAR. ISBN 978-1-89477-48-4.


  1. Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census)
  2. 2001 Census of Canada:
  3. Canada Census 2001
  4. 2001 Census of Canada
  5. Canada's Demo-Religious Revolution
  6. Boase, Sharon, "Women's groups fight sharia in Ontario; Two reports submitted by a Muslim women's organization say introducing Islamic law into the province will harm the rights of vulnerable women", Hamilton Spectator, September 16, 2004
  7. Ogilvie, Megan, "Canadian Muslims give mixed reviews on moratorium; Debate urged on Islamic penal code Proposal would halt death penalty Proposal would halt stoning, death penalty Debate urged on Islamic penal code", Toronto Star, April 1, 2005.
  8. 1871 Census of Canada
  9. Saudi Aramco World: Canada's Pioneer Mosque:
  10. 1971 Census of Canada
  11. 1981 Census of Canada
  12. 1991 Census of Canada
  13. 2001 Census of Canada
  14. Canada's Muslims: An International Comparison:
  15. NFB - Collection - Me and the Mosque

See also

External links

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