Saturday, 10 January 2015

Quebec - Putting the God in Gaspé

It surprised me to learn that Canada is a predominantly Catholic country.  According to the 2001 census, approximately 44% of Canada's population is Catholic, whereas only 30% of the population is Protestant.  As with Germany, when I was researching religion in Nordrhein-Westfalen for my blog post earlier this year, I've grown up assuming that Canada was a predominantly Protestant country, because of its role in the British Empire and strong place Protestantism holds in the country's political sphere.

As with the research I did into religion in Germany, the figures are skewed somewhat by those whose parents (or grandparents) would have professed the protestant faith, but who now have no religious belief. The situation in Canada confirms my belief that the development of Protestantism over previous centuries has, in many ways, led to 21st-century secularism.

Religion in Quebec

Cathedral Christ-Roi in Gaspe
Much less surprising, due to its French and Irish heritage, is the fact that Quebec is predominantly Catholic, in fact, according to the 2001 census, Quebec is 83% Catholic and only 5% Protestant, having the lowest percentage of Protestants in any province or territory of Canada. With around 24% of Canada's population, Quebec certainly influences the statistics in favour of Catholicism and around 46% of Canada's Catholics live in Quebec.

Canadian Protestants

If you take Quebec out of the equation, then the overall stats for Canada would look slightly different, with Canada-minus-Quebec being 37% Protestant and 31% Catholic.  Of course, the ratio of Catholic to Protestants varies from one Canadian province/territory to the next. The other predominantly Catholic provinces/territories are New Brunswick (which also has a large French Catholic population), Northwest Territories and Prince Edward Island (although only marginally so).

Ontario is split 50/50 with around 35% of people professing each faith - the provinces/territories with the highest number of Protestants are Nunavut and Newfoundland/Labrador. Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon all have predominantly Protestant populations.

The Jews of Montreal

Moe Wilensky's in Mile End, Montreal by Patrick Donovan
As I've been researching about Quebec and, particularly as I've been reading Mordecai Richler's novel Barney's Version, I've become very aware of Montreal's prominent Jewish population and the place Montreal has had in the history of Jewish emigration to North America.

Montreal has several predominantly Jewish suburbs, like Cote-St-Luc and Hampstead. Richler would argue that the oppressive nationalism of French-Canadians in Quebec in the 1990's has convinced many Jewish people to leave the province and move, either to the United States, Israel or neighbouring Ontario.

The 2001 stats would seem to bear this out, as it showed that 58% of Canada's Jews live in Ontario, compared to the 27% of Canadian Jews who call Quebec home. Interestingly, British Columbia has the highest percentage of Jewish people, with 5.5% of people in British Columbia professing the Jewish faith.  British Columbia seems to be the most religiously diverse part of Canada, as it also has the nation's highest percentages of Buddhists, Sikhs and people professing no religious beliefs (around 36% of British Columbians fall into this latter category).

Religious diversity in Canada

Detail of Montreal's Basilique Notre-Dame
I was surprised to learn that Alberta has the highest percentage of Muslims (16.7%) in Canada, although it's hard to compare Alberta's population with Ontario's, which is four times bigger and this doesn't change the fact that 60% of Canada's Muslims live in Ontario.  Ontario is also home to 55% of Canada's Orthodox Christians and 73% of Canadian Hindus.

Newfoundland/Labrador and Nunavut seem to be the places with the least religious diversity and Newfoundland/Labrador has the most religious/Christian population with 97% of people professing either Protestant or Catholic faith.

The home of Raëlism

One of the most unusual 'religions' I've come across whilst I've been researching Quebec is Raëlism, a quasi-religious belief in UFOs and extraterrestrials that was founded in 1974 by a Frenchman called Claude Vorilhon, aka RaëlRaël now lives in Quebec, although his movement has around 90,000 followers in 90 countries world-wide. Raëlians use the swastika as a symbol of peace and believe in sexual liberation, cloning, intelligent design and the idea that aliens (the Alohim) will one day return to Earth, which they created.  They're due to arrive in Jerusalem in 2025!

Quebec has one of the highest concentrations of Raëlians in the world and it was interesting to read about Taras Grascoe's encounter with the Raëlian movement, which he recounts in his book, Sacre Blues: An Unsentimental Journey through Quebec.

Image credits:

The image of Moe Wilensky's in Mile End, Montreal was taken by Flickr member Patrick Donovan, who is from Quebec City.  You can see more of Patrick's photos on his flickr account. Thanks Patrick for sharing this image using the Creative Commons license.

The images of the cathedrals in Gaspe and Montreal were taken by me - feel free to re-use these images with the Creative Commons license: Attribution, Share-alike, non-commercial.  

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