The BC Humanist Association is celebrating the latest data from the Census shows that 52.1% of British Columbians are non-religious. This is a reflection of the growing trend of people in BC and across Canada who are choosing to live their lives without religion. In the 2011 National Household Survey (which replaced the census that year), 44.1% of British Columbians were non-religious.
"This is a positive trend for BC and for Canada," said Ian Bushfield, Executive Director of the BC Humanist Association. "We are seeing more and more people living their lives without religion, and this is a good thing for our society. Religion is not a necessary part of life, and more people are recognizing this."
Bushfield added that the data is particularly encouraging for the Humanist movement in BC, which has been working hard to promote secular values and provide support for those who don't identify with any religion.
"We're proud to be a part of a growing community of non-religious people in BC who are working together to make this province a more inclusive and welcoming place for all."
Nationally, 34.6% of Canadians reported that they were non-religious in Census 2021. In the City of Vancouver, 55.8% were non-religious; in Victoria 63.4% and in Kelowna 53.8%. The least religious community in the country was Squamish where 70.1% were non-religious.
Yukon is the least religious province or territory with 59.7% saying they are non-religious. Newfoundland was the most religious with only 16.0% non-religious.
While Census 2021 included a greater diversity of options for respondents, the BCHA has maintained criticism over Statistics Canada's question. Specifically, respondents are asked to indicate a religion "even if this person is not currently a practising member of that group."
"We know that fewer people actively participate in religious practice than is indicated by the Census," said Bushfield. "Getting these numbers right is important as governments often use these to justify funding decisions."
The BCHA has been critical of the amount of funding that goes to religious private schools in BC, which are overwhelmingly Christian. The Association has also called for Catholic hospitals to be brought into the public system, noting that over $1 billion in public funding goes to religious healthcare facilities.
Following the recent municipal elections, the BCHA has been confirming that upcoming inaugural meetings will be secular. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that opening a city council meeting with a prayer was unconstitutional. A previous report from the BCHA found 23 municipalities opened their 2018 inaugural meetings with a prayer. Since then, eleven have pledged to change their practice.