Islam in Canada



Grand Mosque in Ottawa.

ContentsAccording to Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, there were 1,053,945 Muslims in Canada or about 3.2%[1] of the population, making them the second largest religion after Christianity. In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 7.7% of the population is Muslim, and in Greater Montreal, Muslims are 6% of the total population.[2] A majority of the Muslim population in Canada followsSunni Islam, while a significant minority adheres to the Shia and Ahmadiyya branch.

Demographics, concentration, and life

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1854 3
1871 13 +333.3%
1901 47 +261.5%
1921 478 +917.0%
1931 645 +34.9%
1971 33,430 +5082.9%
1981 98,165 +193.6%
1991 253,265 +158.0%
2001 579,640 +128.9%
2011 1,053,945 +81.8%
2013 1,153,677 +9.5%

The majority of Canadian Muslims live in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, there were 424,925 Muslims living in the Greater Toronto Area equalling 7.7% of the total metro population.[5] It consists of people especially a large number of Muslims of Indian, Pakistani, Iranian and Egyptian/Arab descent. Greater Montreal’s Muslim community was 221,040[6] in 2011 or nearly 6% of the total metro population which includes a highly diverse Muslim population from Western/Southern Europe, Caribbean, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Canada’s national capital Ottawa hosts many Lebanese, South Asianand Somali Muslims, where the Muslim community numbered approximately 65,880 or 5.5% in 2011.[7] In addition to Toronto, Ottawa andMontreal, nearly every major Canadian metropolitan area has a Muslim community, including Vancouver (73,215), where more than a third are of Iranian descent, Calgary (58,310), Edmonton (46,125), Windsor (15,575), Winnipeg (11,265), and Halifax (7,540). In recent years, there has been rapid population growth in Calgary and Edmonton because of the booming economy.[1]

Most Canadian Muslims are people who were raised Muslim.[citation needed] 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 theSomali Civil War as well as Bosniaks fleeing the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. However Canada has yet to receive any significant numbers of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi War. But in general almost every Muslim country in the world has sent immigrants to Canada – from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania to Yemen and Bangladesh.[8]

The fertility rate for Muslims in Canada is higher than the rate for other Canadians (an average of 2.4 children per woman for Muslims, compared with 1.6 children per woman for other populations in Canada)[9]

There are a plethora of Halal/Zabihah restaurants across Canada and especially in the Toronto metropolitan area. In Toronto alone, there are more than 400 Halal/Zabihah restaurants [10]

A coalition of community groups called on Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Pauline Marois to disassociate from the party’s agriculture critic’s statements about religious ritual slaughter. The coalition’s members in the majority were from outside the Jewish and Muslim communities. They denounced André Simard’s statements about the humaneness of halal and kosher slaughter, the safety of such meat, and his perception that such practices clash with “Quebec values.”[11]

Table 1: Muslim Population of Canada in 1991,[4] 2001, and 2011[12]

Province Muslim 1991 % 1991 Muslim 2001 % 2001 Muslims 2011 % 2011
Flag of Ontario.svg Ontario 145,560 1.4% 352,530 3.1% 581,950 4.6%
Flag of Quebec.svg Quebec 44,930 0.6% 108,620 1.5% 243,430 3.1%
Flag of Alberta.svg Alberta 31,000 1.2% 49,045 1.7% 113,445 3.2%
Flag of British Columbia.svg British Columbia 24,925 0.7% 56,220 1.4% 79,310 1.8%
Flag of Manitoba.svg Manitoba 3,525 0.3% 5,095 0.5% 12,405 1.0%
Flag of Saskatchewan.svg Saskatchewan 1,185 0.1% 2,230 0.2% 10,040 1.0%
Flag of Nova Scotia.svg Nova Scotia 1,435 0.1% 3,550 0.4% 8,505 0.9%
Flag of New Brunswick.svg New Brunswick 250 0.0% 1,275 0.2% 2,640 0.3%
Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador.svg Newfoundland and Labrador 305 0.0% 630 0.1% 1,200 0.2%
Flag of Prince Edward Island.svg Prince Edward Island 60 0.0% 195 0.1% 660 0.5%
Flag of the Northwest Territories.svg Northwest Territories 55 0.1% 180 0.5% 275 0.7%
Flag of Nunavut.svg Nunavut 25 0.1% 50 0.2%
Flag of Yukon.svg Yukon 35 0.1% 60 0.1% 40 0.1%
Flag of Canada.svg Canada 253,265 0.9% 579,640 2.0% 1,053,945 3.2%

As the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religious expression, Canadian Muslims face no official religious discrimination. Under Section 2(a) of the Charter, the wearing of a hijab is permitted in schools and places of work, although Quebec has ruled that medical faculties are not required to accommodate Muslim women who wish to be served by female employees.[13] 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 but were faced with rigorous opposition from traditional groups and liberal Muslim groups, labelling the request as a move towards imposing a Sharia Law. This proposal was opposed by the Muslim Canadian Congress, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and non-Muslim women’s groups.[14][15] In light of publicity, Muslims in Canada have elected to put the subject to rest.

In December 2011 Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism, announced that women would be required to have their faces uncovered during citizenship ceremonies.[16] In September 2015, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled 3-0 against the ban imposed by the Conservative led government. The government on September 18, 2015 sought to suspend the court ruling until the Supreme Court could hear an appeal.[17]


Uniform hat insignia for Canadian military Muslim chaplains.

Four years after Canada’s founding in 1867, the 1871 Canadian Census found 13 European Muslims among the population.[18][19] A great number ofBosniaks (from Bosnia) came to American soil much like Christians from Europe; some came prior to First World War. The first Canadian mosque was constructed in Edmonton in 1938, when there were approximately 700 European Muslims in the country.[20] This building is now part of the museum at Fort Edmonton Park. 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 and early 1970s that Muslims began to arrive in significant numbers.

Bosniaks were the initiators and one of the main participants in founding of all first mosques in Toronto. First masjid, out of which the three oldest mosques in Toronto came were founded by Bosniaks and Albanians in 1968. The first masjid in Toronto was named Jami Mosque (56 Boustead Ave. Toronto). Later, with the action of University of Toronto professor Qadeer Baig, it was purchased by Asian Muslims, while Albanians and Bosniaks later founded their own mosques: Albanian Muslim Society of Toronto on 564 Annette St. and Bosanska džamija (Bosnian Mosque) at Bosnian Islamic Centre.

The first Madressa (Islamic seminary) in North America; Al-Rashid Islamic Institute ( was established in Cornwall, Ontario in 1983 and has graduates that are Hafiz (Quran) and Ulama. The Seminary was established by Maulana Mazhar Alam, originally from Bihar, India, under the direction of his teacher the leading Indian Tablighi scholar Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi and focuses on the traditional Hanafi school of thought. Due to its proximity to the US border city of Massena the school has historically had a high ratio of US students. Their most prominent graduate Shaykh Muhammad Alshareef completed his Hifz in the early 1990s then went on to form theAlMaghrib Institute.

Toronto Dawah Centre, 2007

According to the Canadian Census of 1971 there were 33,000 Muslims in Canada.[21] The oldest mosque in Toronto, with the oldestminaret in Ontario, built in Osmanic style is the one in Etobicoke, that is part of the Bosnian Islamic Centre,[22] whose readjustment intomasjid (originally an old Catholic school building) was over on June 23, 1973. Mosque (an old Catholic school, bought for 75 000 CAD) was readjusted for the Bosniaks, with the support of the local Christians. 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.[23] The 1991 Census indicated 253,265 Muslims.[24] By 2001, the Islamic community in Canada had grown to more than 579,000.[25] Estimates for the Census 2006 pointed to a figure of 800,000.[3] As of May 2013, Muslims account for 3.2% of the total population, with a total of over a million, and Islam has become the fastest growing religion in Canada.[26][27] The Muslim community in Canada is just one among many ethnic, religious, racial and cultural communities that together make up Canada. Canadian Muslims may be classified as Muslims for official governmental statistical and policy-making purposes.


A major aspect of the Muslim community in Canada is the prevalence of city-based associations such as the Muslim Council of Montreal, or Toronto’s Council; organizations that deal mainly with issues pertaining to their home city, but that support national associations. Most of these national organisations are not grass root organizations, except theMuslim Association of Canada, but instead are umbrellas and coordination bodies between local associations.There is also Arabic Muslims, and they are originally from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and some other countries in the Middle East. The Iraqi population is estimated at about 100,000 in 2013, and around 90% of them are Muslims. Many Arab Muslims have arrived to Ontario in the 1990s.

Bait-ul Islam Mosque “House of Islam (Peace and Submission)”

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.

Liberal Muslims

  • the Muslim Canadian Congress, a secular group founded by Tarek Fatah,
  • the Canadian Muslim Union another liberal group which split from the MCC,
  • Muslims for Progressive Values – Canada
  • The Coalition for Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations (CPCMO), composed of the following groups:
    • Canadian Thinkers’ Forum
    • Forum for Learning
    • Islamic Council for Interfaith Harmony
    • Muslim Committee Against Anti-Semitism
    • Progressive Muslims Institute Canada
    • Project Ijtihad
    • The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow
    • Western Canadian Muslims for democracy

Sunni Muslims[edit]

Shia Muslims

Main article: Shia Islam in Canada

Ahmadiyya Muslims

Stephen Harper (left) seated with Ahmadiyya Caliph Mirza Masroor Ahmad (right) at the grand opening ofBaitun Nur, the largest mosque in Canada, 5 July 2008

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Canada acts as an Ahmadi Muslim representative. It has about 50 Local Chapters scattered across Canada, concentrating mainly in southern Ontario. The community has good relations with the government and helps in humanitarian causes. Baitun Nur is the largest mosque in Canada.[28][29] Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Canada has many active Auxiliary organizations such as:

Other Muslims

Prominent Canadian Muslims


  • 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 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.[30]

Mohammad Zeyara and Omar Suleiman’s Inspiration series produced by Muhammad Bayazid