The events of September 11, 2002, have caused many to have an unflattering view of Muslims. Since that time, Muslims have had to endure their share of marginalization. In many parts of the world, xenophobia towards foreign nationals has accentuated public opinion towards the said group.
While Muslims experience discrimination in many other parts of the world, Canada is a country that has allowed Muslims to thrive. Also, Canada is where many Muslims have experienced the inclusiveness of the ethnically diverse population.
Canada’s diverse population has created an environment wherein Muslim communities can settle in peace.
A Brief Historical Overview Of Muslims In Canada
The increased presence and representation of Muslims in Canada may be a recent development. Many sources would trace the influx of Muslims back to the 1950s.
On the contrary, there had already been a Muslim presence in Canada a century prior to that. In 1851, the first Muslims arrived on Canadian shores. These were migrants from Scotland who converted to Islam before coming to what is known today as Nova Scotia.
By 1854, the number of Muslims in Canada increased, albeit modestly, to four. Small numbers of Muslim immigrants would add to the group’s population in Canada until 1901.
It was in 1921 when more than 478 Muslims were documented in Canada. The vast majority of this group’s members were immigrants. Others converted to this religion.
In 1965, the Muslim population boomed to 33,000. As the years went by, more Muslims would come to Canada and more people in Canada would convert. These developments have culminated in the more than 1 million Muslims in Canada today.
Canada currently has more than 35.2 million people. Of these people, more than 1 million identify as being Muslim, making up about 3.1% to 3.2% of Canada’s total population.
This makes Muslims one of the largest religious minority groups in Canada, second only Christians who make up Canada’s religious majority. The group outnumbers others in terms of population.
As well, the number of Muslims in Canada continues to increase. In 2017, it was discovered that the group represented the fasted-growing religious minority in the country. Numerous factors were identified in the 2017 survey. The most salient one mentioned was the escalating discrimination and prejudice towards members of the group even in their home countries.
According to Statista, 70% of Muslims in Canada are immigrants. Coming to Canada, they seem to favour one province over many- Ontario. In 2019, Ontario was home to more than 550,000 Muslims. This is more than half of the total number of Muslims living in Canada.
Which Canadian Provinces Or Territories Have Muslim Communities?
Since 1991, Muslims have had communities in nearly all parts of Canada (except Nunavut). Since that year, the number of Muslim enclaves in the country has grown proportionately to the number of Muslim immigrants.
At the time of writing, people who identify as Muslims still abound in nearly all of Canada’s provinces and territories. Since immigrants represent more than two-thirds of the Muslim population in the country, certain provinces receive the lion’s share of these migrants.
According to Statistics Canada, the top four provinces for Muslims seems to be Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia.
Of any Canadian province, Ontario receives the highest number of immigrants. Consequently, the province is diverse in many respects. The diversity in the province can be seen in the number of ethnicities that make up the population. It is also home to the most number of religious minorities according to Statistics Canada.
Ontario is home to more than half of all Muslims in Canada. In fact, in 2019, the province was home to more than 581,000 Muslims.
The province of Quebec is also an immigrant hotspot. It attracts many professionals and skilled workers. In 2018, the provincial government of Quebec identified Montreal as the preferred destination for many of these immigrants.
The province of Alberta has been home to many Muslims since the 1970s. During this decade, there were 200 Muslims, mostly distributed between Calgary and Edmonton. The 42 years that followed witnessed a rapid growth in Muslim immigrants.
The most recent data on the exact number of Muslims in Alberta was taken in 2016. According to the statistics, there were at least 115,000 Muslims in the province.
Another hotspot for immigration is British Columbia. As of 2018, more than 1.3 million immigrants have called the province home. The number of newcomer arrivals yearly is second only to that of Ontario.
For the immigration hotspot that it is, the province has also been an ideal environment for Muslims. This is evident in the number of Muslims that arrived in the province between 2016 and 2018.
In BC, 3% of the population identify as Muslim. Most live within the Metro Vancouver area. The number of Muslims in the province is expected to grow as immigration continues to boom for the province.
Public Opinion On The Muslim Presence In Canada
Memories of the 9/11 attacks in New York have not done Muslims any favours. The prevalent “Islamophobia” worldwide is further precipitated by the actions of various militant extremist groups like ISIS.
In the United States, racial tensions have been consistently high, placing Muslims under a magnifying glass. In the heat of the Syrian refugee crisis, former president, Donald Trump, vowed to “kick Syrian refugees out of the country”.
Thanks to Pierre Trudeau’s policy of multiculturalism, the Canadian public’s views on Muslims in Canada can be characterized as “apathetic”, for the most part.
For many Canadians and permanent residents, religion is a matter of “personal preference”. As a subject matter, it shares the same status with sexual preference and political beliefs or affiliations. It is not something that is openly discussed.
As well, Canadians and permanent residents seem to make no distinctions between groups. Muslims are likely viewed in the same way members of other denominations are viewed in Canada.
Even the presence of distinguishing articles of clothing does not seem to do much to warrant special treatment or affirmative action.
For many Canadians and permanent residents, all that seems to matter is that members of different denominations “participate peacefully” in Canadian daily life.
Many countries worldwide claim to have a diverse population. While this may be true by demographic standards, few countries take diversity to a different level the way Canada does.
Left and right, different ethnicities and faiths abound in Canada. Being the inclusive country that it is, Canada encourages people to hold on to what makes them unique. With that said, to say that Canada is a melting pot of cultures may be a bit of an understatement.
Rather, Canada’s population is akin to a rich mosaic made up of seemingly different pieces that somehow contribute to the country’s vibrance.
Muslims in Canada have been around for nearly two centuries. Like any other minority, the group has had to endure its share of discrimination and marginalization.
Nevertheless, like any minority in Canada, the group has eventually been accepted by the country. It has become one of many groups whose presence cements Canada’s reputation as a country of tolerance and inclusion.