The Sikh population in the Abbotsford-Mission Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) has almost doubled in the past decade.
According to information from the 2011 National Household Survey, released on Wednesday by Statistics Canada, 28,235 people living in the CMA belong to the Sikh faith.
In 2001, the last time information on religion was collected, that number was 16,780.
In all, 17 per cent of the population in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA is Sikh. That’s the highest percentage of all CMAs in Canada.
A CMA is an area consisting of one or more adjacent municipalities situated around a major urban core. It must have a population of at least 100,000. There are 33 CMAs in Canada.
Unlike a census, the National Household Survey is a voluntary survey.
“We had a response rate of 68 per cent, but that’s considered a fairly reasonable response rate and overall it was considered to be a successful survey and the data are of good quality,” explained Jennifer Kaddatz, a Vancouver-based analyst for Statistics Canada.
The data released by Statistics Canada is weighted (adjusted), to represent 100 per cent of the population.
Kaddatz said the numbers are “even more interesting” when they are broken down by city, rather than by CMA.
“One of the most interesting things that I found is that the city of Abbotsford itself has a higher number of Sikhs than either the city of Vancouver or the city of Toronto.”
She said Abbotsford has 26,000 Sikhs while Vancouver has 17,000 and Toronto has 20,000. Only Surrey (105,000 Sikhs), Brampton, Ontario (98,000) and Calgary, Alta (29,000) has a higher population than Abbotsford.
Kaddatz noted that not all South Asians are Sikh.
“Eighty-nine per cent of South Asians in Abbotsford are Sikh, six per cent are Hindu, two per cent are Christian and one per cent are Muslim.”
Three per cent indicated that they had no religious affiliation.
Of the people in the Abbotsford-Mission CMA who participated in the survey, 68 per cent indicated they had a religious affiliation, compared to all of Canada at 76 per cent.
Abbotsford’s religious make up is 48.3 per cent Christian, 16.9 per cent Sikh, and 1.3 per cent Hindu. All other religions were under 1.3 per cent.
Thirty-two per cent said they had no religious affiliation.
The survey also indicated that a total of 5,935 immigrants have settled in Abbotsford between 2006 and 2011. Of that, 3,565 were from India.
In total, the Abbotsford-Mission CMA has a population of 166,680. Of those, 39,035 were born outside of Canada.
“That’s roughly one-quarter (24 per cent) of the area population.”
She said that puts the local CMA close to the Canadian average of 21 per cent, but far below Vancouver at 40 per cent.
Taking a closer look at the 39,035 local immigrants, 49.4 per cent are from India, nine per cent from the U.K. and 4.4 per cent are from the U.S.
In 2006, those percentages were 40.9 per cent from India, 10.9 per cent from the UK and 5.4 per cent from the U.S.
“The sources of immigrants who are living in Abbotsford are changing a little bit with more coming from India versus coming from Europe or the United States.”
She said it will be interesting to see how those numbers have been impacted by immigrants who have moved to Abbotsford from other parts of Canada.
That information will not be available until Statistics Canada releases its mobility and migration data, due out at the end of June.