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Parishioners attend afternoon mass at L'Église Saint Sauveur Feb. 14, 2013 in Val d'Or, Quebec. From 1968 to 1970, Cardinal Marc Ouellet served as vicar.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

The first release of data from the 2011 National Household Survey, which replaced the long-form census, offers a snapshot of a modern Canada that is changing in both cultural makeup and religious beliefs.

The voluntary survey is not expected to be as accurate as its predecessors but should accurately reflect broad shifts in the makeup of the population.

Here are three big takeaways:

We're a nation of visible minorities

Canada is increasingly a nation of visible minorities – one in five of the total population identified themselves as a member of this group in 2011. Of these visible minorities, a third were born in Canada. And they are young – the visible minority population has a median age of 33, compared with 40 for the population as a whole.

In addition, one out of five people in Canada's population is foreign-born. Many have lived in the country for many years, while others are relative newcomers. More than one million foreign-born people immigrated to Canada between 2006 and 2011. Asia, including the Middle East, remains the largest source of immigrants.

There was a slight increase in the share of immigrants from Africa, Caribbean and Central and South America over the last five years. Of the recent immigrants born in Africa, the three leading countries of birth were Algeria, Morocco and Nigeria. Colombia, Mexico and Haiti were the top source countries of newcomers from the Caribbean, Central and South America.

We're losing our religion

Nearly one quarter of Canada's population, 23.9 per cent, had no religious affiliation – up from 16.5 per cent a decade earlier, as recorded in the 2001 census. The largest religion in Canada was Christianity, with more than two-thirds of Canadians saying they were affiliated with a Christian religion. Roman Catholics were the largest group, representing 38 per cent; the second largest was the United Church, representing about six per cent; the third largest was Anglican, representing about five per cent.

However, recent immigration trends were a key factor for some religions: those reporting Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist made up 2.9 per cent of immigrants who came to Canada before 1971, but they accounted for 33 per cent of immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2011. In 2011, about 7.2 per cent of the population reported affiliation with one of these religions, up from 4.9 per cent in the 2001 census.

The largest share of Roman Catholics resided in Quebec, followed by Ontario. Ontario was also home to more than 73 per cent of the Hindu population in 2011, as well as 55 per cent of the Muslim population and more than 44 per cent of the Buddhist population.

Our Aboriginal population is young

Seven per cent of all children and nearly 6 per cent of all youth in Canada are aboriginal. In 2011, the median age of the aboriginal population was 28 years, 13 years younger than the median of 41 years for the non-aboriginal population. The median age for people identifying as First Nations was 26 and Métis was 31.

The youngest First Nation populations are in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but First Nation people were younger than the non-aboriginal population in every province and territory.