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The Anglican Church of Canada is the Canadian branch of the Anglican Communion. It is made up of 800,000 members worshipping in 30 dioceses; over 2 million Canadians, or 6.9% of the population, declared themselves as Anglican in the 2001 Census. The Primate of the church is the Most Rev. Andrew Hutchison.

The chief governing body of the church is the General Synod, which meets every three years and is made up of lay people, priests, and bishops from each diocese.

The church is in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada under the Waterloo Declaration.

Dioceses and provinces

The Anglican Church is divided into four ecclesiastical provinces, and 30 dioceses. Each province has its own archbishop and each diocese has a bishop. The list of dioceses below indicates in parentheses the Canadian provinces in which the dioceses are located.

Province of Canada Founded in 1860, it consists of seven dioceses:

  • Montreal (Quebec),
  • Quebec (whose borders are consistent with Lower Canada outside of Montreal),
  • Fredericton (New Brunswick),
  • Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island),
  • Western Newfoundland (Newfoundland and Labrador),
  • Central Newfoundland (Newfoundland and Labrador), and
  • Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador (Newfoundland and Labrador).

Province of Rupert's Land Formed in 1875, it is made up of ten dioceses:

  • Brandon (Manitoba),
  • Rupert's Land (Manitoba),
  • Keewatin (Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, north of the 49th parallel)
  • Arctic (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Nunavik (northern Quebec)),
  • Qu'Appelle (Saskatchewan),
  • Saskatoon(Saskatchewan),
  • Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan),
  • Athabasca (Alberta),
  • Calgary (Alberta), and
  • Edmonton (Alberta).

Province of Ontario Formed out of the province of Canada and the diocese of Moosonee (which had been in Rupert's Land) in 1912, it is made up of seven dioceses:

  • Algoma (Ontario),
  • Huron (Ontario),
  • Moosonee (Ontario and part of northern Quebec on the coast of James Bay),
  • Niagara (Ontario),
  • Ontario (Ontario),
  • Ottawa (Ontario), and
  • Toronto.

Province of British Columbia and Yukon Formed in 1914 as the ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia, it was expanded in 1943 to incorporate the diocese of Yukon, which was transferred from Rupert's Land. The province includes five dioceses:


The first Anglican clergy arrived in Canada as chaplains on John Cabot's expedition in 1497. The first Anglican Eucharist on Canadian territory was celebrated in 1578 by Robert Wolfall, who was chaplain to Martin Frobisher's expedition to the Arctic. The Parish of St. John the Baptist in St. John's, Newfoundland is the oldest Anglican parish in Canada, founded in 1699 in response to a petition drafted by the Anglican townsfolk of St. John's and sent to the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Henry Compton.

Members of the Church of England established the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1701 which provided missionaries to Canada until 1940. Another Anglican mission, the Church Missionary Society was established in 1799, and sent missionaries to try to convert Canada's First Nations until World War I. The Church of England in Canada, as it was called until the 1950s, established numerous residential schools which sought to assimilate native peoples into British concepts of civilization.

The Anglican Church was a dominant feature of the compact governments that dominated the colonies in British North America. Adherents to the Church of England were also numerous amongst the United Empire Loyalists who fled to Canada after the American Revolution.

After the conquest of Quebec and the American Revolution, many leading Anglicans argued for the Church of England to become the established church in the Canadian colonies. The Church of England was established by law in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. In Lower Canada (now Quebec), the presence of a Roman Catholic majority made establishment in that province politically unwise. In Upper Canada (now Ontario), leading dissenters such as Methodist minister Egerton Ryerson argued against establishment. Following the Upper Canada Rebellion and the Durham Report and establishment of responsible government in the 1840s, the unpopularity of the Anglican-dominated Family Compact made establishment a moot point. The Church was disestablished in Nova Scotia in 1850 and Upper Canada in 1854. By the time of Canadian confederation in 1867, the Church of England was disestablished throughout British North America.

The Clergy reserves, land that had been reserved for use by the Protestant clergy, became a major issue in the mid-19th century. Anglicans argued that the land was meant for their exclusive use, while other Protestant denominations demanded that it be divided among them.

Until the 1830s, the Anglican church in Canada was treated as the property of the Church of England: bishops were appointed by the church in England, and funding for the church came from the British Parliament. The first Canadian synods were established in the 1850s, giving the Canadian church a degree of self-government. As a result of a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council decision in 1861 (Long v. Gray), all Anglican churches in colonies of the British Empire became self-governing. Even so, the first General Synod for all of Canada was not held until 1893. In that meeting, Robert Machray was chosen as the Canadian church's first Primate.

In recent years the Anglican Church of Canada has been a leading force for liberal reform within the Anglican Communion. In the 1970s, Primate Ted Scott argued at the Lambeth Conference in favour of women's ordination. The Anglican Church of Canada ordained its first female minister in 1976 and its first female bishop in 1993. More recently, beginning in 2002, the New Westminster Diocese has permitted the blessing of same sex unions, a move that has resulted in condemnation from other Anglican churches around the world and has threatened an international schism. Just over a decade earlier, in 1992 an Anglican priest, James Ferry, was brought before a Bishops' Court for being in a same-sex relationship. Ferry was stripped of his licence to preach and "inhibited" from practising other Anglican rituals. Ferry left the church and joined the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto; in 1998, Ferry was partially reinstated. As of 2004, the Anglican Church has not resolved either the question of ordaining non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy or the question of blessing same-sex unions.


Primates of the Anglican Church of Canada are elected by the general synod; they originally held office for life but in recent years they have retired at the age of 70. There have been twelve primates in the history of the church:

  • Robert Machray (1893 - 1904)
  • William B. Bond (1904 - 1906)
  • Arthur Sweatman (1907 - 1909)
  • Samuel Pritchard Matheson (1909 - 1931)
  • Clarendon Lamb Worrell (1931 - 1934)
  • Derwyn Trevor Owen (1934 - 1947)
  • George Frederick Kingston (1947 - 1950)
  • Walter Barfoot (1950 - 1959)
  • Howard Clark](1959 - 1971)
  • Ted Scott (1971 - 1986)
  • Michael Peers (1986 - 2004)
  • Andrew Hutchison (since 2004)

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