Whether immigrants had taken religion for granted before the ocean crossing or had fought hard and long to maintain it against oppressors, most asserted their ancestral faith once they arrived in Canada. The mosque, parish, shul, congregation, mundir or shrine, became the places where people of similar backgrounds grouped together after immigrating. In many cases, the clergy, pundit, rabbi or religious leaders often served as a link between the newcomers and the civil authorities. The religious place contained information about ritual and spiritual life but it also gave the immigrant a place to find out about the ethnic community and issues arising out of everyday life in a new country.
The religious building itself, or an attached hall or school, is a rallying point for the community and often the main physical location for people to express their sense of community. If employment opportunities and housing conditions permitted it, the religious institution emerges as the geographical and emotional centre of immigrant and ethnic neighbourhood life. In fact even before a religious building actually existed to become the focus of revived immigrant or ethnic life, the role of religion and the religious leaders in the survival of the group was important. Sometimes halls were rented, or devout lay people provided basements and backyards to hold services. These are often the most important places for cultural continuity from the old world. As the most obvious cultural presence in the community, the building was likely to become a place where activities such as choirs, language schools, sports clubs, drama groups, dance and folklore groups, old age and senior citizens organizations, benevolent and mutual aid societies and building and loan societies took place.
Religious practice and the church as an institution also reflects the business life of the ethnocultural community. Some businesses were and are dependent on the ritual or pastoral activities of the church: undertaker, providers of religious clothing, florists, and caterers to insurance businesses.