Quebecers say they’re too accommodating, other Canadians disagree

[Toronto – September 16, 2013] – Two out of three Quebecers (64%) believe they are doing too much to accommodate differences in culture and religion in that province, but the majority of Canadians outside Quebec (83%) see it very differently.

“It would appear more Canadians outside Quebec stand with the thousands who marched through the streets of Montreal over the weekend to defend their minority rights than in their own province,” says Shachi Kurl, Vice President, Angus Reid Global.

These are the results emerging from a comprehensive national survey of public opinion conducted September 6-10,2013, about issues relating to the proposed Quebec Charter of Values.

When asked for their views on how much Quebecers clearly believe they have done more than enough, Quebec is doing to “accommodate differences in culture and religion”, 64% said their province is doing “too much”, a sentiment that climbs even higher among older Quebecers and those who haven’t completed high school. 12% said they are doing “too little”. One quarter (24%) feel the right balance has been achieved.

But Canadians outside Quebec disagree wholly. When asked the same question, respondents in the rest of Canada, half (50%) say “too little” with only 17% agreeing “too much” has been done and one-third (33%) saying Quebecers have done “the right amount”.

Reasonable Accommodation

Two-thirds of Quebecers (65%) believe that “laws and norms should not be modified to accommodate minorities”.  26% believe instead that “on some occasions, it makes sense to modify specific laws and norms to accommodate minorities”.  Younger Quebecers and those with more formal education are more supportive of accommodation.

Opinion in the rest of Canada is more mixed: just under half (48%) lean against modifying laws and norms, while 41% say it makes sense to do so on at least some occasions. A closer look across regions shows BC and the Atlantic tilt in favour of accommodation while the prairie regions and Ontario tilt against.

In spite of a chasm in perception between Quebecers and the rest of Canada over the question of too much/too little accommodation, both French and English Canadians agree that there is a limit to reasonable accommodation when it comes to two specific examples:

  • Request that the boys and the girls be separated in a swimming pool: 89% of Quebecers and 78% of non-Quebecers do not consider this reasonable. 
  • Request for a male instructor for a man taking a driving test: 84% in Quebec and 58% outside Quebec would object to this request.

Four other specific scenarios met with majority opposition among Quebecers, but most or at least a plurality of those surveyed elsewhere in the country found these acceptable requests for accommodation:

  • Request for a different menu at daycare: 64% in Quebec call this unacceptable while 52% in the rest of Canada would accept this request.
  • Request for a woman doctor for a female patient: Rejected by 64% in Quebec whereas three-quarters (77%) in English-speaking Canada consider this an acceptable request.
  • Request for a specific room/location (college, university or workplace) to practise one’s religion: Two-thirds (68%) of Quebecers consider this an unacceptable request, while opinion in rest of Canada narrowly tilts in favour (43% acceptable versus 38% unacceptable). BC and Ontario are residents more reluctant to accept this than their counterparts on the prairies and in the Atlantic region.
  • Request for a religious holiday other than those granted by the Christian calendar: 58% in Quebec reject while the rest of Canada tends to consider this an acceptable request (48% versus 32% with one-in-five unsure).

Looking at data from a 2009 Angus Reid Quebec Issues Survey, shows a hardening of Quebec public opinion. Four years ago, a majority of Quebecers still indicated opposition in each of the six cases – but the number indicating acceptability has dipped by as much as 12 points in the case of the different daycare menu and by eight points each for both the woman doctor scenario and the granting of a non-Christian religious holiday.

Values at Risk

Fully three-quarters (77%) of Quebecers take the view that “the values of Quebec’s society are at risk due to reasonable accommodation”. Only 23% believe “reasonable accommodation enriches Quebec’s society”.   

The opposite view prevails elsewhere in Canada: 66% of those in outside Quebec take the position that reasonable accommodation enriches Quebec society. Only 34% who share the concern that it puts Quebec’s values at risk. (Again, respondents were asked to consider the impact on Quebec social values, not the impact in their own region.)

90% of Quebecers who support “a law that prohibits people who are public employees from wearing religious clothing and symbols at work” also believe reasonable accommodation is putting the values of Quebec society at risk. But of those who oppose a law prohibiting public employees wearing religious clothing and symbols at work, almost half (45%) believe reasonable accommodation puts Quebec values at risk.  It seems these Quebecois think the proposed ban is not the answer to what they see as a problem of reasonable accommodation.

For details on the results of the first survey by Angus Reid Global on the Quebec Charter of Values, click here.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology

From September 6th to 10th,
2013, Angus Reid Global conducted an online survey among 2,025 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. 1,011 were surveyed within Quebec and 1,014 across the rest of Canada. Both samples were weighted by demographic characteristics and voting behaviour, and overall regional weights were applied to adjust for the intentional over-sampling within Quebec. The margin of error – which measures sampling variability – is +/- 3%.

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