Islamophobia in Canada: Four mindsets indicate negativity is nationwide, most intense in Quebec

by David Korzinski | March 12, 2023 9:00 pm

36% outside of QC have negative view of Islam, compared to 56% within la belle province

March 13, 2023 – A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds unfavourable views of Islam prevalent across the country at varying levels and highest in Quebec.

Indeed, two-in-five Canadians outside of Quebec (39%) hold an unfavourable view of Islam. In Quebec that number reaches half (52%). These views take more concrete forms, however, than just the overall sentiment that the religion receives. Its followers face the risk of being unwelcome in a number of areas of Canadian society.

To clarify the picture further, the Angus Reid Institute created the “Views of Islam Index”. Respondents were asked six questions about five religions – Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. The dimensions measured included:

For the purpose of this analysis and given the ongoing discussion[1] about the level of Islamophobia in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, responses to this national survey were analyzed according to the level of positivity or negativity towards Muslims across all six question areas. Four groups were created, those with Very Positive, Positive, Negative, and Very Negative views of Islam.

A comparison of Quebec with the rest of Canada reveals stark differences. Outside of Quebec, Very Positive and universally accepting views of Muslims and their religious symbols are evident in 37 per cent of the population. A further one-quarter (27%) hold generally positive views but not in all circumstances assessed in the study. On the other end of the spectrum 16 per cent of Canadians outside Quebec hold Very Negative views on Islam and religious practices of this faith in nearly every circumstance assessed in the survey.

In Quebec, positive views are more muted but still represent almost half the attitudinal landscape with one-in-five (20%) displaying Very Positive views and a further one-quarter (25%) on the generally positive side of the index.

That said, the largest segment of the population in Quebec (30%) displays Very Negative views toward Islam. The level is about twice that observed in the rest of the country (16%). This “Very Negative” segment in Quebec is similar to the group of the same name in the rest of Canada with one important exception: among this group in Quebec there is a distinct level of negativity towards Judaism and Christianity that is less prevalent elsewhere in the country.

Amid this, Quebec’s Bill 21 continues to be supported by more than half in that province (57%). That law, which prohibits the wearing of religious symbols for individuals in certain public positions of authority while they are on the worksite, is unpopular in the rest of the country with one-in-four (25%) supporting the concept for their own province and two-thirds (65%) opposing it.

Cliquez ici pour lire le rapport complet en français[2]

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More Key Findings:


About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.


Part One: Canadians more negative toward Islam than other faiths

Part Two: Views of Islam Index

Part Three: How negative views of Islam correlate with other beliefs and opinions

Part One: Canadians more negative toward Islam than other faiths

In late January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced[3] the appointment of Canada’s first special representative on combatting Islamophobia. Journalist and human-rights activist Amira Elghawaby was chosen for the position to “support and enhance the federal government’s efforts in the fight against Islamophobia, systemic racism, racial discrimination, and religious intolerance.”

Activists and government officials have been concerned in recent years as attacks against Muslims in Canada[4] have risen, including a 71 per cent increase from 2020 to 2021. This violence was most tragically evident in 2017[5] when six individuals were killed at a mosque in Quebec City.

While higher profile violent events gather headlines, many Canadians hold a more muted negative perspective towards Islam. Across the country Canadians are least likely to hold favourable views of Islam than five other major religions. In Quebec, one-quarter (25%) view the Muslim faith favourably, however, nowhere in the country does this number exceed 37 per cent:


Unfavourable views are also more common in Quebec for most faiths, but the rest of the country, too, is not immune from these perspectives, particularly when it comes to Islam:


Using a net favourability score, those who view each faith positively versus negatively, Canadians’ more unfavourable perspective of Islam than other religions is clearly delineated:


Religious symbols in public and at work

When it comes to religious symbols or clothing in public spaces, Canadians are generally permissive. A majority in all regions are supportive of the Star of David, kippa, nun’s habit, crucifix, turban, and hijab. That said, Quebec residents are least likely to support each, and slightly more than half (55%) say they support the wearing of the hijab in public. This has significant consequences for the hundreds of thousands[9] of Muslim women living in Quebec and Canada alike:


But what about in the workplace? Canadians were also asked if they would be comfortable with a co-worker wearing these symbols. Quebecers push back on the acceptability of the turban and hijab most, with two-thirds voicing comfort for each, and show a unique aversion to the Jewish kippa not noted elsewhere in the country:


Two-thirds would be comfortable with a mosque in their neighbourhood

Canada is home to thousands of places of worship, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the vast majority of Canadians are comfortable with churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques in their own neighbourhood. Quebec residents are least likely to be comfortable with each of the six examples shown, but a majority say they’re comfortable with each:


Belief systems and marriage

One of the more pronounced areas of discomfort for Canadians is evident when considering marriage. Asked if it would be acceptable for their child to marry a follower of each faith, responses vary considerably. Canadians are least likely to say they would accept their child marrying a Muslim:


Part Two: Views of Islam Index

To consolidate some of these sentiments, Angus Reid Institute researchers created a Views of Islam Index. This index uses positive and negative scores from six different questions pertaining to Islam to allocate Canadians into groups holding Very Negative, Negative, Positive, and Very Positive views. For more details on the Index click here[14].

Regional perspectives

Outside of Quebec, close to two-in-five Canadians (37%) hold a Very Positive view of Islam. In Quebec this number drops to one-in-five (20%). The number of Quebecers holding a Very Negative view of Islam is twice as high (30%) as it is in the rest of the country (16%). Views are most negative outside of Montreal:

Albertans, Ontarians, and Atlantic Canadians are most likely to view Islam in a Very Positive light:

Bloc Québécois, CPC supporters most negative

Politically, there are two groups that are vastly more likely to hold negative views of Islam. In Quebec, half of the Very Negative group is comprised of past Bloc Québécois voters. In the rest of Canada, three-in-five of the Negative and Very Negative supported the Conservative Party in 2021. Note that the vote totals here do not match the Canada-wide federal election totals because of the oversample in Quebec:

Age, gender and education

In Quebec, the distribution between all groups is near-even between men and women. In the rest of Canada, those with negative views of Islam are more likely to be male (see detailed tables[15]). In both portions of the sample – those in Quebec and those outside – age is a considerable factor. Older residents are much more common in the negative groups than the positive ones along the Index:

Those with Very Positive views of Islam in both Quebec and the rest of Canada are twice as likely to have university education than the Very Negative:

Part Three: How negative views of Islam correlate with other beliefs

Bill 21

Quebec’s “Act respecting the laicity of the State”, or Bill 21[16], is a statute that prohibits the wearing of religious symbols for individuals in certain public positions of authority while they are on the worksite. Passed in 2019, recent research[17] has shown that the law has, in fact, increased feelings of alienation and discomfort among Muslims in the province.

Canadians across the country were asked how they feel about this type of law in their own province (Quebecers were asked if they support or oppose the current law). Those who are most unfavourable to Islam are overwhelmingly in favour of Bill 21, but that enthusiasm drops off significantly among the Negative, Positive, and Very Positive in the rest of Canada.

Overall, outside of Quebec the concept of Bill 21 is unpopular. Two-thirds (65%) oppose it while one-quarter (25%) offer support. In Quebec, nearing three-in-five (57%) support the act, while one-in-three (35%) are opposed:

Views of other faith groups, religious symbols

Islam is evidently the most likely belief system to face criticism in Canada but those who view the faith disapprovingly are also more likely to view other groups with negativity. Consider that in both Quebec and the rest of Canada, three-in-five of those with Very Negative views of Islam also view Sikhism unfavourably. However, those classified as Very Negative on the index in Quebec are also much more critical of Judaism and Christianity than those in the rest of Canada:


The Very Negative toward Islam are much more resistant of public displays of religious symbols than those in the three other groupings. Notably, the burka and the kirpan are highly opposed among the Negative and Positive as well, but other symbols like the hijab and turban cause much less consternation for these latter groups than the Very Negative:


The Very Negative show much higher levels of aversion to places of worship in their communities than others, both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. Meanwhile, the Very Positive toward Islam have little to no problem with any faith group building and practicing in their neighbourhood:


Does Canada have an anti-Muslim issue?

Much of the debate since the appointment of Amira Elghawaby as special representative on combatting Islamophobia has centered on whether this is truly a problem in Canada. In 2017, the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion[21] to condemn Islamophobia and other religious discrimination. Nearly all NDP and Liberal MPs voted for the motion while most Conservatives – including current leader Pierre Poilievre – voted against it.

Opinions on this issue are divided in near exact proportions. Half of Canadians say that Canada has a serious anti-Muslim problem to reckon with and half say it doesn’t. Notably, those with the most negative views towards Muslims in Canada are by far the most likely to say that this is not an issue:

From a purely regional standpoint, those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are most likely to say that this issue has been overblown, while residents in Quebec are closely divided:

Combatting Islamophobia?

While half of Canadians see a problem with anti-Muslim discrimination in their country, fewer are certain that the position of a special representative to combat Islamophobia is necessary. Even for those with the most positive views of Islam are nowhere near unanimous on this question. Two-in-five (44%) say this is an unnecessary job to create (see detailed tables[22]).

Nowhere in the country do a majority of Canadians feel that Canada needs an anti-Islamophobia ambassador. Outside of Quebec opinions are divided evenly, with one-in-five (21%) Canadians saying they’re not sure:

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Feb. 8 – 10, 2023 among a representative randomized sample of 1,623 Canadian adults who are members of Angus[23] Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. An additional oversample of Quebecers was undertaken to look at provincial responses in more detail. This boosted sample was conducted from Feb. 11 – 13 for a total of 807 Quebec residents. A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics for the Canada with the exception of Quebec, click here.[24]

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics for Quebec, click here.[25]

For detailed results based on the Views of Islam Index, click here.[26]

For Views of Islam Index scoring, click here.[27]

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here[28]. 

To read the questionnaire in English and French, click here[29].

Image – Arindam Banerjee[30] |[31]


Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693[32] @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821[33]

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  2. Cliquez ici pour lire le rapport complet en français:
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  30. Arindam Banerjee:

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