Quebecers, Canadians split on proposed Charter of Values

Religious Symbols in the Public Sector Workplace 

Asked for their views on “a law in Quebec that prohibits people who are public employees from wearing religious clothing or symbols while at work”, two-thirds (68%) of Quebecers express general support for such a broad prohibition (fully 46% indicate strong support). Canadians living outside Quebec oppose the proposal by a margin of 53% to 37% (33%, the plurality, strongly oppose).

Within Quebec, support is stronger outside the Montreal area, though not by a large margin (73% versus 63% in the Metro area). Support is more tepid among young Quebecers: just over half voiced support, one-third strongly; whereas amongst Quebecers over the age of 35, support is about 75%, with half voicing strong support.

University-educated Quebecers are also less enthusiastic about the plan, though a majority still indicated support. The support base of the ruling Parti Quebecois is well on-side: 85% of PQ supporters surveyed said they are in favour of the prohibition, 62% strongly. Supporters of the Coalition Avenir Quebec also voiced strong support (80%). Among Quebec Liberals, views were closer to split (52% support versus 43% oppose).

In the rest of Canada, Albertans seem less cold to the proposed law, with 44% of Alberta respondents supporting it, versus 49% opposing. In Ontario, 50% oppose and 40% support the proposed legislation. In other English-speaking regions, opposition is in the 60% range. As in Quebec, younger people in the rest of Canada are more opposed to the proposal, as are the university-educated. Interestingly, looking by federal party preference, Conservative supporters are quite split on the proposed law (47% support versus 47% oppose) whereas most Liberals and NDP supporters in the rest of Canada are opposed. 


Specific Symbols 

The survey took a closer look at views on prohibiting specific types of religious symbols/clothing in the public sector workplace.  In this case, survey respondents were asked “to think about your own province” so those in the rest of Canada are reflecting on their own milieu. There is a wide divergence of opinion between Quebec and the rest of Canada on the acceptability of public employees wearing religion-identifying clothing or symbols at work.

Both Quebecers and other Canadians are united in opposition to the following being worn at work by public employees:

  • The burka : 90% of Quebecers and 62% in the rest of the country;
  • The kirpan: 84% in Quebec, 68% in the rest of Canada

For four of the other religious symbols examined, most Quebecers support a prohibition in the public sector workplace while most other Canadians would oppose such a measure. These include:

  • The turban: 63% of Quebecers are opposed to public employees wearing a turban at work. 66% of other Canadians are supportive.
  • The hijab: 63% of Quebecers are opposed to public employees wearing a hijab at work. 65% of other Canadians are supportive.
  • The kippa: 55% are opposed to kippas in the workplace in Quebec. Across the rest of the country, 76% support a public employee’s right to wear one.
  • A nun’s habit: Interestingly, given Quebec’s Catholic heritage, a full majority (59%) of Quebecers also expressed opposition to the wearing of a nun’s habit by public employees at work. Three-quarters (74%) of their counterparts in the rest of Canada did not object to this.

There is more acceptance for the wearing of the remaining two symbols examined:

  • The Star of David: Quebecers are evenly split on this (47% oppose versus 48% support) while most in the rest of Canada are supportive (78%).
  • The crucifix: Most Quebecers (63%) also indicated support for allowing this symbol in the public sector workplace as did the vast majority (83%) of Canadians in other regions.


Religious Symbols in Public Places 

Significantly, Quebecers voiced stronger support for banning religious symbols and dress in public places four years ago than they do today. Angus Reid Global tracked a question put to a Quebec sample in October 2009. Focusing more on place than type of religious symbol, respondents were asked whether “symbols of religious belief” (such as turbans and hijabs, and also crucifixes or the star of David) should be allowed in four different public places, specifically:

  • School
  • Work
  • Public Spaces
  • Hospitals.

A full majority of Quebecers surveyed for this current poll indicated opposition to the wearing of religious clothing or symbols in schools (66%), work (60%), and hospitals (60%); and were evenly split in the case of religious symbols being worn in public spaces. However, the 2009 survey found higher opposition, in the three-quarters range for the three specific locations. This downward shift is significant.

For all four, a full majority of Canadians from outside Quebec indicated these religious symbols should be allowed in these public venues with roughly one-third disagreeing.


Paying the Price

Quebecers recognize there is a political cost associated with proceeding with the Charter of Quebec Values. When asked what kind of impact they think this initiative will have on Quebec’s image in various places, Quebecers:

  • anticipate a negative impact in the Middle East (58% negative, 9% positive) and Asia (16% negative, 25% positive);
  • are essentially divided on the impact it is likely to have elsewhere in Canada (33% positive, 35% negative) and in Latin America;
  • anticipate a net positive impact on Quebec’s image in Europe (41% positive, 15% negative) and the United States (32% positive, 16% negative), with a plurality opting for a “neutral” impact in both these cases.

There is also a lot of concern about the impact closer to home on minority relations within the province.  Quebecers were equally likely to agree as disagree (49% agree, 51% disagree) with the statement:

“Instituting a secular Charter of Quebec Values will irreparably damage relationships with religious minorities in Quebec.”

Other Canadians are even more convinced this will be the case (74% agree).


Protecting Quebec’s Identity 

Quebecers profess some important cultural anxieties and aspirations that drive their support for the Charter of Quebec Values initiative. The poll included a number of attitudinal statements to further probe the mindsets behind the views on this issue. Consider the following:

  • “Creating a Charter of Quebec Values will bring harmony and a renewed sense of identity to Quebec society.”

Quebecers voice solid agreement (63%) with a key argument in support of the Charter, that it will usher in a new era of renewed Quebec identity. Other Canadians don’t see this (76% disagree with the statement).

  •  “Quebec culture needs protection.”

There is very strong support for this cultural protection argument among Quebecers (86%). Other Canadians tend to disagree (60% disagree with the statement, though 40% agree). 

  • “Minorities need to do more to fit in with the mainstream in my province”. 

Quebecers are almost unanimous in agreement (86%) – and this is very much shared ground with their counterparts in other parts of Canada (71% of non-Quebecers also agreed with this statement).


Overall Support for the Charter of Quebec Values  

Two-thirds of Quebecers (65%) express overall support for a Charter of Quebec Values, with the largest group (35%) offering strong support.

Support is particularly robust among the following quarters within Quebec: outside Montreal, those over 35, years of age, and PQ and CAQ supporters.

Other Canadians, meanwhile, are opposed to a Charter of Quebec Values by a margin exceeding two-to-one (44% to 20% support), with a full third outside Quebec unsure what they think about this proposal.

 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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