«We tend to think all Quebecers are for it and everyone else in Canada would be against it, but that’s not what we see.»
Quebec has been the subject of numerous negative headlines across Canada since tabling its controversial Bill 21, which would prohibit certain public sector employees from wearing religious symbols.
But a new poll shows that many in other provinces agree with the majority of Quebecers in favour of the bill. The Léger poll, conducted online for La Presse Canadienne April 18-22, polled 1,522 Canadians.
Taking into consideration responses from Quebec, 46 per cent of Canadians would be in favour of a similar bill, compared to 42 per cent who would be against it.
Sixty-six per cent of Quebecers answered “somewhat in favour” or “totally in favour” when asked: “Are you in favour of or against banning the wearing of visible religious symbols for public sector employees in positions of authority (police officers, judges and primary and secondary school teachers) in your province?”
Other provinces were more against the idea, but apart from Alberta, the gap between people in favour and those against was not notable.
In Ontario, 42 per cent would support a similar ban, while 47 per cent were against. In the Prairies: 41 per cent in favour, 44 per cent against. In British Columbia: 41 per cent in favour, 45 per cent against.
In the Atlantic provinces, 41 per cent of respondents were willing to support a similar bill and 50 per cent were against it. Alberta stands out with a bigger gap between those in favour and those against it: 34 compared to 53.
“It would be false to claim that all Quebecers are racist because they’re in favour of the bill and that everyone else is so virtuous because they’re all against it,” said Léger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.
Basing his opinion on media coverage, Bourque said he was expecting more “black and white” results.
“We tend to think all Quebecers are for it and everyone else in Canada would be against it,” he said. “But that’s not what we see in the poll. There are shades of grey.”
The difference to note between Quebec and the other provinces, however, is that there is a “sufficient majority” in Quebec — 66 per cent — which supports the ban while, elsewhere, people are much more divided on the idea.
That division is reflected in the Canadian political landscape.
A few Conservative MPs have publicly supported Bill 21 while their leader, Andrew Scheer, has expressed his opposition.
With the Liberals, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the bill but stopped short of saying how he would respond to it if it becomes law.