Quebec's Religious Fashion Statement
The Charter of Quebec Values is about much more tha religious symbols
By Marc Zwelling
The Québec Government’s Charter of Québec Values could serve to reignite the sovereignty movement.
Two-thirds of Quebecers support the key feature of the charter—banning public employees from wearing religious clothing and symbols on the job.
According to an Angus Reid Public Opinion survey in early September, 68 per cent supported “a law in Québec that prohibits people who are public employees from wearing religious clothing or symbols while at work.” Some 46 per cent supported it “strongly.”
If the Parti Québécois government aimed to energize the party’s base with the charter, it worked. Some 85 per cent of PQ supporters favour the prohibition, and 62 per cent favour it strongly.
In the population overall, 90 per cent of Quebecers would ban burkas in government offices and other public sector workplaces, 84 per cent would ban kirpans, and 63 per cent would ban turbans.
There is more tolerance for other religious garments: 59 per cent would prohibit a nun’s habit while 55 per cent would ban the kippa. A 48 per cent plurality, however, approves wearing a Star of David (47 per cent would prohibit it), and 63 per cent would allow public employees to don a crucifix.
Of course the Charter of Québec Values isn’t really about government employees’ dress code. It’s about the Québec people’s insecurity. A 63 per cent majority in the same poll agreed that “creating a Charter of Québec Values will bring harmony and a renewed sense of identity to Québec society.”
Spoiler alert! The rest of Canada says it’s unwilling to cut special deals in the name of national unity. If you keep reading you’ll find out that Québec sovereignty has more support in the rest of the country than in Québec.
In a 2012 Abacus Data poll in the rest of Canada, just 52 per cent said they would vote to keep Québec in Confederation if it came to a referendum. One in four people (26 per cent) would vote to remove Québec while a substantial 22 per cent said they don’t know.
Outside Québec 61 per cent in the Abacus poll were opposed (strongly or somewhat) to giving Québec more federal funds, special powers, or status to keep the country together. Only 12 per cent would support special status, power, or funds to keep Québec in Canada.
The sovereignist movement has been moribund since the 1995 referendum, when 51 per cent voted no and 49 per cent yes on the question, “Do you agree that Québec should become sovereign…?”
It’s likely too late for the Parti Québécois to kick-start the independence movement. An aging population does not savour risk and uncertainty. In an EKOS Research poll in summer last year, only 21 per cent of Québec adults favoured “complete independence,” and another 22 per cent supported “sovereignty-association.”
According to a February Léger poll, voters would defeat independence in a referendum by 57 per cent to 34 percent (9 per cent expressed no opinion). Among those expressing an opinion one way or the other, a referendum would lose by 63 per cent to 37 per cent. The new figures are almost an exact reversal of the peak for independence, 64 per cent, in a 1991 Léger survey.
Marc Zwelling is the founder of the Vector Poll™ (www.vectorresearch.com) and author of Public Opinion and Polling For Dummies, published by Wiley (2012).