Religious symbols in the workplace: opinion nuanced in and outside Quebec, driven by specific symbols
As various polls show widespread support in Quebec for the CAQ government’s proposed ban on public employees in positions of authority wearing visible religious symbols, a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute suggests that public opinion on the issue is more nuanced than might be assumed.
While two-thirds of Quebec residents (65%) say they support the provincial government’s proposal overall, the data show that both in that province and across Canada, majorities also believe public employees should be allowed to wear a crucifix or a Star of David on the job.
Meanwhile, residents in all provinces say public employees should be prohibited from wearing a niqab or carrying a kirpan – the ceremonial dagger worn by observant Sikhs – at work.
Quebecers take a more restrictive view than those outside the province on religious head coverings – including the Muslim hijab, the Sikh turban, the Jewish kippa, and the Christian nun’s habit. Residents of other regions are considerably more divided when asked about implementing such a ban in their province.
Overall, 41 per cent of residents of the rest of Canada would support a ban on public employees wearing religious symbols where they live, while 45 per cent are opposed. The rest (14%) are uncertain. The biggest driver of opinion, as seen in the preceding section of this report, is the type of symbols in question. That said, there are regional differences in support for a ban like the one Legault has proposed in Quebec. Support is highest in Alberta and Saskatchewan and lowest in British Columbia, Manitoba,
In the rest of Canada, meanwhile, support for a ban on religious symbols outpaces opposition among those in the 35-plus age categories, while a majority of younger respondents (56%) are opposed:
More Key Findings:
• Out of nine religious symbols asked about in this survey, only three (the aforementioned crucifix, star of David, and nun’s habit) are acceptable to more than half of Quebecers. Elsewhere in Canada, majorities see six of the nine symbols as acceptable
• Both in Quebec and outside of it, young people are less supportive of a potential ban on public employees wearing religious symbols, while older respondents are more so
• Political partisanship is also a key driver of views, with past Conservative voters mostly supporting a religious symbols ban in their province, while majorities of past Liberal and New Democratic Party voters are opposed.