Comprehensive survey shows Quebec intolerance
Reuel S. Amdur
Emory Bogardus was a prominent American sociologist. One of his productions was the Bogardus Social Distance Scale, an instrument to measure attitudes toward other groups--people of different race, religion, or nationality, for example.
Largely based on that scale, Angus Reid carried out a survey comparing attitudes of Quebeckers and the rest of Canadians (ROC) toward people of different religions. While the survey generally talks about attitudes toward religions, it would be more to the point to talk about attitudes toward members of the religions, and the results should be seen with that in mind. Results of the survey were released on March 13.
Angus Reid found that while 39% had a negative attitude toward Islam (again, note that is toward Muslims), the figure for Quebeckers was 52%. Provincially, Quebec was highest. Similar disparities were found in attitudes toward wearing religious symbols such as hijabs, kippas, and turbans. Turning to Jews, 32% of Quebeckers were averse, as against 16% for ROC. Quebec was the province that was most negative.
Anti-Muslim prejudice becomes noteworthy with the arrival of Muslim immigrants, beginning in the 1990’s. Before that, Jews were the main targets of prejudice and discrimination, in education and in employment. Influential Abbé Lionel Groulx called for a boycott of Jewish businesses.
An anomaly in the results is the high percentage with a negative view of Christianity, 37%. This surprising result may be a symptom of the revolt of Quebeckers against the influence of the Catholic Church. Yet, 47% had a positive view. The extent of the negative attitude confirms the viewpoint that the survey would have better been addressed to adherents rather than religions, that is, Christians rather than Christianity.
Respondents were asked what they would think if their province had a law such as Quebec’s Bill 21, which forbids the wearing of religious symbols at work by certain public employees, including teachers, police, and judges. While 35% of Quebeckers opposed such a law, 65% of other Canadians did so.
Recently, Trudeau appointed Almira Elghawaby as special representative to fight Islamophobia, an appointment attacked by Quebec politicians because she had linked Islamophobia to Bill 21. The survey found that in Quebec “those who are most unfavourable to Islam are overwhelmingly in favour of Bill 21.”
Then there were more personal questions. How about working side-by-side with Muslims? 65% of Quebec respondents were accepting of that, versus 84% of other Canadians. While 67% of other Canadians were comfortable with having a mosque in their neighborhood, only 53% of Quebeckers were. Even more personally, consider how people would feel if one of their children married a Muslim. 52% of other Canadians could accept that, but only 38% of the Quebec respondents.
Quebec Premier François Legault frequently reiterates that Quebec is tolerant, and that Bill 21 is designed to maintain religious neutrality in the public sphere. Two days after the release of the Angus Reid poll, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution declaring that Quebec is among the most open and accepting “nations” in the world and denying any suggestion of racism. It committed to fight racism in all its forms.
In 2007, the village of Hérouxville adopted a code of conduct for newcomers. Except for Halloween, no face coverings. Burning women alive was forbidden. And so on. The code of conduct had such wide appeal that then-Premier Jean Charest strove to deflect the prospect that other towns and villages might act in like fashion, so that he appointed a commission on reasonable accommodations.
Not only are Legault and the National Assembly simply factually incorrect about prejudice in Quebec, their denial of reality is counterproductive. Bill 21 is both a reflection of the prejudice and a reinforcer of it. If the Quebec government really wants the province to be open and accepting, it needs to face the reality of the situation and take measures both to change the culture and the government’s behaviour in perpetuating it.
Reuel Amdur is a Quebec social worker and freelancer writer