Quebecers on niqabs and border crossings

Oct 4, 2017

With roughly a year to go before the next provincial election, Quebec residents are overwhelmingly supportive of their current government’s efforts to ban the receiving or administering of public services with a covered face, but most disapprove of its response to this summer’s surge in irregular border-crossings.

According to the Angus Reid Institute’s latest analysis of quarterly public opinion polling data, some one-in-five Quebecers say each of these issues will be “one of the most important” when making their decision on who to vote for in 2018.

On religious accommodation, fully six-in-ten Quebecers “strongly support” the proposed law that critics say amounts to discrimination against Muslim women. There has been a lot of confusion over whether Muslim women would be able to access public services, such as riding a bus, while wearing a niqab. 

There is much less consensus in Quebec society around the provincial government’s handling of the border issue. Some 60% disapprove of Premier Philippe Couillard’s response to the situation, a total slightly higher than the number who disapprove of the premier’s performance overall (54%).

Key finding indicate that Bill 62 enjoys majority support across all demographic groups, but it is less well-liked among respondents under age 35 and the province’s anglophone minority.

Quebecers are more than four times as likely to “strongly disapprove” of their government’s response to the border-crossing issue as they are to “strongly approve” of it (37% versus 8%, respectively).

Asked to think about how these two issues will influence their voting intentions next year, one-in-five Quebecers say each will be a deciding factor when making their decision next year during the provincial election. Close to four-in-ten say each will be one of a few issues they take into account.

Bill 62: Overwhelming support for religious neutrality bill

The religious neutrality legislation currently being debated in the National Assembly is only the latest in a series of efforts to codify the Quebec’s longstanding commitment to the separation of church and state, and to determine what accommodations – if any – should be made to orthodox religious minorities living in the province.

The previous Parti Québécois government’s ill-fated Charter of Values sought to enshrine the secularism that has pervaded Quebec politics since the Quiet Revolution by prohibiting all public employees in the province from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols while on the job. Angus Reid polling from 2009 found significant support for such a requirement, and later polling in 2013 found Quebecers believing their society was “too accommodating” of religious practices.

Couillard’s Liberal Party won the 2014 election after campaigning against the proposed charter, and his government’s introduction of Bill 62 – which addresses some of the same issues – has raised eyebrows outside the province.

In comparison to previous legislation, Bill 62 is more modest in scope, prohibiting only face-coverings such as niqabs and burkas, but extending the prohibition to people receiving public sector services, as well as those public employees administering them. Like previous efforts, Bill 62 has caused controversy, with recent amendments extending the face-covering prohibition to municipal governments and transit authorities prompting sharp criticism from Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

So, where do Quebecers stand? This polling data finds the vast majority of them strongly in favour of the proposed law, with francophone respondents especially supportive.

Download detailed tables, charts and methodology here: