68% of Canadians want Quebec’s face-coverings ban in their province
The majority of Canadians outside of Quebec would support having a similar ban on face-coverings in their province, a new survey has found.
The survey, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for Global News, found that 68 per cent of Canadian adults would either strongly or somewhat back the religious neutrality law in their part of the country.
Quebec’s Bill 62 was passed by the province’s Liberal government last week, requiring residents giving and receiving public services to do so with their faces uncovered — services such as taking the bus, or borrowing a library book.
Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée defended the controversial law, saying it is necessary for security and communication reasons. Many advocates have pointed out that it largely targets a small minority of Muslim women who wear the niqab.
But the law has widespread support inside the province, with 76 per cent of Quebecers backing the law, and 24 per cent opposing it.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated that he doesn’t support the law but stopped short of saying whether the federal government will take any action.
“I don’t think a government should be telling a woman what to wear or not wear,” the prime minister said Wednesday.
Other politicians have also spoken out against the law. But it seems support for the law is rather strong among Canadians in general.
In British Columbia, 69 per cent of respondents said they would support a similar law, while 31 per cent said they would not. Albertans also supported Quebec’s move at 64 per cent, with 36 per cent opposed.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents agreed with their other western counterparts, with 69 per cent backing the law and 31 per cent opposing. Sixty-six per cent of Ontarians said they would support a similar law in their province, while 34 per cent said they would not.
The weakest support for the new law was in Atlantic Canada, where 57 per cent supported and 43 per cent disagreed with it.
Interestingly, support was stronger among Canadian men (73 per cent) than women (64 per cent).
Canadians above 55 were more likely to support similar laws at 75 per cent, followed by those aged 35-54 at 72 per cent. Younger adults aged 18-34 were least likely to back legislation at 53 per cent.
Mohammed Fadel, an associate law professor at the University of Toronto, says it’s possible ideas of similar laws will be floated in other parts of the country.
“It all depends whether there is political leadership who is willing to pander to that sentiment,” he said, explaining that certain events could trigger the conversation.
WATCH: Amid backlash, Quebec gov’t softens face-covering ban
“God forbid, if there was some sort of terrorist attack or something, people — even though it has nothing to do with it — they might think let’s do it now.”
Fadel noted that Quebec has several motives for enacting the law, and one reason is its bias against religion.
“If they think that women are oppressed, then why are you going to oppress them more by not letting them access public services? I think this is about punishing them for their choices. They are violating [Quebec’s] norms.”
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Michael Behiels, a professor of Canadian political and constitutional history at the University of Ottawa, said that it’s too risky for other provinces to follow Quebec in this matter.
“I don’t think a provincial government at this point in time will take on the risk involved in passing a similar law that is very overtly discriminatory.”
Behiels explained that Quebec will likely face a constitutional challenge over the law and other provinces shouldn’t want to be involved. However, he noted that if Alberta’s government changes to the United Conservative Party in the next election, there may be an increased likelihood of the province joining Quebec in the battle.
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Alia Hogben, the president of the Canadian Council For Muslim Women (CCMW), told Global News that the survey’s results were disappointing — but not entirely shocking.
Hogben explained that CCMW’s position on the law is “nuanced,” after conducting research and consulting with Islamic scholars.
“We don’t see the niqab as a religious obligation. We don’t see that it’s a demand in the Qur’an or in the hadith (Islamic traditions), or anything like that,” she said.
“But we also feel strongly that we also support a woman to make her own decision.”
Hogben noted that in CCMW’s research, the organization has found that the majority of niqab-wearing women in Canada do so by choice.
She added that misconceptions surrounding the niqab can only be changed with open dialogue. She explained she often urges niqab-wearing women to speak out when they feel marginalized.
“The only thing is to let the women speak for themselves,” Hogben said.
Behiels added that other Canadians should also reach out and get to know niqab-wearing women.
“Say hello to them. Speak with them. You’ll find out that there’s no threat.”
This poll was conducted online by Ipsos Public Affairs between Oct. 23 and 25 for Global News, and completed by 1,001 Canadian adults. It is considered accurate ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.