Values charter: new poll suggests softening support in Quebec, highlights francophone/anglophone divide

Andy Radia

Public opinion — in Quebec — about the Parti Quebecois' values charter seems to shifting.

According to a new poll, released by Forum Research on Sunday, 45 per cent of all Quebecers now support the plan that would essentially bar public employees from wearing religious symbols in public institutions. That level of support is down 13 percentage points from just three weeks ago when details of the controversial secularization policy were first leaked to the media.

The survey results are similar to a Leger poll — released on Monday and published in the Globe and Mail — that suggests 43 per cent of Quebecers supported the charter while 42 per cent are against it.

[ Related: Is the rest of Canada hypocritical about Quebec’s values charter? ]

While the drop in support is interesting, the numbers also highlight a deep divide in opinion between francophones and non-francophones in la belle provence.

According to the Forum poll, francophones support the charter by a margin of 51 per cent to 42 cent. Among non-francophones 78 per cent are against it while only 16 per cent support it.

Some of the other differences between the two groups are just as incredible.

Q: Do you agree or disagree that you are sometimes uncomfortable being served or attended to by someone wearing a turban, a hijab or a yarmulke in a public sector office or setting such as a school or a hospital?

Agree Disagree
Francophones 49% 45%
Non-francophones 20% 72%

Q: Multiculturalism leads to conflict and strife in a modern society

Agree Disagree
Francophones 49% 40%
Non-francophones 30% 64%

Q: Only immigrants from French-speaking countries should be allowed in Quebec

Agree Disagree
Francophones 45% 51%
Non-francophones 13% 84%

"All Canadians understand that francophone Quebeckers feel themselves under threat as a linguistic minority in an English-speaking continent, Lorne Bozinoff said in a press release.

"But the levels of xenophobia we see in these findings, especially in rural Quebec, are truly troubling."

[ Related: Thousands march through Montreal to protest values charter]

Meanwhile, the battle for public opinion over the charter heated up over the weekend.

On Saturday, thousands gathered in Montreal for a rally against the proposed legislation.

Another 15,000 plus have signed an anti-charter petition charter housed at quebecinclusif.org.

"We are a group of academics and professionals from the legal, philosophical and journalistic fields, joined by citizens of all backgrounds and origins. We count among us both separatists and federalists, as well as others with no firm position on Quebec’s constitutional future," notes the petition's preamble.

"The proposed Charter of Values would force minorities to choose between their conscience and their survival. Never in history has exclusion in this form been a part of Quebecois values. Quebec has for long been a warm and welcoming land where each person could contribute to our great social tapestry. We believe that it is through greater social diversity, not by ostracizing certain individuals, that we can continue to live in harmony. Quebec identity is not built upon the rejection of the Other."

[ Analysis: Quebec separatists play to core voters with headscarf, turban ban ]

On the political front, Quebec Liberal leader Phillipe Couillard said he'd be willing to fight an election on the issue of religious accommodation.

The PQ plan will become law "over my dead body," Couillard said on Sunday, according to the Canadian Press.

"The big mistake that the government is making is to make people believe that, in order to defend what is specific about Quebec, we must trample on other people’s rights."

It's expected that the PQ will introduce the charter in the National Assembly by next spring.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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