Posted on July 29, 2010

Canadians Back Burka Ban, Says QMI Poll

Laura Payton, Toronto Sun, July 28, 2010

Canada should ban burkas in public, according to more than half of the people polled exclusively for QMI Agency.

The Leger Marketing online poll found 54% of people surveyed said the government should follow France’s lead and not allow women to wear burkas in public for safety and transparency reasons.

Only 20% of respondents said Canada shouldn’t consider a ban because it’s an issue of freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and 15% said it didn’t affect them either way.

Older Canadians were more likely to agree with a ban, with 71% of those 65 years and older choosing that option. Only 40% of Canadians 18-34 years old said burkas should be banned.

Leger Marketing vice-president Dave Scholz said the poll surprised staff at the research firm.

“This is Canada–we don’t ban anything,” he said.

Sentiment was particularly strong in Quebec, where the debate over reasonable accommodation for new Canadians has been raging, with 73% of respondents saying they want a ban.

Morton Weinfeld, a sociology professor at McGill University, said the strong response in Quebec could be a result of spending 50 years cutting down the place of Catholicism in the province.

“Why should they fill that void with Islam?” he said.

“Quebec is perhaps the most strongly feminist place in Canada and the burka is a strongly anti-woman phenomenon.”

Weinfeld said people should be careful when interpreting the survey results because the burka is the most extreme Islamic covering. He said nobody knows how many Canadians wear the burka.

The survey question didn’t explain the difference between the burka, which covers the entire face, the niqab, which has a slit for the eyes, and the hijab, a headscarf.

The poll shows there’s a need for more outreach and education, said the executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“It’s understandable that practices that might be unfamiliar to people cause tension and unease,” said Ihsaan Gardee, adding it’s a minority within a minority who cover their faces.

“When it’s a woman’s choice to practise a sincerely held religious belief . . . it must be protected under the charter, provided it does not infringe on the rights of others,” he said.

Muslim Canadian Congress founder Tarek Fatah, however, has been pushing for a ban on burkas.

“Progressive and liberal Muslims have been leading the fight against this abomination for the last 100 years,” he said.

“This is one of the ugliest aspects of political Islam that has been imported into Canada and other western countries,” Fatah added.

The web survey asked 1,526 people to choose the statement that best reflects their view of France’s move to ban women from wearing a burka in public. The survey was conducted July 19-22. Leger doesn’t measure margin of error in online surveys because it’s not a random sample.

Burka: Most concealing of all Islamic veils. Covers entire body with mesh over the face.

Hijab: Arabic for veil. Square scarf covering head and neck is the most common style worn by Muslim women in the West.

Niqab: Veil for face that leaves only the eyes uncovered. Common across much of the Arabian peninsula and Pakistan.

QUESTION: Which statement best reflects your view on France’s government trying to ban burkas in public?

54% Canada should follow France. Nobody should be able to cover their faces. It is a matter of public safety and business transparency.

20% Canada shouldn’t even consider banning burkas. It’s an issue of freedom of religion and expression

15% It doesn’t affect me either way

11% Not sure

1% No answer

Percentage of population who think burkas should be banned

39% B.C.

45% Alberta

43% Saskatchewan, Manitoba

53% Ontario

73% Quebec

54% Atlantic

Due to rounding, not all figures add up to 100%