Philip Authier, Montreal Gazette, November 26, 2018
A strong majority of Quebecers support the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s plan to ban religious symbols for persons in authority including teachers, a new poll shows.
The same poll also concluded half of those surveyed want the crucifix over the speaker’s chair of the National Assembly to stay in place, but many are reluctant to see people who refuse to remove their symbols lose their jobs in the public sector.
Conducted by the CROP polling firm for Radio-Canada, the fresh data arrives a day before the National Assembly is to resume sitting Tuesday for two weeks.
Although Premier François Legault said earlier this month he would not present legislation on religious symbols until the spring, the poll reveals his plans have widespread support in the population.
Nearly three-quarters of those polled said they are either completely agree or rather agree with the CAQ’s plan to ban persons in authority, judges, police officers and crown prosecutors from wearing symbols such as the hijab and kippah.
To a lesser degree they want the ban to apply to prison guards and teachers. Support for a ban ranges from 71 per cent for judges to 65 per cent for teachers.
The Bouchard-Taylor report of 2008 had recommended a ban on symbols for judges, prosecutors, police officers and prison guards but made no mention of teachers. Charles Taylor, who studied the issue with sociologist Gérard Bouchard, has since changed his mind and no longer supports the idea of a ban for anyone.
But CROP president Alain Giguère said he was not surprised to see more Quebecers supporting the idea of the ban today than 10 years ago and that it be applied to teachers as well, because the CAQ has campaigned and argued in favour of the idea for months.
Legault has said many times he believes a consensus exists in favour of the ban. The government’s own internal polls show the same support as the CROP poll.
Where things get tricky, the poll reveals, is when it comes to applying the measures.
While 49 per cent of the sample think employees who refuse to remove such symbols should lose their jobs, 42 per cent are against that idea.
Opinions are also split over the idea of grandfathering the measures so they only apply to new employees.
Fifty seven per cent think the measures should apply to all regardless of hire date, which means no grandfather clause. Thirty-five per cent believe they should apply to new employees only, which would mean a grandfather clause.
The Parti Québécois has argued in favour of a grandfather clause, while the CAQ’s plan foresees a transition period where employees who refuse to remove them would be offered a chance to relocate to another job.
As for the crucifix installed over the speaker’s chair in 1936 by Maurice Duplessis, Quebecers support the CAQ’s standing position that the crucifix stay and see it more as a heritage artifact than a symbol of the Catholic faith.
CROP’s poll says 55 per cent believe the crucifix should remain, while 28 per cent think it should be removed. Seventeen per cent say they don’t know or have no opinion.
As has been revealed by other polls, support for the CAQ’s view is highest outside of the Montreal region and with ages 35 and up. It is even higher among people 55 and up.
The internet poll of 1,000 people was conducted from Nov-14-19.