A new national study by the Angus Reid Institute revealed that Canadians are deeply divided on the role of religion in public life.
Of the seven religious groups polled, the results showed that even though specific religions are viewed differently, Canadians have a more positive view of Judeo-Christian traditions, especially Roman Catholicism.
On a question of whether a specific religion “benefits” or “damages” Canadian society, 46% of those polled viewed Islam as “damaging” to Canada, compared with Catholicism (17%), Protestantism (9%), Evangelical Christianity (21%), Hinduism (13%), Sikhism (22%) and Atheism (17%). Only 12% of Canadians viewed Judaism as “damaging” to Canadian society.
49% of Canadians polled believe that women who were the niqab – a full-face Islamic veil which covers the entire face except for the eyes – should be “prohibited” from visiting government offices while 29% say the niqab should be “discouraged but tolerated”.
The findings of the national study are similar to the results of a survey of religions trends conducted by Angus Reid 6 months earlier which revealed that while a majority of Canadians view Christianity and Buddhism favourably, some religions are viewed in a less positive light.
Of the 1,515 Canadian adults who participated in the April, 2017 poll, 68% held a generally favourable view of Christianity and 58% viewed Buddhism in a favourable light. Roughly half of those surveyed viewed Judaism and Hinduism positively, but the number dropped dramatically when asked about Sikhism (38%) and Islam (33%).
Broken down by political affiliation, Conservatives tended to favour Christianity (80%) and Judaism (62%), but only 24% viewed Islam in a positive light as opposed to 45% of Liberals and 42% of New Democrats.
An interesting trend was observed in Quebec, where Islam and Sikhism’s favourability index increased from 17% and 15% in 2009 to 32% in the first few months of 2017. Angus Reid Institute executive director Shachi Kurl suggested that increased support for Islam may have increased in the aftermath of a deadly mosque shooting in Quebec City on January 29, 2017.
On a question of religious symbols, Islamic burkas and niqabs were two of the most-opposed forms of religious dress, with only 29% and 32% supporting the wearing of full-body veils in public.
75% of those polled supported the hijab (Muslim head scarf), 85% supported the kippah (Jewish skullcap) and a whopping 90% supported the crucifix.
A similar Ipsos poll conducted in France in late March of 2017, showed that 61% of French adults surveyed believe that Islam and the way it is practiced is not compatible with modern France, compared to 94% and 83% who viewed Catholicism and Judaism, respectively, as compatible with France.