Polls suggest majority of Canadians agree with proposed bill 94 limiting niqabs

Most Canadians agree with a proposed Quebec law that would refuse all government services to women wearing the niqab or burqa, an Angus Reid poll has found.

Ninety-five per cent of Quebecers support the proposed law, which would bar the face veil from government offices, schools and other publicly funded institutions, said the poll, conducted for The Gazette. In the rest of Canada, three out of four people agreed with Bill 94, which was tabled on Wednesday by the government of Jean Charest. The bill would require all public-sector employees to have their faces uncovered, as well as any citizen using government services, such as someone applying for a medicare card.

Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs for Angus Reid, said the survey shows an unusually high level of support for a government measure. “It’s very rare to get 80% of Canadians to agree on something,” he said. The poll showed that outside Quebec, Albertans are most likely to support the veil ban, with 82% approving the bill, followed by Ontario with 77% support, the Atlantic provinces (73%) and British Columbia (70%). Support for withholding government services from those wearing the face veil was lowest in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, at 65%.

Bloc Quebecois supporters favored the bill most (95%), along with Conservatives (86%) and Liberals (81%). Three-quarters of NDP supporters agreed with the bill.

Canadian Sheema Khan responds to possible French burqa ban

Following last month’s call by the Muslim Canadian Congress to ban the face-covering niqab, or buraa, about 30 Muslim groups across Canada denounced the proposal. Their basis: The state has no business dictating what a woman should wear, nor infringing on individual freedoms. Sheema Khan acknowledges, however, how legalities aside, many Canadians feel uncomfortable seeing the face-veil here. It represents a physical barrier, which has no precedent in our culture. It has also become a misogynous icon, due to the Taliban, and Saudi “religious” police. Security is an added concern. Finally, many assume veiled women are coerced into wearing “that thing.”

Yet, Khan highlights that the intentions of these women are diverse. For some, it is an act of faith to get closer to God. Some incur the disapproval of family, friends and community for taking this step; others are forced to do so by family members. Youthful defiance may play a role. As for security, veiled women readily comply with identification protocols when required.