Quebec government polls public on 'problem' of religious accommodation

Associated Press

QUEBEC - The Quebec government is turning to public opinion as it seeks to set guidelines for minority rights.

The cabinet minister responsible for drafting a so-called "Charter of Secularism" says the government will seek public input as it delays debate on the plan until the fall.

Bernard Drainville, a Parti Quebecois cabinet minister, is putting together the secularism policy proposed in the last election campaign. It's believed the policy will curb the presence of certain religious symbols, notably Muslim headwear, in public institutions.

In the meantime, the government has already commissioned a poll on public attitudes toward minority accommodations, leaked that poll to a newspaper, and posted it today on the web.

The poll asks respondents how much, on a scale of one to 10, the issue of religious accommodations is an "important problem." The average respondent ranked the "problem" at 6.5 on 10.

The Leger Marketing internet poll of 1,506 Quebecers — including 500 non-francophones — also says 78 per cent believe the religious accommodation issue remains important.

The poll, conducted between March 12 and 17, has a margin of error of 2.53 per cent.

The Parti Quebecois, which campaigned heavily on identity politics in the last election, promised to bring in a charter of secularism if it took power.

Premier Pauline Marois promised last February that the government would carry out a consultation on the issue.

Drainville said the government's proposal will address Quebec values such as equality before the law without importance being put on language, origin or religion.

Drainville said many people, not just politicians, have spoken to him about the importance of the guidelines.

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