About one week into the federal election campaign, leaders have been repeatedly pushed on their positions regarding Quebec’s Bill 21.
But a recent poll conducted exclusively for Global News by Ipsos found that Canadians themselves are split on the law, which bans religious symbols for some public-sector employees.
Fifty-two per cent of Canadians said they’d oppose a bill that will restrict or disallow religious clothing or gear — akin to a crucifix, turban or hijab — for public servants akin to cops, teachers and lawyers.
That leaves 48 per cent of Canadians who would either support or somewhat support such a law.
The poll is according to previous polls, which show such rules are particularly popular inside Quebec.
In keeping with the most recent findings, 63 per cent of Quebecers support Bill 21. Support for the bill is second highest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (53 per cent), followed by Alberta and Atlantic Canada (45 per cent), British Columbia (43 per cent) and Ontario (42 per cent).
Amongst decided voters, support for the bill was highest amongst Bloc Québécois voters, followed by supporters of the People’s Party of Canada and the Conservative Party — at 85 per cent, 76 per cent and 62 per cent, respectively.
Support was lower amongst decided Liberal voters at 39 per cent and NDP and Green Party voters at 35 per cent each.
WATCH: Scheer talks Quebec’s Bill 21 as federal election campaign begins
Major federal leaders, including the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau, the Conservatives’ Andrew Scheer, Latest Democrat Jagmeet Singh and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May, have all spoken out against the law.
Yet, none have committed to difficult the provincial law themselves.
This has resulted in criticism from those that have been pushing for the federal government to take a stronger stance against the law.
Balpreet Singh of the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) told Global News he’s “absolutely shocked” the law has not prompted outrage across the country.
“I’m absolutely shocked that the actual fact individuals are being banned from work due to their religion in Canada isn’t a national crisis.”
He continued: “It baffles me that we’re speculated to be leaders on human rights.”
Singh noted that the law could also be one created inside provincial borders, nevertheless it affects all Canadians.
“If a provincial government can curtail human rights for a small group of racialized individuals then that sets a precedent,” said Singh, who’s the legal counsel for the WSO.
“So, if tomorrow, a provincial government wants to make use of the notwithstanding clause to clamp down on a racialized group or the LGBTQ community, what’s going to we do then?”
Bill 21 was adopted in June and invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Structure, which prevents residents from difficult the law for violating fundamental rights and liberties protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In August, the Sikh group decided to officially intervene in a court challenge launched by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a university student named Ichrak Nourel Hak, who wears a hijab.
Lawyers difficult the bill did so on grounds rooted outside the charter. They argued the law is unconstitutional since it encroaches on federal jurisdiction, is impermissibly vague and violates residents’ rights to take part in their democratic institutions.
Federal leaders who oppose the law have all said they’ll not intercede while the court challenge plays out.
WATCH: My presence in Quebec ‘is an act of defiance’ against Quebec Bill 21, Singh says
Scheer and Singh have each denied the opportunity of stepping in, while Trudeau has left the door open.
On Friday, Trudeau told reporters: “We usually are not closing the door to a possible intervention because it could be irresponsible for a federal government to decide on to shut the door on a matter of fundamental rights.”
Two days prior to that, Scheer left the legal challenge to the courts.
“People who find themselves against this bill at once are making that case directly within the courts. That’s their right, they’ll have the power to accomplish that, and the courts will ultimately settle on that. For our part, we won’t proceed with this sort of initiative on the federal level we don’t consider that that is something we’d ever do on the federal level,” he said.
Asked the same query over the weekend, Singh replied: “The parents which can be bringing that forward, it’s their court challenge, and it could not be appropriate to interfere with their court challenge.”
May has also not said whether she would support a legal challenge to the bill. The Bloc Québécois and the People’s Party of Canada have voiced support for Bill 21.
Stéphanie Plante, who works on the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Citizenship and Minorities, told Global News that federal leaders are unlikely to supply anything more detailed than these statements in the course of the election campaign.
“Any party leader — whether you might be Boris Johnson, whether you’re Donald Trump or whether you’re these three guys — they need to project themselves in a leadership role and never necessarily get into the nitty-gritty of policy details,” Plante said.
WATCH: Singh says he’s against Bill 21, but focused on tackling climate crisis, health care
Plante said the leaders usually tend to make broad statements on Bill 21 but in addition a variety of other topics, akin to climate change, the economy and national security.
Leaders are especially careful to get into controversial provincial issues during election time, she noted, pointing to Alberta’s oilsands as one other example.
Plante noted that more detailed discussions on Quebec’s law are more likely to occur after the election is over — partly because leaders may have to maintain track of what happens with the court challenge.
But that’s not ok for some advocates, including Amira Elghawaby of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, who said she hoped federal leaders can be less calculated in denouncing the law.
“It’s a really sad day in Canada when our federal leaders are making those kinds of calculations and deciding not to talk up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” she said.
Beyond Bill 21, Elghawaby noted that Canada has “come quite far” when it comes to having conversations about issues akin to reconciliation, anti-Semitism and racism. She said not addressing Quebec’s ban on religious symbols could have larger implications.
“We hurt the broader society once we start stopping people from participating. We’re limiting our potential as a rustic, each economically and socially.”
For the raw data of the Ipsos poll, visit Ipsosintelligence.ca.