News / Ottawa

Canadians' religious tolerance changing, but prejudice still exists toward Islam

Survey shows Canadians hold unfavourable views of Islam and Sikhism.

Only 32 per cent of Canadians approved of the niqab in a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute.

Metro File

Only 32 per cent of Canadians approved of the niqab in a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute.

A new poll on Canadians’ religious tolerance shows the country has work to do in the direction of accepting people of different faiths, especially if that faith is Islam.

The Angus Reid Institute poll, released Tuesday, shows a divergence of opinions on different religions, with 68 per cent of Canadians holding a favourable view of Christianity, but only 33 per cent saying the same of Islam.

Sikhism had a 38 per cent favourable result and Hinduism 49 per cent. The survey showed 53 per cent had a favourable view of Judaism and 58 per cent for Buddhism.

The numbers have actually risen from 2013 when the institute last did the survey.

Amira Elghawaby, a spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said they take solace that the numbers are moving up. 

“There is a good news story in these numbers in that attitude towards Islam have improved,” she said.

Quebec saw a major jump in favourable ratings, and Elghawaby said that might be because of the tragic mosque shooting.

“Perhaps, this has humanized Quebec Muslim communities in a way that hadn’t happened before."

It also showed 88 per cent of Canadians were comfortable with a nun’s habit, but only 75 per cent with a hijab and 32 per cent with a niqab.

Elghawaby said the face covering of a niqab concerns some and she understands the difference there, but the difference between a nun’s habit and a hijab is harder to square.

“They’re pretty much the same thing.”

The think-tank Cardus held a luncheon Tuesday to release the results.

Cardus’ executive vice-president Ray Pennings said it shows the need for more outreach, education and understanding.

“We have to learn to understand each other and religious literacy is an important part of that.”

He said the difference between the favourable ratings and the discussions around clothing suggest people need more understanding and aren’t simply being biased toward a religion.

“There is enough nuance that I think people are not just making blanket statements.”

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