News / Toronto

Are Canadians open to voting for a turban-wearing Sikh?

A recent poll found 69 per cent of respondents would, but 50 per cent feel “some” or “most” of their friends and family wouldn’t vote for someone like that...

Newly elected NDP leader Jagmeet Singh explains his positions in an interview with Metro at the party's national headquarters in Ottawa on Oct. 5, 2017.

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Newly elected NDP leader Jagmeet Singh explains his positions in an interview with Metro at the party's national headquarters in Ottawa on Oct. 5, 2017.

OTTAWA—Most Canadians are open to voting for someone who wears a turban and a Sikh kirpan dagger, a new poll finds.

The online survey of 1,477 people this week by the Angus Reid Institute found that 69 per cent of respondents would consider voting for a Sikh man who wears those religious symbols.

But half the respondents said “some” or “most” of their close friends and family would not vote for someone like that.

And three out of 10 respondents said they “could not vote” for a turban-wearing Sikh.

The poll was conducted over three days this week, after Jagmeet Singh’s decisive victory in the federal NDP leadership race on Sunday. The 38-year-old MPP from Brampton is a practising Sikh who wears a turban and kirpan.

“It is kind of a good-news-bad-news story” for the NDP, said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

She said that the half who said their friends and family wouldn’t vote for someone such as Singh may be an indicator of their own reservations.

“Often what questions like that can reveal is people’s own inner sentiments that perhaps they don’t want to share,” she said.

Provincially, the poll found that respondents in Quebec were most averse to the idea of voting for a turban-wearing Sikh. Forty-seven per cent of respondents from Quebec said they would not consider it, compared with 32 per cent in Alberta, 23 per cent in British Columbia and 24 per cent in Ontario.

The place of religious symbols in Quebec and a proposed law to ban face coverings for people giving and receiving public services became a contentious issue during the NDP leadership race. Singh, a former lawyer, has repeatedly said he believes Quebecers are open-minded and progressive, while he has also denounced the proposed law and predicted it would be struck down by the courts.

The leader of the Bloc Quebecois has claimed she thinks Singh represents the rise of a “religious left” in Canada and that he’s too religious for Quebecers. Pierre Nantel, a Quebec MP with the NDP, also expressed reservations about Singh’s stance on religious symbols, but said, after his leadership win, that Nantel’s own discomfort with the notion has been dispelled.

Kurl said that, despite the results on Quebec, the poll also had some positive findings for the NDP leader; more than three quarters of respondents said that a candidate’s religion or culture shouldn’t matter, only their policies should. Seventy-one per cent said that having a member of a visible minority community lead a major party is good for Canada.

Even so, 54 per cent of the survey’s respondents agreed Singh’s religion “will hurt the NDP’s electoral chances.”

The Angus Reid Institute surveyed 1,477 randomly selected adults from across Canada between Oct. 2 and 5. The institute says a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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