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A Tale of Two Liberalisms? Attitudes toward Minority Religious Symbols in Quebec and Canada

  • Luc Turgeon (a1), Antoine Bilodeau (a2), Stephen E. White (a3) and Ailsa Henderson (a4)


Proponents of restrictions on the wearing of religious symbols in public institutions in Quebec have often framed their support in the language of liberalism, with references to “gender equality”, “state neutrality” and “freedom of conscience”. However, efforts to account for support for restrictions on minority religious symbols rarely mention liberalism. In this article, we test the hypothesis that holding liberal values might have different attitudinal consequences in Quebec and the rest of Canada. Our findings demonstrate that holding liberal values is associated with support for restrictions on the wearing of minority religious symbols in Quebec, but it is associated with opposition to such restrictions in the rest of Canada. Moreover, this difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada in the relationship between liberal values and support for restrictions on minority religious symbols can explain Quebecers' greater support for restrictions.

Les partisans de restrictions au port de symboles religieux dans les institutions publiques du Québec ont souvent formulé leur appui dans le langage du libéralisme, par des références à « l’égalité des sexes », « la neutralité de l’État » et « la liberté de conscience ». Toutefois, les recherches visant à expliquer les motivations des partisans de ces restrictions examinent rarement le rôle du libéralisme. Dans cet article, nous vérifions l’hypothèse selon laquelle l’adhésion aux valeurs libérales pourrait avoir des conséquences comportementales différentes au Québec et dans le reste du Canada. Nos résultats démontrent que le fait d’exprimer des valeurs libérales est associé à un plus fort appui aux restrictions au port de symboles religieux minoritaires au Québec, mais à une plus forte opposition à de telles restrictions dans le reste du Canada. De plus, cette différence entre le Québec et le reste du Canada dans la relation entre les valeurs libérales et l’appui aux restrictions sur les symboles religieux minoritaires peut expliquer pourquoi les Québécois appuient davantage de telles restrictions.

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We would like to thank Benjamin Ferland for his very thoughtful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this article, as well as the journal's anonymous reviewers. We want to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The survey used in this study was made possible thanks to the financial support of the following organizations: the Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes of the Quebec government; the Institute for Research on Public Policy; the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society; the Chaire de recherche du Canada en études québécoises et canadiennes de l'Université du Québec à Montréal; and Concordia University. The authors remain solely responsible for the interpretation of the data.



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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
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