An organization for English-speakers in Quebec City has decided not to take a position on the secularism charter because it says the local anglophone community is too divided on the subject.
"The perspective of the English-speaking community about some of the issues included in the charter does not differ that much from what you see in the French majority," says Jean-Sebastien Jolin Gignac, executive director of the Voice of English-speaking Quebec (VEQ), which has more than 1300 members.
When VEQ polled its membership, 75 per cent of respondents stated they are opposed to a ban on religious symbols in the civil service. Twenty per cent support the idea and only five per cent were neutral.
In contrast, a CROP poll last month said that 55 per cent of francophones back the charter.
Nonetheless, Jolin Gignac says the position of respondents was not clear. "The community is all over the place," he says. "You would see people that are strongly for this and other people that are strongly against it."
VEQ did speak out against Bill 14 last spring. Now, several other anglophone community organizations plan to take a stand against the charter, including the Quebec Community Groups network and the Townshippers' Association.
The VEQ survey, which received 100 responses, also contained a multiple-choice question asking members whether the organization should advocate with politicians, send a brief to the assembly, support the bill or do nothing.
The results to this question were not provided to CJAD. Gignac says that's because the results were linked to a comments section that could have identified the respondents.
"You have people who say, 'You shouldn't do anything about it.' That was a minority, but still there are people who expressed their opinion about that," says Gignac.
English community not a target
VEQ also asked its members about other components of the charter. There was strong support for the proposal to have people uncover their faces to receive services, at 67 per cent.
And opposition to the plan to include the primacy of French in Quebec's charter of human rights stood at 58 per cent.
Although both these issues posted lower numbers than the ban on religious symbols, Gignac says the idea of introducing the primacy of French was the only issue where his membership's stance was clear.
"The English community did not feel that this charter was necessarily targeting them, as opposed to Bill 14."
Gignac adds that VEQ belongs to the provincial umbrella group the Quebec Community Groups Network, which will be presenting at the National Assembly hearings.