When it comes to the way Canadians perceive various religions as either benefiting or damaging Canadian society, Judaism is seen in more or less the same way as mainstream Christian faiths – and far removed from Islam.
Twenty per cent of Canadians see Judaism as providing benefits to Canada or Canadian society, according to a new national survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI), in conjunction with Faith in Canada 150. At the same time, 35 per cent of those polled said the presence of Catholicism benefited Canada, with 26 per cent saying the same about Protestantism and 24 per cent about evangelical Christianity.
However, when it came to evaluating whether faith groups cause damage to Canada or Canadian society, only 12 per cent said that about Judaism, 17 per cent said it about Catholicism, nine per cent about Protestantism and 21 per cent about evangelical Christianity. A remarkable 46 per cent, however, said that Islam was damaging to Canada or Canadian society, while 13 per cent said it benefited Canada.
The report, released on Nov. 16, found that, “Nearly half of Canadians (48 per cent) see religion as contributing ‘a mix of good and bad’ to Canada today, but the rest are more than twice as likely to see religion’s contribution as good (38 per cent do), rather than bad (14 per cent),” the report stated.
“Specific religions are viewed differently, however, with respondents offering more favourable views of Judeo-Christian traditions, especially Roman Catholicism,” the study reports.
Altogether, Angus Reid asked respondents’ perspectives about eight systems of belief and non-belief: Catholicism, Protestantism, evangelical Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and atheism.
“The 12 per cent number, in reference to those who have a negative view of Judaism, is consistent with other polling we have seen, including our own data, measuring negative attitudes toward Jews/Judaism,” said Steve McDonald, deputy director of communications and public affairs for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
“Public opinion studies consistently show that many Canadians hold a favourable view of Jews and that Jews enjoy higher favourability ratings than adherents of almost every other religion.”
Despite the findings, Jews continue to be the single greatest target for hate crimes among religious groups, according to Police Reported Hate Crimes, 2015, a Statistics Canada study released on June 13, while blacks experienced the greatest number of hate crimes among all groups.
“The fact that many, if not most,Canadians like Jews doesn’t contradict Statistics Canada data indicating that Jews are the most frequently targeted minority in Canada, year after year,” McDonald said. “The difference is easily explained: those in the hateful minority have proven willing, time and again, to express their hostility to Jews – including through criminal acts. CIJA has always emphasized that hatred of Jews persists on the margins of society, but it only takes a small segment to be anti-Semitic for our community to experience its toxic affects.”
The Angus Reid study found that while attitudes toward Judaism were not much different than those concerning Christian faiths, attitudes toward Islam were quite different.
“Twice as many Canadians say the presence of Islam in their country’s public life is damaging as say the same about any other religion, a finding that follows a well-documented pattern in ARI polling in recent years. Namely: if Islam is involved, a significant segment of Canadians will react negatively,” the report stated.
‘It only takes a small segment to be anti-Semitic for our community to experience its toxic affects.’
“In response to (a) question in this survey, roughly half of all Canadians (42 per cent) say a woman wearing a niqab should be ‘prohibited’ from visiting government offices. Another three-in-10 (29 per cent) say such behaviour should be ‘discouraged but tolerated.’
“The niqab question relates to a law recently passed in Quebec that requires anyone providing or receiving government services to do so with their faces uncovered, effectively banning women who wear niqabs from government offices.”
ARI found that as of September 2017, 87 per cent of Quebecers supported the law, while 70 per cent of Canadians outside the province would back a similar law where they live.
In addition, “large swaths of the Canadian population also reacted negatively to Motion M-103, a non-binding Parliamentary motion condemning Islamophobia,” according to the poll.
“Asked what they would have done if they were MPs, 42 per cent of Canadians said they would vote against the motion, compared to 29 per cent who would have voted for it. The rest were unsure.”
ARI noted that in April, one-third of Canadians told the polling agency that they had a “favourable” opinion of Islam, while 46 per cent said they had an “unfavourable” one.
“Collectively, these findings speak to a widespread unease with Muslims and the Islamic faith in Canada, and this unease is further underscored by the fact that two-thirds (65 per cent) of those asked about Islam in this latest survey say the religion’s influence in Canadian public life is growing. No other group tops 40 per cent,” read the report.
Eleven per cent of respondents said the influence of Judaism – a long standing anti-Semitic meme – is growing, while 16 per cent said it was shrinking.