Thursday, 15 March 2012

Survey Says: 78% of Quebecers are not religious

The all capital letters on "NON AU CANADA"
is rather clever given the perennial separatist
movement in Quebec.
This last weekend I was at the pharmacy waiting for a prescription to be filled and picked up a copy of the Journal de Montreal.  In it I found a survey conducted by Leger Marketing for l'Agence QMI (Quebecor).  The highlights of the survey can be found on the web at Les deux solitudes s’éloignent (more or less: The Two Solitudes Are Drifting Apart).  An English article on the survey can be found here.

It would seem that the primary focus of the survey was to determine how distinct Quebec political, moral and cultural beliefs are compared to the rest of Canada - or more precisely, the Canada led by Steve Harper and the Conservatives.

Buried away in the survey was a single question that caught my eye immediately: Personally, do you consider yourself to be a religious person?  A minuscule 22% answered yes.  Presumeably, a whopping 88% of Quebecers do not consider themselves religious.

"Personally, do you consider yourself
to be a religious person?
(Total % YES)"
Interesting Media Coverage
I leave the print version at the pharmacy and decide I'll write a blog post later based on what I find on the web.  Well, I find no mention of this 22% in the article text itself in Journal de Montreal's web version of the survey.  Old Luddite that I am, I totally missed these little left and right arrows around the survey graphics that allow me to flip through them.

The universal symbol that everyone in the galaxy but me notices
on the webpage and knows it means
click the right-left arrows to flip between results.
So, believing this piece of information was missing from the web version, I became a little suspicious. So I start looking at other articles on the web to see if I could find this 22% non-religious result.

Being a lazy Anglophone, I hit the English papers first.  The Montreal Gazette focuses strongly on what the results mean for the Bloc Quebecois and steers clear of the religious question altogether. The National Post does the same thing.  On neither newspaper is there any mention of this question or result.

The Toronto Sun takes a broader approach and mentions the questions on Canada's military presence in the Arctic and military spending but is silent on the religious question, not even mentioning it in passing.  I never did find any mention of the survey by the Globe and Mail, but I'm sure I probably just missed it.

Prudish English media!  So I start to search French sites.  Remember that at this stage I had still not figured out that the number was available on the Journal de Montreal site (I only had to click the little arrow button).

I find it first on 24h Montreal which is a free publication handed out to commuters in Canadian subway systems.  (I added the crappy English translation):
Le droit à l'avortement (Abortion Rights):  Québec: 85 %  Reste du Canada: 66 % 
L'extraction du pétrole des sables bitumineux (Petroleum extraction from tar sands):  Québec: 36 %  Reste du Canada: 63 % 
L'abolition du registre des armes à feu (Abolition of firearms registry):  Québec: 18 %  Reste du Canada: 48 % 
Le financement accru de l'armée canadienne (Increase of military funding):  Québec: 19 %  Reste du Canada: 37 % 
L'achat des avions F-35 (Purchase of new F-35 fighter jets):  Québec: 17 %  Reste du Canada: 33 % 
Le retrait du Canada du Protocole de Kyoto (Leave the Kyoto Protocol):  Québec: 11 %  Reste du Canada: 32 % 
La promotion des symboles monarchiques (Promotion of the Monarchy):  Québec: 9 %  Reste du Canada: 36 %
I get that the monarchy can be a contentious issue here in Quebec, but it seems to me that they included pretty much everything but the religious question.  Maybe I'm the only person to find it interesting around here?

The folks at did the same thing.  They threw in the kitchen sink but missed the religion question.  TVA mention pretty much everything but it as well.  Silence... no mention of it.

At this point, I thought perhaps I had dreamt reading it, until I came across Joanne Marcotte's blog post Deux Canada: Vraiment?  She mentions the 22% and I know I wasn't dreaming.
Non. Ce qui frappe dans les résultats de ce matin, ce n’est pas que les Québécois soient distincts des autres Canadiens pour ce qui est des dépenses militaires, de l’environnement, ni même de l’avortement. Ceux qui entretiennent le mythe d’un Canada radicalement plus « de droite et religieux » vs. un Québec nettement plus « de gauche et « progressiste » devront également revoir leur propagande.
Original print version shows
the 22%.

Which I understood to mean (my own translation):
No. What is striking about this morning's results is not that Quebecers are distinct from other Canadians because of their positions on military spending, the environment nor even abortion. Those who subscribe to the myth of a Canada radically "Right(wing) and Religious" vs a "Left(wing) and 'progressive'" Quebec should take a second look at their own propaganda.
I don't think I agree with any of Marcotte's ideas, but I'm glad she introduced me to this myth because I rather think it may actually be true.  Being the stereotypical left-leaning progressive atheist that I am, it rather makes me swell with a little pride to live here in Quebec.

Strange how I had such a hard time finding this question even mentioned out there in media land...

Quebec, the most secular society in North America
The more I read, the more I like about Quebec when it comes to the secular state front at least.

Secular Public School System
Constitution Amendment, 1997 (Quebec): permitted the Province of Quebec to replace the denominational school boards with ones organized on linguistic lines.

This versus the Ontario Public School System that still funds Protestant and Catholic schools: 

Obligatory Religious Education in Public Schools 
It was a blow to the Catholic parents who had fought all the way to the Supreme Court to win an exemption from the course for their children because they felt that exposing them to a variety of religions would only confuse them.
But the nine judges disagreed, saying that exposing children to beliefs and values that differ from their own is a fact of life in our diverse society. 
“The suggestion that exposing children to a variety of religious facts in itself infringes their religious freedom or that of their parents amounts to a rejection of the multicultural reality of Canadian society and ignores the Quebec government’s obligations with regard to public education,” the ruling says. 
“Given the diversity of present-day Quebec, the state can no longer promote a vision of society in public schools that is based on historically dominant religions.”

No Religious Instruction in State Funded Daycare

I like how Secularism seems to be a bandied about as a bad word.  A quote from this article:
Nor are there any more prayers before the mid-morning snack. No stories about Noah’s Ark. No recounting of the parting of the seas.
If you've read my previous post on teaching the horrible Noah's Ark story to small children you'll know my reaction to this.  Until my kid is ready to understand what the total extermination of all living creatures on Earth by God one day because he got it wrong the first time, I certainly don't want this taught to my kids.  Let's keep the kids' minds blank of this stuff until they have a chance to grow up a bit and learn it when they have better critical and reasoning skills?  Let's keep the public sphere a religiously neutral place?  I'm okay with their parents teaching them whatever nonsense they want, but I don't want them to push their religious views onto other people's kids on my dime.

You may think that being happy that daycares are secular while forcing school aged kids to learn about religions is a tad contradictory.  Not at all.

Firstly, daycares are there to take care of our kids, not learn 'em.  School is for educating them.  Secondly, there is a real difference in the way 3 or 4 year old children process information vs school aged children.

But the real crux of it here is that there is a difference between, on the one hand, a religious studies course where kids are taught facts about the beliefs and practices of another religion on an intellectual level and, on the other hand, forcing the children to participate in religious prayer and ceremonies.  I don't think age-appropriate information should ever be withheld from children, but I do believe that the children of others should never be forced to participate in religious ceremony or prayers.


  1. Nice article. For your info complete results of the survey are available for download at

  2. I think the reason you found the religion question so hard to find is because in Canada most of us don't care about this stuff.
    PS. I don't want to publish as anonymous but they don't have a facebook option :P
    Kelly Amodeo

  3. “Godless Poutine” – Just for that, I love you.

    Feels so odd sometimes, realizing I’m not the only Anglophiliac godless Leftist Quebecer with a blog. ;-)

  4. It's very surprising in some ways. I think it's especially because of the women. They were forced so long into the religious box, they rebelled and now hardly any children are being taught. I was born in St Jérome and my heart sometimes yearns for "la belle province"...I don't go to church anymore, but I don't think I ever will be an atheist...but then I never thought I'd not go to church either..

  5. Thanks for your comment Francine!

    I think that there are many like you, who don't go to church anymore but could never think of themselves being atheist either.


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