Most Canadians would consider voting for a federal party led by Sikh man who wears a turban and carries a kirpan, but apprehensions to the idea are strongest in a key battleground for Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats, a new poll suggests.
The Angus Reid Institute tested early views of the NDP’s electoral chances under Singh, who captured the party’s leadership Sunday in a rout. The 38-year-old Sikh is the first member of a visible minority to lead a national party in Canada’s history.
The poll findings, released Friday, suggest that a majority of Canadians are open to the idea of a Sikh prime minister, assuming they support his ideas. Nearly seven-in-10 told the firm they would consider voting for party led by a Sikh man wearing religious symbols, while 31 per cent said they would not.
Yet, half of the respondents also said that “some” or “most” of their family members or close friends would not vote for a Sikh man who wears a turban and carries a ceremonial knife.
Respondents in Quebec were the least likely to vote for such a person, regardless of the policies he might espouse. The province has a history of debates over secularism and religious symbols, including Bill 62, which would prohibit those who cover their faces from delivering or accessing public services.
Nearly half of Quebec respondents said they could not vote for a party led by a Sikh, leaving aside their personal opinions about Singh.
Quebec was the home of the so-called “orange wave” that propelled New Democrats to official Opposition status in the 2011 election. The party now holds just 16 of the province’s 78 seats, with a spot set to open up soon if, as expected, former leader Thomas Mulcair steps down.
Singh confronted questions about a possible “Quebec problem” throughout the race, even releasing an ad that showed him tying a pink turban while listening to francophone singer Roch Voisine. He brushed aside charges from the Bloc Quebecois leader that he is too “religious” for Quebec.