Good afternoon! I am standing outside Loeb A602 at Carleton University in Ottawa. A small crowd has gathered and is waiting for the panel discussion. door opens at 2:25 p.m. - five minutes.
Lively, friendly energy. The refreshment table has just been rolled in.
U-shaped set up. About 20 people have arrived. Speakers take their seats.
The presenter introduces the title of the panel discussion, highlighting the common thread: immigration and minority attitudes. Applause.
A bite-sized history lesson: The discussion/debates on minority religious symbols and their ban has been ongoing and heated in Europe. Legislation has been adopted to ban religious symbols in countries such as: France, Germany, Denmark and Bosnia. It affects all public servants - even teachers.
Turgeon asks the crowd if this is a prejudice or principle at work in these countries. There are two views, he says...
Turgeon points out emerging public literature, saying his team has been trying to answer whether people are using prejudice or principles.
"Prejudice people don't want minority groups to wear religious symbols," he theorizes.
Canadian studies and literature is actually quite limited, Turgeon says. Now, everyone is racing to study the Quebec Charter.
What is this team exploring, exactly?
The answer: what are the attitudes of Canadians on religious symbols ... and does it vary across regions? Is secularism the same in different regions?
Looking at the crowd: many sit with arms and legs crossed, eyes fixated on the presenters. Listening attentively. You can hear a pin drop. Some write notes. Others sip fizzy drinks.
An interesting hypothesis: Turgeon believes those who are more liberal in their views will be LESS likely to accept the wearing of religious symbols, as opposed to religious individuals.
An example survey question:
"In your opinion is it acceptable or unacceptable for people in the following positions to wear a religious symbols such as a headscarf or turban?
A. A student at a public school
B. A teacher
C. A police officer on duty."
The questions the team tested spans highly debatable views such as abortion, women and work, gay marriage and if assisted suicide is acceptable. This measures liberalism, Turgeon says.
The more authority an individual has in a certain position, the more opposition there is to wearing a religious symbol, Bilodeau concludes.
Throwing stats your way: the per cent who answered that wearing a turban is unacceptable in two out of the three contexts provided: QC: 59%, Rest of Canada: 29% - big difference!
"Interesting paradox," Bilodeau says. "As Quebecers are less likely to attend to religious institutions [12%], they are more likely to report they don't have a religion [24%]."
"In Quebec, people do make a difference," Bilodeau says. This province is a big point of interest and contrast in their study.
Gap towards minority groups vs. Muslims specifically - can have a huge discrepancy. Generally, bigger the difference, the stronger the attitude towards that group, Bilodeau says.
"If you feel that immigration has a negative impact on the province or Canada, you'll be more opposed to religious symbols," Bilodeau says. "The strength of that effect is the same in Quebec and across Canada."
Liberal values is a key variable. In Quebec it increases the opposition. If you're in the rest of Canada, it decreases the percentage of opposition, Bilodeau concludes.
There are two narratives at work here. It's not just about principles and prejudices, but it's about them working in two different manners, Bilodeau says as he wraps up his talking points.
"The discovery that can be made is the most obvious one," White says, opening with the group's findings.
There are cultural differences in Quebec vs. the rest of Canada (ROC) - like religious attendance. These outliers still need to be explored, White says.
The pizza slices have all been eaten, the napkins are crumpled in plastic plates. Movement in the audience is scarce. And suddenly, the panel presentation is over - the Q&A begins.
A woman in the crowd shares her story as a 4-year-old Christian refugee to Canada during the time of the late Trudeau's government. There was a fear and opposition towards her and her family.
How does age affect these results, she asks?
The answer: more research needs to be done, but there definitely is a relationship between opposition and age, Bilodeau says.
And what about terrorism?
Prejudice reigns, Turgeon says.
Bilodeau chimes in: "ask us next year."
What about gender effects? In Quebec, men were more opposed to the Charter. The rest of Canada had minor to no differences in gender on the issue, Bilodeau says.
There's a cultural distinction, White says, between Quebec and the rest of Canada. It's all about choice-based decisions, such as: euthanasia, same-sex marriage and abortion.
Awkward silence hangs in the air for a split second before Turgeon responds.
He says he's no religion expert, but all religions haven't had the cleanest track record throughout history. He uses Christianity as an example.
Another man asks, is it really just prejudice vs. principle when it comes to the debate of religious symbols? What about a rooted legacy of emotion that is passed on in the public over the years? The panelists agree, intrigued.
Turgeon dabbles into politics and French Institutions in France. He says it's a fight about the meaning of our past - the Catholic church and the public in Quebec. There have been compromises. Religious minorities in Quebec have more resources than those in Ontario (ex. financed religious institutions) - so, there's more at stake for them with the Church's involvement.
What about the survey methodology, a man from Yukon asks. Bilodeau says the survey they sent out had a generic title: "Views of Canadians and Economic issues". The anonymity of online was a better method than in person or on the phone, where people are more inclined to lie.
And Accuracy? About 15 per cent answered "0" -- they don't like Muslims at all. It is an unusual percentage, but online panelists know how to provide answers, Bilodeau says. It's a better representation and more people respond.
What about ethnicity? Some groups will lie about their attitudes, Turgeon responds. But Anglo-Canadians usually don't... Chinese, a little. Subtle chuckles are heard throughout the room.
A woman targets British Columbia - is there differences in rural and urban landscapes, like a big Asian population in Vancouver?
Turgeon answers: people who live in the suburbs are more opposed to immigrants. White says they will be using postal codes and national data to map out attitudes for future studies.
Did you look at the ethno-religious variation between people themselves, another woman asks.
Bilodeau says people with more ethnic varied backgrounds have more positive views, but he'll know more in the next coming months.
The Q&A and panel has officially closed. Thanks and applause is given. The crowd dwindles while a few individuals go up to speak with the panelists.