The Parti Quebecois plans to introduce a charter to enshrine Quebec values after a recent poll suggests there is public support for stricter guidelines on religious accommodation.

The poll, which it commissioned from Leger Marketing, showed the majority of Quebecers think the debate over reasonable accommodation is as important or more important today than it was six years ago.

Francophones are far more concerned about this than are non-francophones, with up to 76 per cent of francophones saying religious accommodations should be enshrined in law -- a viewpoint held by 51 per cent on non-francophones.

Only 8 per cent of Quebecers believe the status quo is appropriate, so the government says it plans to introduce a law to enshrine what it considers to be Quebec values.

What’s more:

  •  71 per cent believe stricter rules will protect Quebec values
  • 69 per cent think religious accommodation hinder public service
  • 1/3 are bothered if public servants wear religious icons
  • 54 per cent favour a ban on wearing religious signs or dress in public

The poll canvassed 1,500 Quebecers via an online survey from March 12 to 17.

Bernard Drainville, the minister of democratic institutions, is the driving force behind the movement.

His views came under fire last week when he said that an easing of parking restrictions on Jewish holidays that have been taking place for 30 years in Montreal were unreasonable and could lead to social divisions.

Drainville, however, said Wednesday that he believes the issues of religious accommodation can, now, be discussed without anger.

"I do think that equality between men and women, equality of all -- notwithstanding original-ins, mother tongue, religion, I think these are important values if we want to build a united Quebec, a united society. And I'm confident that we can have this debate in a respectful manner," said Drainville.

The opposition Liberals said they see the PQ plan as small-minded.

“One has to rise above that level and say what type of society we want,” which is an inclusive and tolerant society, said Liberal leader Philippe Couillard.

In the issue of parking restrictions, Couillard said Drainville was meddling where it was not necessary.

“It's an agreement between communities on a local level which is something that we should applaud,” he said.

Meantime, the Catholic Church said people should show their faith proudly.

“Expressing a religion in the face of the world is a positive value for all Quebecers,” said Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre of the Quebec City Archdiocese.

He said he doesn’t see the frustration in people that seems to be prevalent in the poll.

“People of all faiths, atheists or not, talking to one another, I see a lot of respect,” he said.

Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz of the Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem, said he sees a sinister motive in the PQ’s plan.

“You're pushing forward certain values and forgetting about others. Freedom of religion and the ability to accept and tolerate people of every religious background is also a crucial value,” he said, adding that he hopes citizens won’t fall for it.

“This government is using secular value as a manner of pandering to the lowest common denominator,” he said.

The PQ is proposing holding public consultations in the early fall as the government introduces its Charter of Secularism - which it is likely to rename its Charter of Quebec Values.