Religion and the federal election: Does it play a role?


This week, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh encountered a man who encouraged him to “cut off” his turban in order to “look like a Canadian.” Singh handled the situation gracefully, although no one should have to receive or deal with racist comments while campaigning.

"Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people," Singh replied to the man. "That's the beauty of Canada."

Singh has made it clear that his religion will have no impact on who he’d be as a potential prime minister. But as the first Sikh candidate running in the federal election, questions have come up on whether the religion of a candidate, or one’s own religion, has an impact on voting.

For instance, Singh said he wouldn’t challenge Quebec's religious symbols law in court, but he’s hoping his public identity as a Sikh man may change minds in the province about barring people from dressing the way they want. During the Oct. 2 French language debate, Singh also went out of his way to say that he supports secularism.

"I am for the separation between church and state," said Singh, adding that he supports the rights to abortion and same-sex marriage. "I will defend these rights with all my strength."

During that same debate, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was questioned on his views on abortion and what his Catholicism personally means for him and his beliefs. Scheer said there’s no consensus on the issue but he wouldn’t reopen the debate.

In a Yahoo Canada Facebook poll, eighty-three per cent of voters agree that religion is completely irrelevant and has no impact on their voting choices. Canada is considered a secular country with no official religion, and religious pluralism and freedoms are cemented in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Religion should have no place in government so a candidate that intends to govern based on religion or religious beliefs will never receive my vote,” wrote one Facebook user in reference to the poll.

“A candidate's religion matters if it prevents him from accepting others' choices,” wrote another user.

One person said religion does matter, only because they wouldn’t vote for someone who is a “Priest, Rabbi, or Imam”, then they’d “never vote for them”. Another said religion does matter, but “only when [candidates] try to bring their religious beliefs and try to make them laws that hurt others.”

Does a candidate’s religion impact how you vote? Does your own religion impact who you chose? Vote in the poll above and let us know in the comments.