Quebecers like to think of ourselves as open-minded, tolerant and friendly. We also see ourselves as more cultured and cosmopolitan than the rest of Canada. As a minority, Quebecers say we understand that minorities bring strengths and riches to a society.
Well, that's the theory. Unfortunately, the facts don't seem to back up this rosy view, according to a Léger Marketing poll, in which 1,001 adult Quebecers were surveyed on behalf of The Gazette.
In this poll, carried out as the Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodation got under way, Quebecers' startlingly frank responses were at odds with the myths they say they hold dear.
Myth: Quebecers have long said that they are against the public expression of religious faith.
Fact: They are against the expression of religious faith in public, unless the faith in question is Roman Catholicism. In that case, they have no objections. The Léger poll found that as many as 70 per cent of Quebecers in the eastern part of the province approve of keeping crucifixes in public schools. These same Quebecers opposed the wearing of a hijab in public. They also felt that Muslims and Jews should not be allowed time off work for prayers.
Myth: State funding for religious schools is in retreat.
Fact: Quebec continues to give all private, faith-based schools about 60 per cent of the funding public schools receive - as it has for years.
Myth: Quebecers believe their province is enriched by the diversity immigrants represent.
Fact: One in three people polled by Léger said Quebec society is threatened by non-Christian immigrants. More than half of respondents said immigrants should abandon their customs and traditions on arrival and behave more like the majority, the poll said.
Fifty-eight per cent said Quebec should adopt a "code of conduct" for minorities to follow when it comes to practising their religion and culture - similar to the offensive life rules drawn up by the village of Hérouxville last year.
Meanwhile, immigrants are frozen out of Quebec's job market to a more marked degree than elsewhere in Canada. The unemployment rate stands at 17.8 per cent among immigrants in Quebec who have been here less than five years, compared with the Canadian average of 11.5 per cent.
Even anglophones, some of whose families arrived in Quebec more than 200 years ago, find it next to impossible to find work in the province's civil service.
But there is a bright light in the poll results: The more welcoming attitude of Quebecers aged 18 to 24. "Young people are saying to the older generation, 'We don't buy into your kind of protectionism of French-Canadian culture. We know that French can survive ...' " said Patrice Brodeur, a Montreal professor.
In the meantime, while we're waiting for these young people to take over, it is unfair to immigrants for us to seek them out abroad, invite them to immigrate, then tell them they can no longer be who they are. The astonishing thing is that any of them comes.