'What is a niqab?' Canada's top Google query during French-language leaders' debate

As five political leaders faced off last night in the French-language debate, many Canadians took to Google to help enrich their understanding of the issues at hand.

Face veil was at the heart of the most heated exchanges between federal party leaders

Niqab issue is a hot campaign topic

7 years ago
Duration 8:04
McGill University's Morton Weinfeld talks about the controversy over the niqab

As five political leaders faced off last night in the French-language debate, many Canadians took to Google to help enrich their understanding of the issues at hand. 

The niqab was at the centre of the most heated exchanges between the leaders.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada acknowledges the issue of wearing a veil during a citizenship ceremony is one that affects a "minuscule" number of women.

However, all three top Google searches in Canada during the debate were related to niqabs with Quebec searches for "niqab" outpacing other provinces by 2:1.

Below are the top three Google searches from last night's debate with a brief answer.

  • What is a niqab?

According to the Oxford dictionary, a niqab is a veil worn by some Muslim women in public, covering all of the face apart from the eyes. Other headcoverings worn by Muslim women such as hijab and burkas have not been as controversial - there are lots of different kinds of coverings worn by Muslim women all over the world.

  • How many women wear a niqab in Quebec?

"No exact number can be reported accurately," said Lynda Clarke, professor of religion and Islam in the Department of Religion at Concordia University in Montreal. "Visually, we think there are very few."

  • Can a woman wear a niqab on her driver's licence?

A driver's licence falls under the purview of provincial governments, not the federal government. Therefore, it would depend on an individual's whereabouts.

In Ontario, as an example, the Ministry of Transportation "requires all drivers to show their entire face when being photographed for the Ontario driver's licence. The ministry will allow individuals to wear head coverings for religious and medical reasons provided they do not obscure any facial features."

Canadians searched party leaders

When it comes to searches pertaining to party leaders, Justin Trudeau was the most searched candidate during the debate. 

Google searches in Canada for Justin Trudeau outpaced Stephen Harper by 39 per cent, Thomas Mulcair by 61 per cent, Elizabeth May by 140 per cent, and Gilles Duceppe by over 300 per cent.

Google searches in Quebec for Justin Trudeau outpaced Thomas Mulcair by 54 per cent, Stephen Harper by 81 per cent, Elizabeth May by 100 per cent, and Gilles Duceppe by 250 per cent.


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