Until then rather unknown to the general public in Quebec, pollster Shachi Kurl rose to the rank of controversial media personality in the fall of 2021, after asking a question to the leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, during the debate on chefs in English.
” The problem [de la loi 21 sur la laïcité de l’État] is much bigger than me and my question, ”wrote the principal in an email. Shachi Kurl refused for the third time in two months an interview with Duty, overwhelmed, she said, by the return of this subject in the political news since the reassignment of a teacher from the Outaouais wearing the veil, in December.
During the debate of the heads of the English-speaking media consortium, it was she who made the headlines, as host, for a question directed to Mr. Blanchet. “You deny that Quebec has problems of racism, however you defend laws like law 96 and law 21 which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones and allophones. […] Can you help Canadians living outside the province understand why your party supports these discriminatory laws? “
The question provoked strong reactions. Starting with the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, who said the next day to have found it “absolutely unacceptable and insulting as a Quebecer”. His conservative opponent, Erin O’Toole, added: “Quebecers are not racist, and I reject the premise of the question asked during the debate last night. “
The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, even saw it as an aggression against the Quebec nation, “attacked” by the remark of Shachi Kurl, “in its values, in a law voted democratically and supported by a majority of Quebecers”.
The host, known to the political panels of English-speaking television, has spoken publicly on the issue a few times. First, directly after the events, during an online event bringing together several English-speaking journalists, she insisted that her question had been “approved by several levels in the organization” of the debate. “Outside of Quebec, people see these laws, these legislative texts, very differently,” she said.
Then, in a letter published after the federal election and in French on its website, Shachi Kurl refuses to withdraw his remarks and says to assume his question “unequivocally”.
The Vancouverite first defends her legitimacy to moderate the national debate, as a former journalist outside the Ottawa bubble who distinguished himself during a provincial debate. An immersion in French carried out in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean and in Charlevoix was able to “fully immerse him in the history of Quebec and observe the pride of Quebecers, their perspectives in matters of secularism, survival and their desire to protect their culture and their language, ”she writes. Kurl mainly blames Yves-François Blanchet for not having seized the opportunity it offered him to explain secularism to the rest of the country.
Angus Reid, the founder of the polling firm that bears his name and for which Shachi Kurl works, has also taken the keyboard to affirm that the question had little impact on the vote, since the Bloc Québécois garnered slightly less support in 2021 than in 2019.
A view of things is contradicted by the facts, believes the science professor and blogger specializing in polls Philippe J. Fournier, with supporting figures. The Bloc would have gone from 25% to 32% of voting intentions during the days following the debate in English. “Angus Reid is a good company, but it has a ‘house effect’,” he adds. Of his analysis, the firm’s polls led by Shachi Kurl tend to overestimate the conservative vote.