Religious prejudice, not religious belief, was the driving force behind the 2015 mass shooting in Quebec City, and its aftermath, a new report says.

Researchers from the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University surveyed a representative sample of 3,500 Canadians to assess the degree of religious prejudice against religious minorities, as well as those who do not identify as religious.

“We have a very strong bias in favour of religious minorities in Canada, especially religious women, which is not surprising given that these groups are a target for discrimination,” said Dr. Maryam Sotoudeh, a professor of psychology and public policy at Dalhouses.

“What surprised us was that the bias towards religious women was greater than that towards all other religious groups.

So, we are seeing discrimination in favour to the religious majority, not in favour toward the minority.”

Sotoudeh said the study also found that the prevalence of religious discrimination is particularly strong for women.

She added that these findings have implications for public policy, as it may be easier to pass legislation against religious discrimination than it is to prevent it.

“When we talk about religious discrimination, it has to be in relation to discrimination against women, so it is an important point to take into account,” Sotoulah said.

“When we look at other kinds of discrimination, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, we often overlook it.”

The report is published online on Feb. 15 by the International Journal of the Sociology of Religion.