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Secret immigration report exposes 'distortions' about women

Secret immigration report exposes 'distortions' about women

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By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

A secret government report exposes tensions over gender issues between the federal Immigration Department and Status of Women Canada.

The unusually candid Immigration Department report skewers the Status of Women’s office for making the “distorted” claim that immigrant women are “marginalized” in Canada and for stating that Muslim women are prime victims of Canadian hate crimes.

The internal report, marked “secret,” provides a rare insight into disputes at the highest levels of government related to national controversies over gender and diversity issues, including this year’s attempt by the federal Liberals to combat “Islamophobia.”

The Immigration Department’s fact-filled shots at the Status of Women presentation make clear that ­– contrary to impressions re-emphasized recently by self-described “feminist” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — immigrant women are having a high degree of success in Canada.

The 2015 report was created by a senior civil servant, Catrina Tapley, and obtained through an access to information request. In 2015, Tapley was working under a Conservative government but is now a high-level adviser to the Liberal cabinet, which has made it its mission to increase immigration. Tapley’s analysis took aim at a presentation made by another leading official, Meena Ballantyne, then-head of Status of Women Canada and now retired.

The six-page report not only exposes factual errors repeated by the government-funded Status of Women’s office, it challenges conventional Canadian notions that immigrant women are more subject to domestic and sexual violence than native-born women. And it dismisses the attempt by the $36-million-a-year gender-equity office to draw a parallel between female migrants and First Nations women.

One of the strongest sections of Tapley’s report takes aim at the Status of Women presentation for stating that Muslim females are unusually vulnerable to hate crimes.

The Immigration Department’s critique says a statement made in a Status of Women power-point presentation about “Muslim women being far more likely to be victims of a hate crime” provides a “somewhat distorted picture of the severity of problems in the hate-crime data.”

Hate crimes in Canada account for fewer than one in 1,000 reported incidents of common assault and an even lower proportion of incidents of mischief, Tapley wrote.

Moreover, Tapley’s fact-checking serves as a lesson to the majority of MPs who in March supported the anti-Islamophobia motion, which called for more research into hate crimes against Muslims. Tapley’s report showed much of the research has already been done.

Most hate crimes have nothing to do with religion, she said. And, of the 30 per cent that do, most target Jews, she said, citing an unnamed study suggesting three per cent of religious hate crimes in Canada are aimed at Muslims.

(A recent Statistics Canada report focussing on 2016 has the Muslim portion of religious hate crimes higher. Although it’s not clear what study Tapley is referring to from roughly five years ago, she may have been referring to a 2012 StatsCan report showing three per cent of all police-reported hate crimes targeted Muslims.)

To put another nail into the Status of Women’s claim that Muslim women are “far more likely to be victims of hate crime” in Canada, the Immigration Department official clarified that most victims of violent hate crimes, 72 per cent, are men.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, author of the Lexbase newsletter, obtained the internal document. “It is rather candid, quite revealing and high level,” Kurland said, noting it was created for a meeting of deputy ministers.

The second major statement made by the Status of Women that the Immigration Department takes exception to declares that immigrant women are a vulnerable and marginalized group in Canada.

In fact, Tapley said, the almost four million immigrant females in Canada “generally have higher levels of post-secondary education than Canadian-born women.”

Tapley’s observations have been recently confirmed by a Statistics Canada analysis, in which Garnett Picot shows that Canadians of colour and children of immigrants tend to be far more educated than native-born whites and Aboriginals.

While acknowledging that immigrant women and native-born women are, despite higher educational levels than male immigrants, slightly more likely to “live in a low-income situation compared to their male counterparts,” Tapley’s report made it clear that immigrant women to Canada were doing better in the workplace than women who move to other advanced countries.

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