Douglas Todd: Secret immigration report exposes 'distortions' about women

Editor's Note: An internal report from 2015, marked “secret,” reveals that Status of Women Canada (SOWC) was taken to task by the Immigration Department for its “distorted” claim that immigrant women are “marginalized” in Canada. The SOWC had claimed that “Muslim women [are] far more likely to be victims of a hate crime.” In reality are Muslims not only less frequently the target of hate crimes than Jews or blacks, but most anti-Muslim attacks are against men. Furthermore, fewer than one in 1000 reported incidents of common assault are religion-based. Such false perceptions, perhaps driven by political purposes, also underlie Motion M-103. There is simply no evidence to support the need for “Islalmophobia” to be singled out for special concern or for a National Day of Action against it, as recommended by the Heritage Committee.

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 incorrectly stating that 'Muslim women' are prime victims of Canadian hate crimes. In this photo: Women take the oath of citizenship in Vancouver in 2017.

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.”

Senior civil servant Catrina Tapley was working under a Conservative government, but is now a high-level adviser in Ottawa to the Liberal cabinet and prime minister.

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. Tapley emphasized that women in “the immigrant population fare much better than immigrants in most” of the advanced countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. While immigrant women’s earning gap with “native-born women is in some countries larger than 10 percentage points, such as in Belgium, France and Germany,” Tapley said, “Canada, along with Australia, Denmark, New Zealand and Switzerland, shows a smaller gap.” At several points, Tapley stresses that “immigrant women, albeit sometimes vulnerable to certain challenges in reaching full socio-economic integration, are not on the margins of Canadian society.” Among other things, she said, immigrant women vote at roughly the same rate as the general population. It’s also inaccurate, Tapley said, for the Status of Women’s office to compare immigrant women to Indigenous women. Tapley, who is now deputy secretary to the Liberal cabinet in the Privy Council Office, also wrote there are a wide variety of taxpayer-financed settlement programs that help hundreds of thousands of newcomer women each year to carve out their place in Canada. The Immigration Department protects immigrant girls and women, Tapley said, by prohibiting “early and forced marriage,” by forbidding polygamy, by combatting family violence and by banning marriages by proxy, such as “by phone or fax, which may be associated with 'non-consensual marriage for the purpose of immigration Female immigrants, Tapley said, also fill two out of three spots in English- and French-language courses offered by the Canadian government. Female immigrants are also more likely than males to take free courses to upgrade their skills and to obtain mentors. Immigrant women also receive on-site childcare and transportation allowances, while immigrant girls are given extra help in achieving high grades in school. Tapley’s frank report may be even more valuable today than it was in 2015, when the Conservatives were in office. In an era in which Trudeau is expanding rhetoric about how women and immigrants are among the country’s most marginalized and vulnerable groups, this blunt report from a government insider provides a rare reality check. GRAPHIC BELOW: An excerpt from the secret Immigration Department report about a Status of Women slide presentation (referred to in the memo as a “deck”):

This article was originally published by The Vancouver Sun on April 19, 2018, and can be viewed on their site by clicking here.

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