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Status of Women Canada: Paints a Misleading Portrait of Muslim Women

At what point do you know that your country is, on the whole, “inclusive”? Would there have to be, say, zero hate incidents for three years before you could say you live in a tolerant country?

But that’s never going to happen except in some hardline utopian’s dreams.

So now we have to settle for what is an “acceptable” hate crime statistic – so low that we can be “proud” of it.

That’s a difficult conversation to have.

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Nobody wants to be the Canadian that says, “okay, I can live with a couple of hundred hate crimes a year,” even if what they mean to say is that we’re as inclusive as it gets in this vale of tears.

The people most resistant to holding that conversation are naturally those whose careers depend on bad news– or at least the perception that the news is bad – because if it were agreed that the numbers were relatively rock-bottom low, there might be no further rationale for their jobs.

We have a case in point with Status of Women Canada (SOWC), funded to the tune of $36 million annually. As detailed in a recent Vancouver Sun article by Douglas Todd, the Immigration Department scolded SOWC in a 2015 report (marked “secret”) for its “distorted” claim, amongst others, that immigrant women are “marginalized” in Canada.

This report, created for a meeting of deputy ministers, was authored by senior civil servant Catrina Tapley, a high-level advisor to the Liberal cabinet.

She wrote it as a rebuttal to certain features of a PowerPoint presentation made by Meena Ballantyne, now retired, but then head of SOWC.

Tapley took particular aim at the SOWC presentation’s  statement that “Muslim women [are] far more likely to be victims of a hate crime.” For the evidence paints quite a different picture. Thirty percent of hate crimes – which account for fewer than one in 1000 reported incidents of common assault – are religion-based.

Of the hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims, significantly lower than those against Jews, most target Muslim men. And far from being a vulnerable and marginalized group in Canada, Tapley observes that the almost four million immigrant females to Canada “generally have higher levels of post-secondary education than Canadian-born women,” a claim confirmed by a Statistics Canada analysis by Garnett Picot.

The Tapley report ranges further afield than this point, which interests me the most, so this is but a partial account. I would note the tone of impatience that comes through, for example, in the statement that “immigrant women, albeit sometimes vulnerable to certain challenges in reaching full socio-economic integration, are not on the margins of Canadian society “(emphasis on “not” in the original).

Tapley reports that immigrant women in Canada fare better than immigrants who move to other first-world countries, vote at roughly the same rate as the general population and fill two out of three spots in English and French language courses offered by the federal government.

What it comes down to is: Muslims in general – and Muslim women in particular –  are not being especially targeted for hate crimes by comparison with other religious groups, and certainly not by comparison with blacks and other ethnic or racial groups; immigrant Muslim women are successfully integrating  into the workforce and into society; and  immigrant Muslim women are achieving educational and skills targets commensurate with women born in Canada.

All this information is vitally important. Even before the mosque massacre (a tragedy perpetrated by an unstable, at times delusional individual unaffiliated with any organized hate group), Canadians have been led to believe, not least by our Prime Minister, Canadian Muslims were enduring something approaching a scourge of bigotry.

It was this perception that fueled Motion 103 and its call for more “research” into hate crimes against Muslims. Tapley’s report makes it clear that this research has been done, and that Muslims have no evidence-based claim for a special “Day of Action” or for special treatment in general. In fact, at least where other cultures are concerned, Canadians can take pride in their general level of inclusivity.

It is irresponsible for SOWC, with access to the same sources as Tapley, to contribute to this alarmist position. Their failure of due diligence makes me skeptical about their credibility in general.

But I suppose we should not be surprised that they exaggerate the issues they oversee. The worst thing that can happen to such an institution is for social harms to resolve to an “acceptable” level. As Internet guru Clay Shirky said, “Institutions will seek to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

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Published by
Barbara Kay

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