Erin Hallock, Gender Stereotypes and Canadian Immigration

John and Mary Yaremko Forum in Multiculturalism and Human Rights:Student Symposium on Women's Human Rights: March 6, 2009

Erin Hallock

Gender Stereotypes and Canadian Immigration: An Analysis of Baker v. Canada in Light of Article 5(a) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women


In Baker v. Canada, it is asserted that the Supreme Court of Canada fails to adequately address the existence of blatant gender stereotypes underlying the impugned immigration decision against Ms. Mavis Baker, a single mother from Jamaica with a history of mental health issues. In failing to explicitly identify and expose the stereotypes relied on by the decision-maker, the court misses an important opportunity to condemn such discriminatory practices and uphold Canada’s international commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In particular, the judiciary fails to embrace their role under Article 5(a) of CEDAW which requires positive measures be taken for the modification of social and cultural patterns perpetuating prejudices based on stereotyped gender roles. The judiciary is instrumental in fulfilling such an obligation and, as such, stereotyping should have been addressed in a more comprehensive manner in Baker in order to effectively denounce and prohibit gender discrimination in immigration decision-making. A more appropriate methodology for undertaking such a task should have involved explicit identification of operative stereotypes, determination of their origins and contexts, and recognition of the harms that they cause to individuals as well as to society as a whole.


The Women’s Human Rights Resources Programme thanks John and Mary Yaremko for generously funding this Symposium