Earlier this month, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that starting July 1, people immigrating to Canada under the Provincial Nominee Program would have to take a mandatory test in either French or English before they’re allowed into the country.
This means jobs that don’t involve much skill will now require potential workers to be tested on their reading, listening, writing and speaking skills.
Immigrants who want to enter the country under this program are already educated and skilled enough to join the workforce, but they need to apply to their preferred province and await approval. A medical exam and criminal check are also necessary for PNP hopefuls.
There are positives to this plan. It will be easier for immigrants to acclimate to Canada, and make them feel like they belong here — but it does leave a lot of questions.
Many people come to Canada not knowing any English or French, but contribute greatly, doing the jobs that some Canadian-born citizens choose not to do.
According to the 2006 Statistics Canada census report for Scarborough, the area is home to more than 346,000 immigrants, and only 46 per cent of them claim English as their first language.
Placing these language requirements on workers in areas such as trade, manufacturing and sales can potentially make the pool of available applicants to these jobs smaller.
Statistics Canada also reports that over 24 per cent of Scarborough’s population works in sales and services, and the manufacturing labour force provides over 15 per cent of industry in the area.
If someone comes from a country where they have never been exposed to English or French, but is a good worker, how will they stand a chance in gaining entry? Many new workers learn the language when they arrive through exposure.
It may instead prove better to look at potential workers’ credentials. And if they are qualified, they can be enrolled in an English or French learning program upon arriving in Canada, at a community centre or organization that provides these services.
Canada is a multicultural country that was built with the help of immigrants. In B.C., Chinese immigrants were essential in building the Canadian Pacific Railway, Japanese immigrants worked in the salmon fisheries and Sikhs from northern India in the sawmills.
This new requirement makes one think, that had these restrictions been in place generations ago, some of our family members may not have made it into Canada. It seems for the Canadian government, competency in a field of work is now only satisfactory, applicants must now be better, and that means being able to speak the language.
While the language test can help immigrants fit in, hopefully it doesn’t become a barrier that stops a strong work ethic with potential to contribute to this country.