Canada’s new immigration point system, set to come into effect May 4, 2013, drew criticism from some New Democrats during a language and culture celebration in Toronto.
At a Wednesday (Feb. 20) celebration of International Mother Language Day, hosted by NDP MP Matthew Kellway (Beaches-East York), some NDP politicians expressed concern over planned changes to federal immigration policy.
Kellway said the planned new point system for gaining entry to Canada, as part of immigration reforms by the federal government, creates different entry criteria.
For example, there is a requirement to be proficient in either of the official languages – French or English – he said.
“I think one of the challenges where they start privileging English as a native language takes us back to a different form of immigration for different countries, and that concerns me,” Kellway said. “If the government invested in immigration and settlement services and language services and brought people to Canada from around the world, we would be a much richer country for that.”
NDP MP Craig Scott (Toronto-Danforth) was also questioned on the language requirement.
“(They will) create a bit of a barrier where there wasn’t so much of a barrier before,” he said. “Obviously folks coming from Bangladesh have English language heritage, but not everybody from Bangladesh has the highest proficiency, so it’s bound to affect independent applicants in that way.”
On the Government of Canada’s Immigration website, www.cic.gc.ca, Conservative MP, Jason Kenney (Calgary-South East) defended the reforms.
“The new Federal Skilled Worker Program criteria will ensure Canada is selecting the skilled immigrants our economy needs, who are the most likely to succeed and fully realize their potential in Canada,” Kenney said.
Kellway hosted the second annual celebration of International Mother Language Day event last night. Those attending participated in traditional song and dance through the evening.
International Mother Language Day, Feb. 21, began among Canadians originally from Bangladesh over a decade ago. It focuses on the history of the Bengali language movement of the 1950s. NDP MPP Michael Prue, (Beaches-East York) also attended the event.
“Bangladeshis have a very proud and wonderful history,” Prue said . “It is our honour, here in Toronto, to celebrate that history.”
In 1999, in commemoration of the Bangladeshi struggle for independence, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared Feb 21 to be International Mother Language Day.
His Excellency, Kamrul Ahsan, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Canada spoke at the event about the need to celebrate International Mother Language Day.
“The main objective … is to highlight the importance of cultural diversity,” Ahsan said.
Despite the presence of NDP politicians, the event focused mainly on the issues of Bangladesh.
In addition, Sgt. Anthony Paoletta of 54 Division of the Toronto Police Service addressed the Bangladeshi community.
“I certainly invite all of you to consider becoming a member of what we call the community police liaison committee,” he said. “There is only one requirement, and that is that you either work or live in the community.”