Language test angers immigration lawyers
May 03, 2008 04:30 AM
All immigrants applying to come to Canada as skilled workers – even those who grew up speaking English or French – could soon be required to take a mandatory language test to prove proficiency in one of Canada's official languages, the Star has learned.
Until now, English- and French-speaking applicants – including immigrants from the U.S. and England – could bypass the test by submitting a letter testifying to their language skills. Officials say the proposed change will make language assessments more transparent. But immigration lawyers say the change would only increase delays at a time when the federal government is introducing dramatic changes to reduce an immigration backlog, especially to smooth the way for those most likely to succeed in the job market.
Currently, applicants in the skilled-worker class with good language skills can earn up to 16 "points" either by taking the International English Language Testing System test or with a written submission. The policy change wouldn't be applied to applications already in the system, or to those in the family category.
To qualify as a skilled immigrant, an applicant needs at least 67 points out of a possible 100 awarded for education level, work experience and family connections to Canada, among other factors.
But lawyers warn the proposal will be off-putting to people most likely to integrate easily in Canada's labour market, such as the 17,000 Brits and Americans who come each year.
I don't know why the government is considering this. Perhaps some skilled immigrants with poor language skills are scamming the system by getting others to write them a letter to bypass the tests. If this is the case I wouldn't be surprised because Canada's immigration laws are like Rodney Dangerfield, they "don't get no respect." It might be a way to address the cost to taxpayers of state sponsored language classes for immigrants.
But the immigration lawyers are right. The mandatory tests for those from the U.S. or the U.K. is just silly. They will cause delays, increase fees, and thus dissuade immigrants from countries who are the most likely to integrate and succeed in Canada.
If poor language proficiency for recent immigrants is a concern, and it is, it is because sponsored relatives and refugees are exempt from it. Many economic migrants of working age enter Canada through these easily exploitable streams and, under these proposed changes, they are still exempt from language proficiency requirements. In other words very little will change and in fact our immigration system will become worse. Immigrants will still stream in with a very poor command, or no command at all, of either of Canada's official languages, and will still need tax payer subsidized language classes. That is if they take them. The poor promotion of English and French has created communal environments where one can function in this country without having to speak either one. It seems many immigrants learn English or French for pragmatic reasons only.
The expectation that immigrants from the Anglosphere or from French speaking countries is a mistake and the government should reconsider.