Every year about 170,000 people become new citizens of Canada. The candidates must meet few requirements: be a permanent resident over 18, have lived in Canada for at least three years in the past four years before applying, have no criminal record and pass a test to prove knowledge about Canada and language abilities in French or English.
The Harper government is of the opinion that the test (mandatory for persons aged 18 to 54) “does not adequately assess listening and speaking skills”. “The ability to communicate effectively in either French or English is key to the success of new citizens in Canada,” said Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration in a statement on October 14. They suggest therefore that the applicants for citizenship should include a proof of language skills when submitting the application.
Two days ago I received an interesting call. The person asked me: is it true? Is it true that Harper stopped the immigration process and there will be no more immigrants because they don’t speak properly the official languages of Canada? A friend told me that a neighbor heard that on TV…
I smiled. In fact the news was about citizenship, about a proposal to change the citizenship process, but it is very common for a news to be misinterpreted, especially when it gets to your ears from a friend of a a neighbour of your cousin’s grandmother.
Back to the subject, the Harper government suggests that applicants for citizenship should submit a proof that show their language abilities: proof of completion of a language-training course such as the federally funded Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada, results of an approved language proficiency test, proof of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French or language proficiency tests used previously for immigration to Canada.
This change would not be a problem for the economic immigrants; however their spouses, refugees or sponsored spouses may be affected, as proof of language was not required for them when permanent residence was granted.
Personally I think that the current test is complex and way too difficult for a person who has poor French/English knowledge, though I agree that comprehension and expression skills cannot be verified this way, and there is no doubt that knowing the officials languages of Canada are the key to a successful integration.