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Seizing the Opportunity: The Role of Communities in a Constantly Changing Immigration System

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The Report

Preface

In April 2013, members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages undertook a study of the impacts of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities. Our committee dedicated 15 meetings to the study of this issue. A total of 44 witnesses presented their perspectives.

Demographic and sociological changes make immigration a key factor for the future and for the vitality of these communities, which have made it a focus of activity for their long-term development. While issues related to immigrant recruitment, reception and integration have already attracted the attention of various officials, our members were interested in focusing more specifically on the most recent reforms. The main goal of the study was to determine the impacts of these reforms on anglophone and francophone minority communities.

We focused mainly on the changes that have occurred since the start of the 41st Parliament and those that will be implemented by the end of 2014. These changes were in the form of legislative or regulatory amendments, orders in council, reallocation of expenditures and ministerial instructions. In some cases, the changes had a direct impact on the language component of existing immigration policies. In other cases, broader transformations may have affected official language minority communities or may affect them in the future. Our report focuses on the initiatives most likely to have an impact on these communities.

The key idea that came out of the public hearings can be summarized as follows: communities must seize the opportunities that arise in a constantly changing immigration system. For its part, the federal government must fully implement Part VII of the Official Languages Act and section 3 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It is with this in mind that we have presented a series of recommendations to urge the government to take positive measures to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities and to support and assist their development. We hope that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who in fact has been quite supportive of our work, will be open to our recommendations.

The Committee members would also like to thank the former Deputy Chair, the Honourable Andrée Champagne, for her active involvement in this study and in previous studies.

Claudette Tardif
Chair

Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis
Deputy Chair

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Executive Summary

In recent years, the federal government has taken a range of measures to make the immigration system more effective and efficient. The study by the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages (the “Senate Committee”) focused on the economic, linguistic and financial changes that have occurred since the start of the 41st Parliament and on those that will be implemented by the end of 2014, with the anticipated launch of the Express Entry system. The purpose of the study was to measure the impact of these changes on official language minority communities. The Senate Committee dedicated 15 meetings to studying the issue and heard from 44 witnesses. Four key themes came out of the public hearings.

First, economic immigration and the major role of employers. The federal government is keenly interested in the economic integration of immigrants. There are many challenges involved in recognizing foreign credentials and integrating immigrants into the job market. The public hearings highlighted the importance of working with immigrants before they arrive. The more they are aware of Canada’s economic and linguistic realities prior to their departure, the greater their chances of success once they arrive. With the launch of the Express Entry system, employers will be urged to play a key role in recruiting newcomers. Employer awareness and a coordinated approach with all immigration system stakeholders will be needed to ensure that the federal government achieves its objectives.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada must develop a coordinated national strategy to support the growth of official language minority communities through immigration. It must also ensure that French-speaking immigrants will be able to register in the pool of qualified candidates in the new Express Entry system without hindering the recognition of their foreign qualifications. It is essential that the department work together with all of its partners and in consultation with the communities, taking into account each region’s characteristics and taking positive measures to support immigration in these communities. As part of the consultations to be held this fall with francophone and Acadian communities, it is recommended that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration pay special attention to recruitment measures targeting francophone countries.

Second, the communities’ move from a reactive to a proactive role. For several years now, francophone and Acadian communities have been hard at work developing services for French-speaking immigrants. They have created francophone immigration networks, taken part in international recruitment campaigns and organized liaison tours within Canada. They are now more certain than ever of the potential that immigration represents for their vitality. In light of the recent changes to the immigration system, they need to mount a charm offensive to persuade newcomers to settle in minority communities. The communities want to (and must) engage in a “grand seduction” of this kind. The only way they will achieve the desired results is to have the necessary resources at their disposal. As for anglophone communities, they depend on research to build their capacity to ensure that English-speaking newcomers are economically, socially and culturally integrated into Quebec.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada must maintain an approach designed by and for the communities when it comes to current and future changes. As part of the consultations to be held this fall with francophone and Acadian communities, it is recommended that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration pay special attention to four types of positive measures: providing ongoing and enhanced support for francophone immigration networks; providing support for French-language pre-departure services; promoting the communities abroad; and considering the special needs of refugees, temporary workers and international students. Citizenship and Immigration Canada must also provide anglophone and francophone communities with solid data to enable them to capitalize on the changes. It must also consider the priorities identified by Quebec’s anglophone communities to carry out research on immigration that is aligned with their needs.

Third, official language learning. The federal government took measures to tighten the selection criteria concerning immigrants’ language skills. Several recent studies have found that proficiency in official languages, especially English, is a key determinant in the integration of immigrants and that it clearly strengthens their active engagement in Canadian social life. The public hearings highlighted how important it is for newcomers in minority communities to be proficient in the majority language. However, access to language training is not guaranteed everywhere, nor is it available to all classes of economic immigrants. Most of the witnesses acknowledged that French-language postsecondary institutions must play a pivotal role in the new immigration system.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada must support postsecondary institutions in the Canadian francophonie through targeted positive measures. It must also expand access to language training programs in all regions and open these programs to temporary foreign workers and international students.

Fourth, federal government targets. In 2003, the federal government agreed on targets for increasing the number of francophone immigrants settling in minority communities. A target of 4.4% by 2008 was initially set and subsequently lowered, allowing the government until 2013 to achieve a proportion of 1.8% for French-speaking immigrants settling outside Quebec, and until 2023 to achieve the initial target of 4.4%. In 2013, in the wake of changes to foster economic immigration, the government set a new target of 4% for French-speaking economic immigrants by 2018. The Senate Committee’s public hearings sought to find out what action the federal government intends to take in order to achieve these targets.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada must recognize that the Provincial Nominee Program and the Canada Experience Class must attract a sufficient number of francophone immigrants. It must also include a francophone lens in the Express Entry system so that francophone and Acadian communities can capitalize on targeted positive measures and participate in developing the tools to promote immigration to their communities.

The nine recommendations presented by the Senate Committee to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration are intended to ensure the implementation of Part VII of the Official Languages Act and section 3 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

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Recommendations

Recommendation 1

That Citizenship and Immigration Canada, in cooperation with all of its partners and in consultation with official language minority communities, quickly develop a coordinated national strategy to support the development of these communities through immigration. This strategy must identify the roles and responsibilities of the various partners and be flexible enough to take into account the unique characteristics of each region.

Recommendation 2

That Citizenship and Immigration Canada, in cooperation with all of its partners and in consultation with francophone and Acadian communities, ensure that francophone immigrants will be able to register in the pool of qualified candidates in the Express Entry system without hindering the recognition of their foreign credentials.

Recommendation 3

That the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration take advantage of the consultations to be held this fall with francophone and Acadian communities to identify, in cooperation with them, positive measures to support immigration to their communities. That the Minister pay special attention to the following positive measure:

(a) recruitment initiatives targeting francophone countries.

Recommendation 4

That Citizenship and Immigration Canada must, in consultation with francophone and Acadian communities, maintain an approach designed by and for the communities when it comes to current and future changes. That, as part of the consultations to be held this fall with francophone and Acadian communities, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration pay special attention to the following positive measures:

(a) providing ongoing and enhanced support for francophone immigration networks;
(b) providing support for French-language pre-departure services;
(c) promoting official language minority communities abroad; and
(d) considering the special needs of refugees, temporary workers and international students who settle in francophone minority communities.

Recommendation 5

That Citizenship and Immigration Canada fund a Statistics Canada survey on French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec and on English-speaking immigrants in Quebec so that official language minority communities can be better equipped to deal with the immigration challenges they will be facing over the coming years.

Recommendation 6

That Citizenship and Immigration Canada take into consideration the priorities identified by Quebec’s anglophone communities in order to conduct immigration research projects that will provide a concrete and direct benefit to these communities and will build their capacity to economically, socially and culturally integrate English-speaking newcomers.

Recommendation 7

That Citizenship and Immigration Canada provide targeted support to postsecondary institutions in the Canadian francophonie for language training, language testing, foreign credential recognition and skills upgrading.

Recommendation 8

That Citizenship and Immigration Canada allow temporary foreign workers and international students to register for its language training programs and that it expand access to these programs in either official language in all regions of Canada.

Recommendation 9

That Citizenship and Immigration Canada recognize the following:

(a) the Provincial Nominee Program and the Canadian Experience Class must attract a sufficient number of francophone immigrants;
(b) the Express Entry system must include a francophone lens so that francophone and Acadian communities can capitalize on targeted positive measures; and
(c) these communities must participate in developing the tools to promote immigration to their communities.

Contact information

General Information:
613-990-0088 or 1-800-267-7362

Email: OLLO@sen.parl.gc.ca

Mailing Address:
Senate Committee on Official Languages
The Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0A4