Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 6 - Evidence - Meeting of April 28, 2014
OTTAWA, Monday, April 28, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day, at 5:01 p.m., to continue its study on the impacts of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities.
Daniel Charbonneau, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, as clerk of the committee, I must inform you that neither the chair nor the deputy chair is available to attend today's meeting. Therefore, it is my job to oversee the election of an acting chair. I am ready to receive motions to that effect. Do I have any motions?
Senator McIntyre: Yes, in the absence of the chair and deputy chair, I nominate Senator Fortin-Duplessis as acting chair.
Mr. Charbonneau: It has been moved by the Honourable Senator McIntyre that Senator Fortin-Duplessis serve as acting chair. Is it the pleasure of the honourable senators to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Mr. Charbonneau: I invite Senator Fortin-Duplessis to take the chair.
Senator Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (Acting Chair) in the chair.
The Acting Chair: Honourable senators, I call this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages to order. I am Senator Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis from Quebec and I would ask the senators to introduce themselves, starting on my left.
Senator Chaput: Maria Chaput from Manitoba.
Senator Robichaud: Fernand Robichaud, Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick.
Senator McIntyre: Paul McIntyre from New Brunswick.
Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.
The Acting Chair: We are continuing our study of the impacts of recent changes to the immigration system on official language minority communities.
The purpose of today's meeting is to question the researchers who have studied the issue as well as a community stakeholder involved in this type of coordination.
Our witnesses today are Nicole Gallant, Professor-Researcher from the INRS, Urbanisation Culture Société, joining us by video conference; Ibrahima Diallo, President of the Table nationale de concertation communautaire en immigration francophone; and Tracey Derwing, Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Alberta. Following your presentations, the senators will ask you questions. Please go ahead, Ms. Gallant.
Nicole Gallant, Professor-Researcher, INRS Urbanisation Culture Société: Thank you very much for inviting me to appear before the committee. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to step back, if you would, and compare how English Canada and French Canada view the ideal immigrant integration model, with a specific focus on how Canada's anglophone communities define linguistic duality as it relates to francophone communities.
You have my brief summarizing what I have to say. Though I will begin by talking a bit about Canadian multiculturalism and much more about the dominant vision of linguistic duality in English Canada, please understand I am obviously making a generalization. Fundamentally, the two notions have been around since the Trudeau era, when they were introduced with a focus on the importance of individual freedom. The purpose of the state under that view is to provide a context for this freedom to exist and be protected. Cultural integration is perceived as an individual choice; individuals decide whether to retain the traditions of their home country, and that is a choice they have to make. Linguistic duality is perceived as a matter of equality between languages, and therefore language practices are also seen as an individual choice, made by each and every person separately rather than collectively by a community. From a public policy perspective, equality between languages rather than communities prevails. In concrete terms, that public policy means the state has an obligation to provide services in the language chosen by the individual. It is a matter of making services available in a given language.
Why does this approach not serve immigrant integration in francophone communities outside Quebec well? When the focus is on providing services in French, one of the main objectives of francophone communities is overlooked, and that is enabling immigrants to integrate into a French-speaking community by doing much more than simply providing settlement services in French.
Before I explain why that does not work well for francophone communities more tangibly speaking, I have a sidebar if I may. It concerns Quebec interculturalism and particularly the dominant view of linguistic duality in French Canada, both in Quebec and in francophone minority communities, because it centres, not on individual freedom, but on the notion of community, in this case, a language community.
The role of the state is to ultimately protect the community even if that means restricting some individual rights and freedoms. Under Quebec's style of interculturalism, cultural integration happens interculturally, meaning between cultures, and so immigrants interact with an existing community, in the case of Quebec, a francophone one. Immigrants are therefore encouraged to integrate into that community and participate in public life, which takes place in French.
In Quebec, that has resulted in a certain number of laws that impose restrictions. And these restrictions have traditionally been difficult for English Canada to understand, precisely because its laws put protection of individual freedoms above that of the community and language. Most of the policies in question govern language in schools, parents' obligation to send their children to French-language schools and, obviously, commercial signage.
I am only touching on this, but this type of immigrant integration model is not applicable to francophone communities because people cannot conceive of protectionist laws like these in the absence of a government to implement them. And francophone communities outside Quebec do not have their own government. While they do have associations that represent them, they are not governments. Nor is there a place where such policies protecting the French language could apply in a context where rights are associated with the individual. It becomes hard to impose a measure requiring francophone immigrants to integrate into francophone schools. So someone who comes from French-speaking Congo would have to attend a francophone school, whereas that obligation would not apply to someone from Nigeria. So it is difficult to apply and not really practical. And I do not think that is what francophone communities would want either.
Coming back to the first model I am getting to my second point and the little diagrams I included. I wanted to show that, from our research into the trajectory followed by francophone immigrants in regions across the country, we systematically observed the same pattern when services are made available in French, but provided by organizations that are either bilingual or anglophone. That has been the dominant federal model until just recently. I think we are seeing an awakening, and I will come back to that at the very end of my presentation. On the whole, however, what was happening was non-francophone organizations who are not very familiar with local francophone communities were the ones providing French-language settlement services.
And what immigrants have told us is that they find members of the francophone population to be especially welcoming when they meet them, but francophone communities do not provide any settlement services, and if they do, immigrants do not know about them. And as a result, they receive services in either English or French from anglophone organizations that have no knowledge of the French-language school system or other French-language institutions. They are not familiar with caisses populaires or francophone community centres, and it is not the role of these organizations to know them.
The outcome, then, is that new immigrants learn about English-Canadian culture in their language classes because they are provided by English-language organizations. These immigrants have trouble establishing social networks in French because they are not introduced to the local French-speaking community. At the end of the day, although these organizations may provide services in French, the focus is on integration into the anglophone majority; these organizations cannot offer services to help immigrants integrate into francophone communities because they do not have that knowledge.
And now for the last part of my brief and my presentation. In the absence of specific policies governing this type of activity, what we have seen emerge in various francophone communities across the country is a multitude of organizations that have started providing that kind of service. This may constitute a new immigrant integration model, one focused on integration within the local francophone community.
The little diagram shows how, at the neighbourhood level, a francophone community agency can help a French-speaking immigrant settle in a neighbourhood with a higher proportion of francophones, because part of what settlement service providers do is help people find housing. So, within the neighbourhood, these organizations provide significant help to immigrants as they undertake basic activities of community living. For instance, they help immigrants register for French-language schools, put them in contact with local caisses populaires or banks, and facilitate their participation in French-language recreational activities, such as joining a community sports league or soccer team. All of these activities enable immigrants to build a social network within the existing local community. In my view, that is the way to promote social integration and a sense of belonging within the community. At least, that is what our work has shown.
I am almost out of time, but I wanted to focus on this element because it is the most important to understand. The importance of intervening at the community, rather than individual, level may not be immediately obvious to most people, so I have made a few concrete recommendations.
If I can have just a minute, I want to pick up on the idea that the main obstacle to the integration of francophone immigrants into minority francophone communities is institutional practices. The reason is the lack of support for small, local francophone agencies providing assistance with integration at the community level. In concrete terms, that means viewing these agencies as groups that can remain separate and independent from anglophone agencies, within the same community. For the federal government, it also means devising a distinct funding model tailored to communities. And that is not easy in a context where language equality trumps community equality. Approaching services from the perspective of community equality makes it possible to tailor funding to the community targeted.
Lastly, it is paramount that these initiatives remain local, because our social network starts within the community. The various francophone immigrant networks in every province across the country invest extensive networking efforts in these local initiatives, in coordination with the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, or FCFA. That coordination is key to improve and share ideas and best practices. At the same time, however, the initiatives must remain at the local level to prevent some centralizing organization from standardizing practices, because every community is unique.
The Acting Chair: Thank you, madam. Ibrahima Diallo now has the floor.
Ibrahima Diallo, President, Table nationale de concertation communautaire en immigration francophone: Thank you kindly, honourable senators, for inviting me to appear before you today. I am the president of the Table nationale de concertation communautaire en immigration francophone. Our issue table is relatively young, only launched in the fall of 2013, by the FCFA. It is part of a new community governance structure for francophone immigration. And against that backdrop, we work to achieve the objectives set out in the 2006-13 strategic plan and to ensure their continuity.
The role of our national issue table is to identify the challenges and priorities related to francophone immigration, to align efforts across the country and to bridge the gap between communities and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, or CIC, at the federal level.
Twelve members who represent a wide spectrum of stakeholders make up the national table, including myself as president. I represent the community on the committee established by CIC and Communautés francophones en situation minoritaire, known as the CIC/CFSM committee.
Making up the issue table are Suzanne Bossé, Executive Director of the FCFA, who leads community governance coordination for francophone immigration, as well as two executive directors representing national organizations, Jean Léger from the Réseau de développement économique et d'employabilité Canada, and Jocelyne Lalonde from the Association des universités de la francophonie canadienne and the Consortium national de formation en santé.
The executive directors of three provincial organizations also sit on the table: Denis Perreaux, representing Alberta, Daniel Boucher, representing Manitoba, and Gaël Corbineau, representing Newfoundland and Labrador.
We have two francophone immigration network coordinators, mentioned earlier, Geneviève Doyon, from the Yukon, and Alain Dobi, from central southwestern Ontario, as well as a researcher, Christophe Traisnel, of the Université de Moncton.
And, of course, since we are dealing with immigration, we have appointed two members representing ethnocultural communities, Moussa Magassa, of British Columbia, and Franklin Leukam, of Ontario.
Seven of the table's 12 members also represent the community portion of the CIC/CFSM committee, co-led by the FCFA and CIC.
I should tell you that the table was only launched this past fall and met for the first time on November 25, 2013, so we have only just begun our work.
That said, however, our activities are aimed at continuing the collective efforts undertaken by the communities since the early 2000s. We also work towards achieving the francophone immigration objectives mutually agreed upon by the communities and the government under the strategic plan to promote francophone immigration within the communities.
I would like to make a few comments on the recent changes to the immigration system and the impact they have had on the communities. Right off the bat, I want to say that the national table and the communities both recognize the new approach being taken by the government with respect to economic issues and economic immigration. And they want to pursue those objectives and build on those efforts, in collaboration with the government, precisely to promote francophone immigration.
We have been working to encourage immigration to our communities for more than a decade, and we continue to play an active role in the new immigration system. Although the issue table has not yet studied the impacts of the recent changes on francophone immigration specifically, we did spend a full day, March 13, discussing the related challenges and opportunities, as well as the steps that both communities and the government need to take.
We identified four priority areas: promotion and recruitment, integration and enhanced immigration networks, research, and communication.
Now I would like to share some of the observations we made in regard to promotion and recruitment, in particular. There was unanimous agreement among the members of the national table that the expression of interest system, recently renamed Express Entry, needs to include a francophone component. And that component needs to be in place at the very beginning of the implementation process, January 2015.
Table members were also unanimous on the importance of stepping up efforts not just to recruit French-speaking immigrants, but also to promote the communities.
Furthermore, we believe in the importance of establishing the necessary services and mechanisms to attract more foreign student immigrants to our francophone communities and encourage them to stay there. Foreign students are not currently eligible to access CIC's reception and settlement services.
The new system places more emphasis on overseas services. And in light of that, from an integration standpoint, it is imperative that pre-departure French-language services be established immediately to give prospective immigrants a real sense of what our communities have to offer and the French-language services available.
It is also imperative that French-speaking immigrants be given access to language training and evaluation, and the opportunity to have their credentials assessed in French, just like English-speaking immigrants.
With respect to economic integration, we expect some immigrants to have an easier time entering the labour market. Others, however, will still need training to upgrade their skills or find a job. To that end, mentorship programs will no doubt play a key role.
As for strengthening francophone immigration networks, these networks are crucial instruments in bringing together the francophone immigration stakeholders in nine provinces and two territories. If francophone immigration networks are to continue fulfilling their mandate and tackling the challenges under the new immigration system, communities and governments must work together to strengthen the networks by investing in supporting tools and mechanisms, and in reception and settlement capacity.
The research component is also very significant. francophone minority language communities need access to conclusive data in order to plan activities and undertake efforts that more effectively support French-speaking immigrants and their host communities. With that goal in mind, the issue table, together with the CIC/CFSM committee, would like to set research priorities and improve research capacity in the area of francophone immigration. And those efforts should be undertaken on a national scale.
It is our view that research collaborations should be encouraged and that research efforts should target the full spectrum of needs, as identified by all the stakeholders: decision makers, community workers and researchers. We also believe that research findings and data should be shared and circulated more effectively.
These are just a few examples of the issues and opportunities stemming from the recent changes to the immigration system and the impacts on francophone minority communities.
They also give you a general idea of the projects we are working on, together with our government partners on the CIC/CFSM committee, including provincial and territorial stakeholders, whose involvement we believe is paramount.
Certainly, we expect the federal, provincial and territorial governments to take action, but we also want to work alongside them to achieve our common objectives and encourage French-speaking immigrants to come to our communities.
In that vein, I fully support the recommendations made by the individuals you have been in contact with. To conclude, I do, however, want to reiterate the importance of promoting our communities and stress that the government should undertake efforts to that end, on both a national and international scale. As we see it, that is a crucial element. Resources also need to be made available to help immigrants learn the language spoken by the majority. Bear in mind that our situation is rather unique. The desire to attract French speakers to francophone minority communities poses some challenges, and the best way to help them face those challenges is to ensure they can speak the language of the majority, thereby facilitating their integration.
Another important consideration, as far as recommendations go, concerns students and secondary migrants and the services they need access to. I think that is also important data to have. They represent client groups whose needs are not being addressed right now. As for the students currently being targeted, this would be a great way to help expose them to services that could help them become immigrants and integrate successfully into our communities.
I want to follow up on the francophone dimension I talked about earlier. It is an essential element. We could even talk about two dimensions so as not to lose sight of the francophone element and ensure that it, too, factors into the process for all immigrants.
I will wrap up by touching on the issue of skills and credentials. In terms of foreign credentials, francophones should have access to the same assessment tools available in the majority language to ensure they have the knowledge they need to work in their field with competence and professionalism.
Before I finish, I would like to leave you with an important point. This is about more than just numbers. That is the reality. We do have targets for francophone immigrants, but I think this goes beyond numbers because the French fact is one of this country's underlying values. I believe balance should factor into all of our efforts to promote immigration: it will bring even more value to our country because it will make people feel at home here and help them integrate successfully. They will do more than just contribute to the francophone community; they will personify one of our country's core values. We all need to work together to ensure their immigration is successful.
So, in that respect, even though we are talking about economic immigration, we still need to convince our employers that seeking out francophone immigrants also enriches us as a nation. This is not just a matter of numbers, but a matter of values. I will end on that note. I look forward to answering your questions. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Diallo. Now, we will hear from Professor Tracey Derwing. Ms. Derwing, you have the floor.
Tracey M. Derwing, Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Alberta: Honourable senators, thank you for inviting me.
I have been asked to speak on recommendations that Erin Waugh and I made in a 2012 overview, the language skills and the social integration of Canada's adult immigrants. This review focused on immigrant learners of English, but most of the recommendations apply to learners of French as well. The recommendations were made prior to the new immigration policies regarding language proficiency levels but some are all the more important in view of the changes.
The first recommendation was to expand the content and the clientele of the federally funded language program, Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada. In our own research, former LINC students told us there was an insufficient focus on speaking and listening skills in their language classes. CIC's own review of LINC programs identified the same problem. Learners need more support in developing oral fluency and improved pronunciation skills. Some of the instruction on grammar, vocabulary and writing might be handled through e-learning to devote more class time to face-to-face communication, where meaningful interactions can take place.
We also recommended increased instruction in pragmatics or the secret rules of language. Pragmatics is the "soft skills" or the culturally determined ways of saying things. How a person apologizes, makes a request or compliments someone is affected by what is considered appropriate in a given context. So, for example, how one refuses an employer's request or what one says to make small talk will differ radically from one culture to the next.
Some pragmatics instruction currently takes place in higher levels in language instruction that is funded by the government, and in workplaces, but more could be incorporated at lower proficiency levels. Organizations such as the Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council have developed useful teaching videos for pragmatic content. These materials are necessary, because when speakers of an official language come to Canada with high enough proficiency levels of English or French to get a job, they often have insufficient knowledge of pragmatics to keep the job or to get promoted to a better job. Newcomers often have limited understanding of the socially determined Canadian workplace culture, despite high language scores. This promises to become a growing problem with the new immigration policies. Skilled workers will have the formal language but not the pragmatics and there will be serious issues in the workplace because newcomers will not have had any of the diversity training, the pragmatics and the Canadian sensibilities that are developed in their language courses that are currently available. We know this already from research out of Manitoba, where they found that 80 per cent of newcomers who had official language proficiency before arrival took language training after arrival to function in the workplace and the community.
We also suggested volunteer programs within the federally funded language training programs in which language learners are placed in volunteer contexts where they will get interaction opportunities and perhaps build additional social capital, along with instructional support from their teachers. Pilots of such programs are quite promising.
We recommended changing the clientele for language instruction to include both citizens and temporary foreign workers. Most citizens who were unable to take language classes during their first years in Canada were working to support their families or staying home to care for young children. If circumstances change once newcomers have become citizens, it is un-productive from a social integration standpoint to deny them language classes. Temporary foreign workers who have been paying into Canadian social programs should have access to language classes as well — some provinces provide other supports, but language should be a priority.
Our next recommendation was to expand the Community Connections program to increase social integration. Community Connections, which was formerly called the Host program, pairs newcomers with local volunteers to help establish an initial social network to give newcomers a chance to practice speaking and listening and to learn about some cultural norms and traditions while at the same time the Canadian volunteers gain an appreciation of the newcomer's experiences. This is a highly popular program but underfunded, and there are long waiting lists for newcomers to be matched with volunteers. We believe CIC should survey settlement providers as to how best expand this mutually beneficial program.
We recommended that immigrant parents be included in school districts' activities to promote social integration. Sometimes parents can't be involved in their children's school activities because they are holding down two or more jobs, but whenever possible schools should provide opportunities for parents to understand the Canadian school system and the values that underlie it.
Next, we recommended that successful initiatives should be shared and there should be coordination of social integration activities of the provinces, municipalities and local immigration partnerships through federally funded conferences. Many strong initiatives are happening across Canada, but we are not particularly good at sharing this information. It's one thing to post something on a website, but it's another altogether to be able to hear and see useful practices and to be able to ask questions in person. The Metropolis National Conference is still held annually and it's an ideal venue for the sharing of best practices. We recommend that the federal government continue to support this conference to disseminate this useful information.
Finally, the most important recommendation of all, but also the most difficult to coordinate, would be to see the development and implementation of awareness-raising initiatives for people born in Canada on the benefits of immigration. Brief training on how to listen to accented speech and brief but positive encounters with non-native speakers of an official language have been shown to improve people's willingness to communicate with newcomers. Such awareness-raising activities can enhance harmony within workplace and communities.
My time is up, so I will stop there.
The Acting Chair: The first senator who asked to speak is Senator McIntyre.
Senator McIntyre: Thank you, Madam Chair. Ms. Gallant, I noticed that you were a professor at Université de Moncton in New Brunswick prior to 2008. I hope you enjoyed that experience. I also see that, in 2013, you wrote an article on cultural diversity, and more specifically, francophone communities in New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia.
According to your study, francophone immigration does not affect every community in the same way. In the article, you say that when members of the community were specifically asked whether they thought immigrants who had settled in their immediate neighbourhoods should be allowed to call themselves Acadian or Franco-Saskatchewanian, community members became a bit more close-minded.
In your view, is the idea of cultural diversity different in New Brunswick versus Ontario and British Columbia, or is it the same in all three provinces?
Ms. Gallant: First of all, yes I taught at Université de Moncton for five years. I was born in Moncton. My father is one of the Prince Edward Island Gallants. The interesting thing about the research I conducted on New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia, together with Christophe Traisnel and Isabelle Violette of Université de Moncton, and your comment about Franco-Saskatchewanians, is that it pertains to research I did on Acadian, Franco-Saskatchewanian and Franco-Manitoban communities, with the help of funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
You raise an interesting point. The local definitions of what it means to be Acadian or Franco-Saskatchewanian vary tremendously from place to place. Generally speaking, people are very open and receptive to immigration, contrary to some stereotypes out there. It all comes back to the importance of viewing initiatives at the local level, as I said earlier. I think the work being done by the national issue table, as outlined by the representative today, is instrumental in the sharing of best practices, something Ms. Derwing also highlighted. But real social integration happens at the local level under conditions that vary greatly, not just from one province to another, between French-speaking Saskatchewan and Acadie, which is not a province, but also within the various communities in each province.
So we observed certain differences in how people defined a true Acadian or a true Franco-Saskatchewanian. One of the fascinating criteria that emerged only in French-speaking Saskatchewan, and nowhere else, was the importance of being active in the community. In French-speaking Saskatchewan, community involvement is a significant cultural marker that factors into how Franco-Saskatchewanians define themselves. In other words, integrating into the community successfully means being active in it, whether you are an immigrant or not. So there are local distinctions. At the same time, people are very much open to immigration. The key is to give communities the tools.
Another condition that makes a big difference is the number of immigrants in the various local communities. In Acadie, some definitions of the Acadian community are not as influenced by immigrant integration. Proportionately speaking, given that the francophone community is sizeable, fewer immigrants settle there and therefore have less of an influence on how locals view the integration of immigrants. In comparison, 25 per cent of British Columbia's French-speaking population was not born there. So the cultural diversity is automatically more natural. That is one of the factors affecting how people view integration into the community.
The Acting Chair: I would like to ask Mr. Diallo and Ms. Derwing whether they have anything to add in response to your question.
Ms. Derwing: I think it's important to note that really things do happen at a grassroots level. I completely agree that there needs to be a sharing and cooperation at a greater level, but in the end what happens in individual communities is going to depend on many factors within those communities. Still, there is a possibility to share best practices across the country.
Mr. Diallo: It is often said that it takes a community to make an immigrant feel welcome. And that is an essential component in social, cultural and economic integration. It takes an entire community and that community must have the right support to welcome immigrants.
Senator McIntyre: My next question is for all three witnesses. The government intends to put the expression of interest system in place next year. As I understand it, the system should serve as a more direct link between immigrants and employers. And people will apply online.
Under the expression of interest system, Canadian employers will be able to select immigrants based on the skills they are looking for. The system should speed up the processing of skilled workers' applications and allow for a better response to the labour market needs in the country's different regions. New Zealand and Australia already have similar systems in place.
Would you care to comment on the new system? Mr. Diallo can lead us off.
Mr. Diallo: Thank you very much for that most relevant question. Indeed, the idea behind the expression of interest system is to seek out prospective immigrants with skills tailored to Canada's labour market needs. It is certainly commendable to bring in immigrants who can say they have jobs waiting for them here. There is no better scenario.
I would, however, like to highlight a few things. The application process will be done online, but not every one of those people has access to the same up-to-date technology we have in Canada.
Let us look at the situations in New Zealand and Australia. Whenever we talk about immigration, we always refer to those countries. The first major difference, however, is that both of those countries have just one official language, English. Mind you, Canada has the good fortune, and not misfortune, of having two official languages. That is precisely why I brought up the whole issue of the French dimension earlier and the need to incorporate it in our efforts.
It is a fact that the majority of jobs in francophone minority communities are in anglophone settings, over 95 per cent. Consequently, our big challenge will be urging anglophone employers to seek out francophone workers. That is a huge challenge. We really need to think long and hard about how to address the issue so as not to keep making the francophone-anglophone imbalance worse.
Indeed, the FCFA has done a tremendous amount of work. It toured the country to convince employers of the importance of seeking out skilled workers, even though they are francophone. As soon as they have the skills, all francophones have to do is learn the other language, and then they become active members of the community.
Let us consider that aspect for a moment. While it would give certain people access to Canada, it should not be the only criterion, since we are already starting off on unequal footing, despite the structure of our economy and employers. In that context, if a francophone immigrant chooses to settle in a francophone minority community, employers should not be afraid to hire francophone immigrants.
Take, for example, employers who hire Mexican workers. Mexicans will never ask for services in French. Someone from Senegal might ask for French-language services. And employers are worried about things like that.
How can the government, communities and all the relevant stakeholders respond? They can ensure that the individual's skills are valued, no matter what their native language. That is a very important element, and that is what brings me back to the whole issue of language training, which would give those francophones a leg up.
Ms. Derwing: First, I have some real concerns for all immigrants in this database because of the role of the employers. I don't know who and how carefully all of that is going to be monitored, but I'm very concerned that employers will be driving immigration even more than they do now. We've already seen the kinds of problems that have arisen with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and those problems are associated with employers.
I don't know exactly what CIC plans to do to ensure that there are safeguards for all immigrants in those databases, but I really have serious concerns about that. I hope they have thought in advance and considered some of the problems that have arisen with other difficulties that we've seen with employers and immigration programs in the past.
I also think that, in the case of francophone minorities in smaller centres outside of Quebec and New Brunswick, they should be allowed to learn English. If they want to take a job in a location where it's unlikely that there will be jobs in French, they should be allowed to be welcomed into the francophone community to be given some services within the francophone community, but to also be given access to English. I think you've heard from immigrants themselves who have spoken to this committee and said that they ended up moving to Saskatchewan and northern Ontario in order to be able to access jobs that were available in English.
Ms. Gallant: I want to come back to something. It is important to give francophone immigrants access to language training in both official languages instead of making them choose only one. For a while, there have been some restrictions on that, but they may have loosened. That must remain a priority for these immigrants, so they can acquire English skills for the job market and, at the same time, take refresher courses in French, even though French is their mother tongue or a language they can speak. Receiving extra French training would simply help them become familiar with local dialects and all the cultural elements that go beyond the ability to speak a language, such as local usage. What is more, language training in both French and English would provide an excellent opportunity to teach immigrants about the culture of the host community in general.
My work focused mainly on integration, as opposed to recruitment, but I do share Ms. Derwing's concerns about the fact that employers would be in control of the selection process. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but that is the idea behind the new measures. As Mr. Diallo pointed out, there is a serious problem in that connection, because the previous programs in some situations, in some provinces, such as the nominee program, were tailored and allowed for community-based selection. In particular, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse had devised some rather innovative practices for selecting the immigrants they provided support to, in terms of finding a job, choosing their desired community and so forth. Obviously, use of a standardized employer-led online system will influence the selection opportunities non-employer groups have. Ms. Derwing's concerns are relevant to all immigrants and to the equal opportunity of francophone immigrants and, therefore, to the fundamental equality of both Canada's francophone and anglophone communities.
The Acting Chair: I just want to let you know that Senator Beyak has just joined us.
Senator Chaput: My first question is for Ms. Gallant, but I would like the other two witnesses to comment as well. Ms. Gallant, you made two recommendations, the first being support for settlement services provided by local organizations in the host community, and the second being new rules on language training. We have just talked about the training aspect and official language learning.
Regarding francophone minority communities outside Quebec — I will use the example of Manitoba — you say the following: "Moreover, both English and French classes ought to be delivered by the francophone community".
Could you elaborate on that and tell us why it is important for a community that receives French-speaking immigrants to also offer them English courses? In Manitoba, for instance, the knowledge of English is a requirement for entering the job market.
Ms. Gallant: The reason English courses should also be provided by francophone organizations is that, beyond language learning — also, what Ms. Derwing said about language pragmatism is very important — in language courses, people learn so much about how Canada works and about Canadian society. The way people perceive how Canadian society and Canada work depends on the community they are part of.
So the cultural integration certainly includes the same laws and foundations, but the interpretation of Canadian history varies from one community to the next. So integration into the francophone community also goes through learning about that community's view of Canadian history, the way Canada operates, and so on. That is the first aspect.
The second aspect has to do with the fact that language courses help people make friends and meet others they get along with. If francophone immigrants attended the same courses as anglophone immigrants, the former would create social connections only with the anglophone community. I am not saying they should not establish ties with the anglophone community. However, since language courses are provided over a fairly long period of time in places where immigrants make their first friends, and those friendships sometimes last a very long time, it is important to provide those courses in a context where immigrants are surrounded by other francophones who will eventually integrate the francophone community. Beyond the language itself, the context courses are provided in is also important.
Ms. Derwing: I agree to a certain extent with what Ms. Gallant is saying. I think it's important for francophone immigrants, or immigrants going into a francophone minority community, to have access to some services provided by francophone organizations, but I think there's a role for cooperation with anglophone settlement agencies and so on. The anglophone settlement agencies could certainly help with advice from the francophone organizations, say on things like housing. I certainly see a role for cooperation and not a complete duplication of services.
However, the way I see it, when a newcomer arrives, especially a francophone newcomer who is in a francophone minority environment, that person has now become a citizen of that francophone community but also of that city, wherever he or she is — let's say it's Winnipeg — and that province and that country, our country.
It's not a matter of belonging to just one community; we're multiple communities. Everybody belongs to multiple communities, and it's an advantage for francophone immigrants to have connections. Indeed, some places — in Edmonton, for instance — the francophone community does offer some English-language classes to francophone immigrants because they recognize that if they don't embrace the newcomers, they'll lose them to the English community entirely.
I totally agree that it's important that there be a strong, welcoming opportunity for newcomers to integrate into a francophone community, but I think there is a strong role for cooperation and collaboration with existing settlement agencies and other language programs so that immigrants feel they're a part of the larger community as well.
Senator Robichaud: I would like to ask another question. You say that English language services or courses could be provided to francophone immigrants. But would we not lose those immigrants? Would they not join the majority community? Since they are encouraged to do so, they would no longer be part of the francophone minority.
Ms. Derwing: No. It's a way to keep people within the francophone community. I'll just give the example of Edmonton because I'm familiar with it.
Several years ago, we started to receive several francophone immigrants, primarily refugees, and they started to send their children to the francophone school system, because we have a separate school system for francophones. There was somewhat of a rejection of those children, and they ended up having a very unhappy time. Their parents pulled them out of the francophone system and put them into French immersion, which is intended for anglophones, but it was because the public school board was a little bit further ahead in terms of welcoming diversity and that kind of thing.
If you think about how francophone communities have had to survive in places like the Prairies, they had to be relatively insular in order to survive. It took a little while for them to realize that they had to start welcoming new francophones who looked different, talked differently, were culturally different, but they had to start welcoming those people or they would directly push them into the English society. The best way for them to actually maintain relationships and to pull those individuals into the francophone community would be to offer them support themselves, including ESL classes, because you can't survive in Edmonton very easily without knowing English.
The Acting Chair: I think you have a comment to make in response to Senator Chaput's question.
Senator Gallant: I would like to come back to what Ms. Derwing just said because that is exactly what I consider to be important. Integration services in English should be provided by francophone communities themselves.
The Acting Chair: Ms. Gallant, would you be so kind as to comment after Mr. Diallo, who has been waiting for his turn?
Ms. Gallant: Sorry, I did not see him.
Mr. Diallo: Thank you. This is an existential question: what must be done to help our immigrants learn English? We have some institutions, even though we are often in a minority situation. For instance, at the Université de Saint-Boniface, all of our students have access to English courses and all those enrolled in professional programs — such as nursing or social service programs — must be proficient in English to be able to work in the field. That is extremely important.
University and post-secondary institutions can also offer these types of courses, but I think the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. As Ms. Derwing said earlier, cooperation should not be overlooked. It is very important for people not to be limited only to the francophone community, where it is easier to speak French in the schoolyard. Bridges also have to be built, so that people can have access to the English community. That is how they are gradually educated. They would remain in our community, but they would also establish ties beyond it. To avoid isolation, they should be provided with opportunities to create connections outside the community.
That is why I see this situation as an anchor, but also as an opening. They are not mutually exclusive. It would be excellent if we could accomplish this. I would like to give you a very personal example. My sister-in-law has completed her business administration program at the Université de Saint-Boniface, but she is currently attending intensive courses in the anglophone community. The progress she has made has been fascinating, but she is still part of our community. These are success stories that should be emphasized.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. Ms. Gallant.
Ms. Gallant: I fully agree with what Mr. Diallo just said. This is a very important issue. Even within francophone communities, people can have access to that language training in English, which can be provided collaboratively with anglophone organizations.
Conversely, I would like to come back to a comment made by Ms. Derwing to the effect that focus should be placed on cooperation and not on a complete duplication of services in some sectors. She gave the example of housing. That is one area where it is important not to view that as a duplication of the same service, but rather as the provision of a different service. Choosing where to settle is key when it comes to being integrated into a neighborhood, and into a community.
If a francophone immigrant was alone in a predominantly anglophone neighborhood — for instance Riverview, close to Moncton — they would have difficulty integrating social, community, sports and leisure activities associated with the francophone community, as that would require additional travel. So they would gradually distance themselves from that community. However, something Mr. Diallo said is very important. I am talking about the idea of being able to remain within the francophone community, while being proficient in English and becoming immersed in the anglophone culture at work or elsewhere in real-life interactions, but certainly not when it comes to housing. The location is one of the key aspects of neighborhood integration.
Finally, I am coming back to the idea that, since francophone communities have been withdrawn for such a long time in order to ensure their survival, it has taken them a while — as Ms. Derwing pointed out — to reach out to immigration and open themselves up to diversity. I would actually say that a tremendous transformation has taken place very quickly in the communities. In less than five years, associations that represent the francophone community have completely changed their discourse and are now saying that it is important to think about immigrants and to reach out to them. Those organizations used to always refer to immigrants as "them," and in five years, the discourse has changed to embracing diversity.
This does not mean the change is reflected in the community immediately, but according to the surveys I have conducted among ordinary people who are not part of an elite or any associations, community members are already very open.
Senator Poirier: My question is for Ms. Gallant, but it also refers back to a comment made by Ms. Derwing.
You have studied the role of New Brunswick francophone schools in the area of diversity. In your opinion, what role do they play and how can they do more to help new Canadians integrate the community? Ms. Derwing talked to us a bit about how she sees our school system. Ms. Gallant, have you noted anything different in your studies, or do you have any suggestions?
Ms. Gallant: There is a little study on the New Brunswick francophone school and some research on the role schools have played the integration of families I have met over time.
What Ms. Derwing said about parent integration is very important. We must keep in mind the various views parents can have of the school's role for their child.
The problem I noted in my work on New Brunswick schools had to do with the fact that very few immigrants were enrolling in schools at that time — in 2005 or 2006. We had few parameters to help us decide how children would be integrated. Very few resources were allocated to help foster linguistic and individual integration. All that varied greatly from person to person. I am talking about the very small number of newcomers in New Brunswick.
However, I have a student who just came upon the same phenomenon in Quebec, in schools that are more accustomed to receiving immigrants. Many of the decisions made still depend on the individual in question. That is somewhat problematic when it comes to integration into schools. The teacher's perception of the student's ability to integrate into higher levels is not always based on academic criteria. The understanding of the sometimes chaotic background of immigrants, especially refugees, may be lacking. I think there is a lot of work to be done in terms of educating teachers about openness to diversity.
Ms. Derwing talked about the general population's ability to be open to new accents and to take the time to understand that an accent does not necessarily mean someone's French or English is poor. It is very important to stress that point and to make those courses mandatory for teachers, so that they would be better equipped. Even if they receive very few immigrants, those teachers play a key role in the development of the young individuals who enroll in their schools.
Mr. Diallo: This is an extremely important issue. Let us consider Manitoba's case. I have heard school principals say that the government brings in immigrants, but no one has ever told them how they should manage classrooms. There was something of an imbalance between the immigration flow and the schoolyard. No school was prepared to receive newcomers, as everything was uniform.
I think some efforts have been invested. If there is diversity in the classroom, an attempt should be made to have some diversity in the faculty. The system is becoming more open to immigrants working in education. That is essential for schools. Students have to be exposed to people who resemble them and can change this dynamic. That diversity should be part of the school administration in order to reflect the conditions that enable people to see all those differences.
The classroom, as it is currently experienced, is completely different. A young girl came to see me and asked whether I knew a specific individual. I said I did not. She told me this person was from Gabon. This tiny little girl was telling me about Africa and was familiar with it.
A silent revolution will take place in our schools and is ongoing. With some tact and foresight, those people can become citizens open to the world.
I attended the launch of a fundraising campaign organized by two Manitoba immigrants for a francophone daycare centre. I saw a dozen young people dressed in Africans clothing.
I think something is happening in terms of diversity. It is important for that diversity to be able to manifest itself at all levels of school administration and at universities, as that is where we are headed.
I just wanted to tell you about this, as it is a sign that things are going well and that the situation will continue to progress.
The Acting Chair: I am going to take the liberty of asking a few questions. The first is for Ms. Gallant.
In your research, you addressed the ability to include immigrants in Canada's francophone community. You know that the government is currently carrying out an immigration reform, where additional points will be awarded for the knowledge of official languages. Do you think that point system will facilitate the integration of francophone immigrants?
Ms. Gallant: Because more points are awarded for official languages?
The Acting Chair: Yes.
Ms. Gallant: I think integration does not happen at the selection level. It happens through the process I talked about earlier, through reception and settlement services.
As for the selection process, earlier, we discussed selection biases demonstrated by employers. Of course, I do not think that including additional points for French-language skills would harm the integration of francophone immigrants. However, that is far from being enough. I think this element cannot hurt, but it will not be enough to enhance the integration of francophone immigrants.
That said, when I talk about inclusion capacity, I am not talking about the capacity to absorb in terms of numbers, but rather in terms of representation and openness. As was mentioned earlier, francophone communities are quite mature. I think the examples given by Mr. Diallo are also very promising.
Senator Beyak: I'm not sure if my question should be to Madam Chair or to Ms. Derwing, but do we have a copy of her report? I found in northern Ontario and when I was in Montreal with my mom during Expo '67 that when people feel secure and not defensive, and they feel as though their language is being respected, they're more likely to integrate and do exactly as you've said.
You've done a report — May 2012 — that went all across Canada. Do we have that report?
The Acting Chair: I think we will try to obtain it for you.
Ms. Derwing: I can provide that report to you. It's also available on the IRPP website, the Institute for Research on Public Policy. It's available on that website, but I can provide the committee with the report.
Senator Beyak: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Senator Robichaud: Mr. Diallo, you talked about credentials that should be recognized. You were talking about professional skills, right? Did I understand correctly that it was more difficult for francophone immigrants than for anglophone immigrants to have their credentials recognized when they arrive in Canada?
Mr. Diallo: I would say the answer is yes. Ultimately, Canada develops its programs based on the English system. Canada is part of the Commonwealth. Even in African francophone countries, the system is based on this model. So, in terms of structure, it is much easier to determine equivalencies. Nevertheless, some professional associations are extremely alert. If you have certain credentials in Africa, recruiters are used to that and would ask you if you are a pharmacist, a lawyer or a doctor — whether you are educated. Canada needs you. Clearly, you would sell everything — homes, cars, cows. You would come here, and professional associations would be waiting for you.
I am not going to go back over everything that has been said about this, even by the engineers, the aerospace or civil engineers. It is very important that professional associations can be involved in the process. They have their legislation and their rules. They want to maintain their standards. When I was in Africa, I worked in my profession, as a veterinarian. I was told that I could never succeed in Canada. I was denied a visa to come here. Nevertheless, I agreed to come, I managed to find my niche and do what I had to do.
In the French system, whether in Europe or French-speaking Africa, it is true that, if you get 12 out of 20 in mathematics, you have 60 per cent, which is fine. Here, 60 per cent is barely a C. Things are calculated differently. People say that you did not have a good average in this and that and it creates an imbalance.
Now they are starting the alphanumeric system and the LMD system. Francophone countries are in the process of harmonizing their way of doing things with anglophone countries so that there is more standardization. It is obvious. If I take veterinary medicine, for example, if you are not from Canada or the United States, your degree is not recognized at all; it is as simple as that. There was a time in Manitoba when more than 50 per cent of the doctors in rural areas were from South Africa. After apartheid, everyone left; there were openings and they were accepted. However, it is just South Africa, as far as I know. I have seen Congolese doctors in Manitoba not able to practice because they studied in Africa. One Congolese doctor saw one of his students go that route through South Africa. His student could practice, but he could not. He stayed here for three years in really dire straits and then went back to Congo, to South Africa. We will see what happens.
There is a kind of ignorance about the French system; that is because of habit and because of history. I now think that things will even out; it is good that francophones, universities in particular and professional associations, are beginning to provide that recognition.
Ms. Derwing: I just wanted to add that it's not just francophones who have difficulty with their credential recognition; it's all allophones. Anybody who comes from another language background is going to have difficulty. That, I think, is in part because, although we've been talking about it for 15 years, there has not been a concerted effort made to pull all the players together, all the stakeholders from the professional organizations and from government, to work on a way to get credential recognition treated in a much better manner and to facilitate people's ability to get back into their original occupations.
Immigrants are more than willing to take additional training courses. They know that things might be somewhat different here in the way we do things. They're willing to do that, but they need the opportunity. Somebody has to bring everyone to the table to figure out how the problem of credential recognition can be solved, because we are squandering people's lives and we are squandering the wonderful talents of immigrants who come here.
Senator Robichaud: Whose responsibility is it, Ms. Derwing, to bring those people?
Ms. Derwing: I think that decision has to be made by the federal government, because the federal government is the government that is responsible for immigration. I think it's their responsibility to bring all the stakeholders to the table and say: We have to work on this.
We've been talking about it and talking about it. There are research projects as long as my arm about how we need to have a resolution to the credential problem, but nobody wants to take it on because it will be a very complex, difficult thing to do. But in the meantime, we have all these people who are underemployed. They're working, but they're not working at what they were trained to do. Maybe the new database is designed to try to do a better match-up, but I think we will still have real issues with professionals who want to come to Canada. We should be accepting them. They're people who have great talents and whose children could make great contributions to Canada.
Mr. Diallo: Ms. Derwing is right, it is not just francophones who face the barriers; others do too. We also have to remember that, in Canada, there are even barriers between provinces. If you are a doctor in one place and you want to practice in another, you have to go through a number of steps. It is the same thing for lawyers.
This is exactly what I try to tell immigrants who are in complete despair because the credentials they have acquired elsewhere are not recognized. It is a Canadian problem, not just in the federal government; provinces, territories, universities and professional associations too. At some point, people have to work together. There is nothing more tragic than seeing someone who has left his country and who is not able to find a place in his profession. I saw a specialist in nuclear medicine from Germany. He was never able to practice his profession. He had to start from scratch. The cases of people who are no longer being used by their countries of origin and are not being used by their adoptive country either are the greatest immigration tragedy there is.
Senator Poirier: Does a Canadian who has studied medicine, law or education face the same problems in other countries?
Mr. Diallo: It depends on the country, and the agreements between countries and professions. When I was young, I had Canadian teachers. My history teacher was Canadian. It depends, as I said. You cannot judge things that way. If we are talking about a professional association, if you are a doctor and you go to France, I very much doubt that you can practice there, just like a French doctor cannot practice right away in Canada, unless there are ways to arrange that, as there are in Quebec. It is the same for nurses. A Canadian nurse going elsewhere will have difficulties, for sure. Countries erect barriers around themselves, but we know that there are ways to get round them, once you are there in person. The context can change. What we are asking is to provide the elements that will allow them to be at the same level of the population they are called on to serve. We have to find a way to supervise their inclusion so that they can practice their professions.
Senator Poirier: Is there a program, a short supplemental course, that immigrants could take that would give them the equivalent of what Canada would accept?
Mr. Diallo: The professional organizations are able to decide that. You provide them with all your professional experience, your degrees. If at least they could see the equivalencies and determine what needs to be supplemented, it would give them access to the talents of people with extraordinary experience who could contribute to the development of Canada. In the case of doctors, pathological conditions are a factor.
Previously, in Canadian universities, no one even mentioned malaria. Especially now, new pathologies are appearing here with new immigrants and foreign doctors are very well equipped to treat those diseases. That is also the case with a genetic condition, sickle-cell anemia. Diseases like that are very common in Africa. Canadian doctors are not trained to treat them and it is difficult for them.
So I believe that there are talents and skills that could be put to use so that we can use those resources, especially since our population is changing.
The Acting Chair: Thank you, Mr. Diallo. Ms. Derwing, did you have an answer for Senator Poirier too?
Ms. Derwing: To address your question about whether Canadians can go elsewhere relatively easily, you might remember back about 15 years ago we were really concerned about the brain drain to the United States. A lot of professionals from Canada were going to the United States because they could get jobs there; they were more readily available there than here.
Canadians can go to the U.S. relatively easily, and so can immigrants. There have been immigrants who have come to Canada, professionals who have ended up, after frustrating stays in Canada, trying to reenter their professions who have been able to get really good jobs in the United States. The United States has a much faster, better way of recognizing credentials.
If you were a very good doctor in Italy, you could go to the U.S., but you'll get refused here.
Senator McIntyre: Ms. Derwing, you put forward the idea of bringing stakeholders together on this issue of immigration. As I understand your point, it's important to establish a concerted national strategy touching this issue.
Ms. Derwing: I think so. We've let this go on far too long. It's the professional organizations, the employers, the provinces, the universities and the governments — the federal government in particular. I think the federal government is in the best position, because they have more clout, to pull everybody together and say, "We have to work this out."
There have been some preliminary pilots in Manitoba. The provincial government worked with the engineering faculty at the University of Manitoba, and they made some progress. One province and one profession can't do it all, but there is a model. I think we should be ashamed of ourselves for inviting people to come to Canada to make contributions and let them think that they're going to be able to reenter their occupations and then have them come here and be underemployed. They still work; they still pay taxes, but they're not living the life that they were led to think they were going to come to.
Ms. Gallant: I quite agree with what Ms. Derwing said. Since today is about francophone communities, it is very important for all provinces to come around the table, including the province of Quebec. Although Quebec has its own immigration policies in a number of aspects, it has certainly developed parameters for recognizing prior experience in universities and education systems based on the French system and on various French-speaking versions around the world. That addresses the problem that Mr. Diallo raised.
It is true that it is a problem for all immigrants, especially for French-speaking immigrants. They live in one of Canada's official languages, but in provinces that are mostly English-speaking, the education systems in which they were trained are not sufficiently known. It is very important for Quebec to come to the table in order to share its skills in recognizing prior experience from the range of French-speaking countries.
Senator Robichaud: I have a follow-up to the follow-up questions. Have you seen a change in attitude on the part of the professional associations and, perhaps, the universities, and did the resistance to recognizing foreign credentials come from there?
Mr. Diallo: The example that Ms. Derwing gave about the engineers in Manitoba represents a change in attitude. After all, an engineer who is capable of repairing a Boeing in Dakar is certainly capable of doing it here. We want to make sure of the social and legislative context, of course, and there are all kinds of parameters that that adaptation implies. So there are certainly pathways that allow the adaptation to happen so that people can practice their professions.
It will come. Take disadvantaged areas, rural areas, for example, where young doctors do not want to go; there comes a point when beggars cannot be choosers and they will ask for the system to be loosened. That is how 50 per cent of the doctors in rural Manitoba came from South Africa at one stage. So it is possible.
Ms. Derwing: The attitudes do change once people are brought together.
Another example is the boom times that Alberta has been through. When we go through a boom in Alberta and there's a real shortage of people to work, that's a double-edged sword. It's a problem for employers, but then it's a good opportunity for immigrants because at that time, when we're in the midst of a boom, immigrants will be more likely to get jobs and do get employed, where they wouldn't be otherwise.
Companies that work regularly with immigrant employees often start to change their attitudes because they realize there is a substantial pool of people who have valuable skills. Some of those skills are unique in that people who come from other countries, as Mr. Diallo said earlier, have knowledge that some Canadians don't have and can solve problems that others can't.
I know of an oil company in Edmonton where there was a technique they wanted to use but it was going to utilize too much water and waste a lot of water. They had an engineer from an African country — I can't remember which one but one that suffers drought a lot — and that fellow knew exactly what to do. He suggested an innovative way to deal with the problem. They would never have gotten that from a Canadian.
Senator Robichaud: Good for him! I will continue in the next round.
The Acting Chair: Ms. Gallant, do you have anything to add to that question?
Ms. Gallant: No, thank you.
Senator Charette-Poulin: I really would like to congratulate our three witnesses. Your presentations, the results of your research and your answers to our questions are extremely worthwhile and valuable for us in the study we are conducting on changes to the immigration system and their impact on official language minority communities.
If we asked you for a recommendation after the answers you have provided, what would that recommendation be for a mechanism, run by the federal government, that would provide optimal conditions for immigrants taking advantage of the new skill-based program? What would that mechanism be?
Ms. Gallant, you have paid particular attention to young people and to immigrants outside major centers. As a senator representing northern Ontario, I would like to start by hearing your recommendations.
Ms. Gallant: You are looking at a mechanism run by the government, specifically the federal government; that is, essentially, the first recommendation on the back of my sheet, to provide financial support to, but not manage, local initiatives, which are very close to the people in terms of services designed to settle and integrate immigrants. A lot of excellent ideas are developed locally.
The federal government has a role to play in setting that priority and in emphasizing its particular importance in a minority francophone context, in a rural context. Half of Canada's francophones outside Quebec live in urban areas, but the other half lives outside the major metropolitan census areas. Especially in small rural communities and in small towns, it is important to support those initiatives without always counting the number of immigrants that have been served this year, and so on. Because the work in communities is done at a different level than just assessing what immigrants have received this year. That is support that the federal government can provide without trying to run things too much or trying to standardize them across the country. We have seen that local contexts greatly affect the way in which immigrants are integrated.
Senator Charette-Poulin: I saw your recommendation about support; that is why my question was about a mechanism. In other words, does that mean that you would not be in agreement with a mechanism run by the federal government?
Ms. Gallant: What do you mean by mechanism, as opposed to financial support?
Senator Charette-Poulin: Let me give you an example of a mechanism. In the past, for example, a number of round tables have been created for different industries, in all kinds of areas, such as the environment, research, or to look into questions about an industry, or broadcasting. Could you see a mechanism established for skill-based immigration?
Ms. Gallant: Do you mean a kind of organizational structure to manage it?
Senator Charette-Poulin: Yes.
Ms. Gallant: Okay. I think that Mr. Diallo presented the initiatives that are currently being handled at the national round table, which has very close ties with the CIC/CFSM committee. I feel that we are heading in the right direction with the idea of a structure that specifically recognizes the diversity of small local communities. This is because it is a network of networks, in the sense that, basically, at the Table nationale de concertation communautaire en immigration francophone, of which Mr. Diallo is currently the chair, there is representation from provincial networks that themselves are structures where local organizations work together. So that is a mechanism that allows access to those local practices that are certainly identified, without necessarily always wanting to interfere too much with them because they have a role to play in a structure like that. I feel that a structure that recognizes the voices of community groups and local communities would be a mechanism, a system that seems to be heading in the right direction in terms of the basics needed to integrate immigrants into minority francophone communities.
Senator Charette-Poulin: Ms. Derwing, do you have any suggestions for us?
Ms. Derwing: Yes. I agree with Ms. Gallant that there needs to be an emphasis on some of what is happening at the local level, but that needs to be shared and there needs to be a formal mechanism for bringing integration measures together, so people have a clear understanding of what is available in different contexts.
Also, I am really concerned about the new database with the employers making choices about who comes. I would encourage there to be a very careful evaluation of how that project pans out very soon after it starts. I am really worried that there may be problems with that database approach that we haven't anticipated.
Senator Charette-Poulin: Mr. Diallo, is there anything you could add from your experience?
Mr. Diallo: You mentioned a mechanism. The mechanism for me is relatively simple; it is a matter of collaboration between the federal and provincial governments and the communities. It worked very well for Manitoba and there is no reason why it could not work if we tried to expand the approach. Immigrants come to a country, to a province, and they live in a community. We must not forget the municipal level either. If those three levels begin to work together, we will be able to have successful immigration.
Senator Charette-Poulin: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Now we start the second round of questions. Senator Chaput has the floor, followed by Senator Robichaud.
Senator Chaput: Thank you, Madam Chair. A bill has been introduced in the House of Commons. The bill would amend the Citizenship Act. One of the bill's proposals is to require citizenship applicants to demonstrate their knowledge of Canada in one of the official languages. The bill then proposes to require all applicants from 14 to 64 to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of one of Canada's two official languages.
Canada has two official languages that are equal in status; official language minority communities also have equal rights. If we have to require immigrants to have sufficient knowledge of one of the two official languages, do you think we should also strongly encourage those immigrants to learn Canada's other official language? Do you believe that that we should strongly encourage that and make it easy for people do it? Basically, can we have one without the other?
Mr. Diallo: I think that you are quite right. In terms of the requirement for certain categories of people to have an adequate knowledge, meaning an adequate knowledge of French, I have often heard a little pushback in the other communities. Why should someone who speaks neither French nor English have to choose to go in one direction or the other? That is a reality. I see it more and more with our students. We have students from communities whether the mother tongue is neither English nor French and who are now registering for university. Immigrants coming here know that English is the majority language; they are going to learn English.
Immigrants also know that, if their children learn French, it will be an advantage. That is the point I wanted to raise in that whole matter of awareness for immigrants: one person speaking two languages is worth double. It gives them tools for the future. A number of them understand that and enroll their children in immersion schools or in schools where it is possible for them to learn French. We must make a huge effort to help people like that.
There is an aspect of the Citizenship Act that perhaps has not been mentioned and that I would like to emphasize. At times, people are told that they need to wait another year to become naturalized as Canadians. That requirement has an impact in the sense that we invite immigrants to come to Canada but we tell them that they have to wait. Take an immigrant coming here who is not a naturalized Canadian. I will use the example of university researchers who have to go elsewhere to present the results of their research. Take someone from Mali or Senegal. They are doing research in graduate school and they have to present the results of their research in the United States. They may not get a visa to go there.
Having a Canadian passport and Canadian citizenship is also a form of integration. Perhaps the government has reasons for delaying access to naturalization. However, it is an obstacle for immigrants working in some areas who have to become naturalized. The possibility of promotion in universities completely disappears in those cases.
We have to think about that. People have told me about it. One person told me that she has not been able to go anywhere to present her research for three years. As a result, she has not had any promotions, because she has been denied a visa three times. I wanted to raise that point, because it is part of the process.
Ms. Derwing: I would like to say a few things. First, I think encouraging new immigrants to learn both official languages, it's a nice idea, but for adults who are hoping to work full time and learn one of the official languages, I think we can't impose a second language on them. However, I think it's a really useful notion to encourage immigrant children to go into programs, either French immersion or English immersion programs. That's already happening in many parts of Canada. We see a lot of children of immigrants who are in immersion programs in B.C. and Alberta. It's becoming very popular among immigrants to do that.
I think the first generation has burden enough to learn one of the languages. To learn a second is asking, I think, a bit too much.
With respect to the Citizenship Act, there's one other thing I would like to bring up. The Citizenship Act, at this stage of the bill that's being put forward, I don't think makes any exemptions for refugees, for instance. We have a small number of refugees who come to Canada every year. Some of those people have not had an opportunity to have any formal education. We're talking about a small number of people, but we have people who are coming in who have no literacy in their first language and really struggle to learn even basic levels of an official language when they get here.
It seems to me that it would be really churlish of us as Canadians to deny eligibility to those individuals of Canadian citizenship on the basis of their limited language skills in either English or French. For many of those people they're never going to get to that level. Their children are going to definitely be proficient in an official language, but I don't think we should invite people to come here as refugees and say, "Yes, we'll help you but, oh, sorry, you're never going to make it as a citizen."
Senator Chaput: Could I ask a follow-up question?
The Acting Chair: Ms. Gallant has also asked to make a comment. We only have six minutes left, but you can ask your question and perhaps get a short answer.
Senator Chaput: No, it is fine.
Ms. Gallant: I did not really ask to speak, because I agree with what has been said. We must not demand more from immigrants than we do from other Canadian citizens. Requiring those born in Canada to have a command of both official languages is not a model either.
That is the only thing I would add. Otherwise, I think that my colleagues have already dealt with the important questions.
The Acting Chair: Senator Chaput, you have time to ask Ms. Derwing your question.
Senator Chaput: I understand exactly what you've said, Ms. Derwing. My question is one of compassion, because I've seen it happening in Manitoba. When you get refugees in and they don't speak either language and they're seniors who need health services, we cannot communicate with them. What do we do? We're not helping them either.
Ms. Derwing: I think we have to use other members of the immigrant community and use interpreters. That's what we have to do.
Senator Chaput: That's okay.
Ms. Derwing: That's fine.
Senator Chaput: Thank you.
Senator Robichaud: Ms. Derwing, you mentioned in your presentation that we should also offer language training to temporary foreign workers, but they are not considered immigrants as such; they come and they go. When they are chosen, I don't think there is any consideration given to one language or the other. I would like you to elaborate on that.
Ms. Derwing: The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has a couple of different streams. One stream has to do with agricultural workers who come on a regular basis, year after year after year, and some people have come for 25 years. While they're here they contribute towards the Canadian social network; they pay taxes. We also have temporary foreign workers who come for four years at a time and they work in all sorts of different settings and then they're supposed to go home for four years. If they want to come back they have to wait those four years and then come back.
A lot of those people really hope to stay. Some of them are able to transition, but some of them are not. Some of those individuals who come are in situations where they are completely isolated, they have no way to engage at all within the Canadian community because they have no access to English or French and they are extremely isolated.
In some instances it's bad enough that it causes safety problems at work. We know of people who have died, for instance, in Fort McMurray, temporary foreign workers who didn't understand the instructions. In the end, that whole team was sent back to China.
It seems to me that we ask for workers, but it is human beings who come. We need to think about anyone we invite to this country to work, pay taxes and provide for the well-being of this country, we owe them something back. I just feel it's wrong to bring people in and put them in very difficult situations and leave it up to employers to decide everything.
There's no real monitoring, as we've seen. We've had temporary foreign workers here in large numbers for several years now, and only now we see shock and chagrin that they're being mistreated. But they've been mistreated all along.
Mr. Diallo: I think that temporary workers clearly constitute a base. . .
The Acting Chair: Mr. Diallo, I know that you want to respond, but unfortunately we only have the video conference until seven o'clock, so we have to wrap up.
I would like to thank our witnesses for their excellent presentations today, and my fellow senators for all the excellent, pertinent questions you have asked.
I therefore declare the meeting adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)