Sajid Javid urged to act in immigration scandal ‘bigger than Windrush’

Yet another Theresa May as Home Secretary legacy:

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, is under mounting pressure to head off an immigration scandal that MPs have warned could be “bigger than Windrush”.

About 34,000 foreign students have had their visas cancelled or curtailed and more than 1,000 people were forcibly removed from the UK as a result of the English language testing scandal, which involved the government accusing tens of thousands of students who sat a Home Office-approved test of cheating.

The drive to find and deport potential cheats began during Theresa May’s tenure as home secretary, when she promised to create a “hostile environment” for migrants deemed to be in the country illegally.

Thousands of students who have remained in the UK to fight to clear their reputations have spent the past five years attempting to prove that they are not guilty of cheating, but most have struggled because the Home Office has told them they have no right of appeal in the UK and must leave the country.

Amid criticism from MPs, Javid is expected to rule on the fate of thousands of the targeted students this week.

Undercover filming in a Panorama documentary broadcast in 2014 revealed clear evidence of fraud in at least two testing centres, as students took the test, which is required as part of the student visa-renewal process.

In one, the invigilator was seen reading out the answers to a multiple choice test, while in another, fake candidates arrived to take the test on behalf of those who were due to sit the exam, with the invigilators fully aware that the students were being assisted by paid proxies.

There is no doubt that there was a well-organised cheating system operating in those centres when filming took place; what is less clear is how many people were involved in the fraud.

The Panorama reporter showed the footage to May, then the home secretary, who commented: “What Panorama has uncovered is extremely important. It’s very shocking and I want to do something about it.”

The Home Office cancelled the visas of tens of thousands of students who had taken the Toeic test, large numbers of whom protest that they did not cheat. More than 4,000 have left the country without an opportunity to prove their innocence, having been told that they could be arrested if they did not leave. Immigration enforcement officers visited the homes of more than 3,600 students, as the Home Office attempted to round up all those accused of cheating.

Many of those who believe they have been wrongly targeted have asked for an opportunity to sit a new English test, pointing out that they had no need to cheat as they speak fluent English. Some were studying for degrees in English literature, others were PhD students, and some were nearing the end of accountancy and law degrees.

Those who remained in the UK have been prevented from continuing to study and are unable to work while they attempt to prove their innocence. They are also unable to open bank accounts or rent properties. Many have had to rely on their families, who helped pay fees for their unfinished courses in the UK and are now funding their attempts to have their visas reinstated so that they can continue with their studies.

The allegation of cheating in the UK makes applying to study elsewhere extremely difficult. Most chose to study in the UK because of Britain’s international reputation as a country with good universities and a reliable justice system. Because the Toeic issue has never become headline news, many say their families at home have begun to believe they must have cheated, convinced the UK government could not make such an error.

Campaigners representing students contesting the Home Office’s allegation of cheating say most of those affected have been made unwell by the prolonged strain of attempting to prove their innocence. Many have been pushed into destitution. The organisation Migrant Voice, which has worked with dozens of those affected, says many have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Mike Gapes, the MP for Ilford South, who has advised a number of affected people in his constituency, describes this as “a bigger scandal than Windrush in terms of the number of individuals removed from the country and whose livelihoods are being destroyed by anguish and despair”. The issue has its roots in the same period at the Home Office under May, when officials were developing the hostile environment, under pressure to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands and show voters that the government was taking firm steps to control illegal immigration.

The American company that administered the test, Educational Testing Service (ETS), told the Home Office that it had conducted a voice analysis of recordings of all 58,458 tests taken in 96 test centres in the UK between 2011 and 2014 and concluded that 33,725 people cheated, and a further 22,694 people had “questionable results”. Only about 2,000 were found not to have cheated.

Stephen Timms, the Labour MP for East Ham, is sceptical about these findings. “It think it’s nonsense. There is no way that 90% of those who sat the test were cheating. Do they really believe they were presiding over a system in which over 90% were cheating? It doesn’t make sense. It’s completely implausible.

“Panorama established that a few dozen people cheated, but the way the government has responded has blighted the lives of thousands and thousands who did not cheat. All the people I’ve met feel mortified that anyone would think they would cheat.

“A number of them haven’t dared to tell their family at home they have been accused of cheating because the shame is so great. They are all in the most terrible situation. A lot of the victims are living in the shadows and are ashamed to talk about it. It is surprising there hasn’t been more uproar.”

Hundreds of court hearings have subsequently questioned the reliability of the evidence provided by ETS and the Home Office. Some students have been accused of sitting a test in one centre but have clear proof that they sat it in another. At least one of those accused never sat the Toeic test but has nevertheless had his visa cancelled with no opportunity to appeal.

Timms has been told by Javid’s office that the home secretary is still waiting for some answers before deciding how to proceed. During a meeting at the end of last year, Javid told Timms and two other MPs: “I am sympathetic.”

An all-party parliamentary group has been set up to campaign on the issue and will have its first meeting in May; MPs will talk to students, lawyers and immigration judges, researching a new investigation.

Javid told Timms in the Commons on 1 April that he was taking “this issue very seriously. I have asked my officials to review it.” Campaigners are hopeful that the home secretary may finally be on the brink of taking steps to rectify the matter.

Nazek Ramadan, the director of Migrant Voice, said: “It’s an outrage that thousands of students are still suffering, five years after the first wrongful allegations. In this country, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty – but for these students, that principle was thrown out of the window.

“We’ve heard from students, lawyers and judges that the Home Office has failed to present any evidence at all in most cases. In other cases, the evidence they’ve presented has been totally flawed. The only solution now is a political one. This was a Windrush-style textbook example of bad decision-making, but the home secretary has the power to put some of it right and give these students their futures back.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The 2014 investigation into the abuse of English language testing revealed systemic cheating which was indicative of significant organised fraud … The home secretary has listened to the points raised by MPs and other groups and has asked for further advice from the department.”

ETS was contacted for comment.

Source: Sajid Javid urged to act in immigration scandal ‘bigger than Windrush’

Citizenship Numbers 2018

The final 2018 citizenship numbers are out showing the impact of the Liberal government changes in C-6 on residency (from four out of six years to three out of five years) and the reduced language and knowledge requirements (from requiring testing of 14 to 64 year olds to testing for 18 to 54 year olds). Theses changes came into force 11 October 2017 and thus applied to the full 2018 year).

The number of both applications (259,047) and new citizens (176,303) is accordingly up significantly from previous years.

As I have noted earlier, the residency changes essentially have a one-time effect while the language and knowledge requirement changes have both a one-time effect (55-64 year olds who had been holding off applying until reaching 65) and an ongoing effect. Historically, 55 to 64 year olds are about six percent of applications (pre C-24 changes).

As always, IRCC’s management of citizenship is characterized by its roller coaster ride of deep drops and steep increases, in sharp contrast with IRCC’s steady management of immigration, with only minor fluctuations and a steady increase.

Of note as well, previous steep increases correlated with upcoming elections as suddenly resources are found to deal with backlogs (2006 and 2015 elections).

In contrast the increase prior to the 2019 election reflects policy changes (viewed of course in part through a political positioning lens).

The 2019 full-year citizenship application statistics will isolate the effects of the steep citizenship fee increases in 2014 and 2015 from the effects of the policy changes.

Lastly, IRCC has officially discontinued the quarterly management reports given other reporting requirements and the provision of more monthly reports. Unfortunately, for citizenship, the monthly reports only include the number of new citizens and not the number of applications, which are a key leading indicator.

One year later, Citizenship Act improvements lead to more new citizens – The numbers

Almost one year after the changes to residency requirements (from 4 to 3 years) and fewer applicants having to be tested for language and knowledge (from 14-64 to 18-54), the number of applications has increased.

As noted before, the residency requirement change is a one time impact, with this year being a “double year” with 3 and 4 year cohorts combined. The reduced testing requirements, primarily the 55-64 year olds, has both a one-time impact (those who put off getting citizenship) as well as ongoing.

The new “normal” will be known with the 2019 numbers:

This year, Citizenship Week (October 8 to 14, 2018) will be celebrated with 72 special citizenship ceremonies across the country. Citizenship Week also marks the 1 year anniversary of Bill C 6, which brought in important changes to the Citizenship Act, helping qualified applicants get citizenship faster.

The changes from Bill C 6 came into effect on October 11, 2017, and provided those wanting to become Canadian citizens with greater flexibility to meet the requirements. In particular, the changes reduced the time permanent residents must be physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship from 4 out of 6 years to 3 out of 5 years.

By the end of October 2018, an estimated 152,000 people will have obtained Canadian citizenship since the changes came into effect, an increase of 40%, compared to the 108,000 people who obtained citizenship in the same period the year before.

Bill C 6 has allowed more permanent residents to apply for citizenship. In the 9 month period from October 2017 to June 2018, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) received 242,680 applications, more than double the 102,261 applications that were received in the same period the year before. Despite the increase in applications, processing times for routine citizenship applications remain under 12 months.

Source: Taking Canadian Citizenship to New Heights This Citizenship Week

Lost for words: One in every 20 Torontonians can’t speak English or French, study finds

Interesting data, although it appears that in percentage terms, no significant change. As one would expect, lack of official language more prevalent among seniors, women, and low-income.

Will be including this data in my upcoming riding-based analysis:

One in 20 Torontonians can’t speak English or French and the language barrier has greatly impeded their ability to find a job, be active in the community and enjoy a decent life, says a new study.

More than 132,700 Toronto residents are unable to have a conversation in either official language and they account for 20.5 per cent of the 648,970 non-English and non-French-speaking population across Canada, according to the Social Planning Toronto report which is believed to be the first ever to profile this cohort.

Census data collected between 1996 and 2016 found the number of people without knowledge of either official language has increased by more than 175,000 in Canada over the two decades, though it fluctuated only slightly as a percentage of the total population. In Toronto, the number of people who don’t speak English or French shrank by 10,000 in the same period.

In the GTA, Toronto’s percentage of non-English and non-French speakers ranks second to York Region (5.6 per cent) and is followed by Peel (4 per cent), Hamilton (1.8 per cent) and Durham (0.8 per cent).

Within the city, this population mostly resides in the west end of North York, throughout the former city of York, in the old city of Toronto and in northwestern Scarborough, which alone is home to more than 30,000 residents with no English or French.

The report found a total of 43.5 per cent of Toronto residents who do not speak an official language reported a Chinese language as their mother tongue, followed by Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Tamil, Vietnamese, Korean, Persian, Russian and Arabic. These residents also tend to live in areas where their mother tongue is common, it said.

“There is a range of diversity within the group, but we have an overrepresentation of seniors and women who don’t speak English or French,” said Peter Clutterbuck, interim executive director of Social Planning Toronto, a non-profit group that works to improve equity, social justice and quality of life. “You can’t get employment without some capacity of an official language or access services if you are unable to communicate with others. It limits your ability to be active in the community and to feel connected.”

The report, titled Talking Access & Equity, said women and girls make up almost 60 per cent of Toronto residents who speak neither official language, though they only account for 51.9 per cent of the city’s population.

While only 15.6 per cent of Toronto residents are 65 and above, 44.6 per cent of the city’s non-English, non-French-speaking population belong to this age group.

The report said both women and seniors are more likely to come to Canada as dependants and hence may lack the same official-language skills required of the principal applicants or sponsors.

Fahmeeda Qureshi was sponsored by her husband to Canada from Pakistan in 1972 when she was 18, and never attended English classes because she was busy caring for her three children, parents and in-laws.

“I was too busy to learn English because I had to look after everyone else,” said the now 66-year-old, who spoke little English when she arrived and later picked up the language informally from her husband and children. “It is very important to learn English so you can communicate and do anything you want and be independent.”

Robert Koil, who came to Canada in 1992 and later founded a Tamil seniors group in Rexdale, said older immigrants without English proficiency are forced to rely on their children in their day-to-day lives as they’re often isolated from the world outside of their family.

“They don’t know other people and need help for mobility issues and health issues,” said Koil, 88, whose group organizes monthly seminars and meetings at Rexdale Women’s Centre for non-English-speaking Tamil seniors about health, diet and well-being.

“They speak in their mother tongue at home, stay with their children and are afraid to speak English because they are embarrassed by their English,” added Koil, who unlike many of the people he helps, spoke flawless English when he arrived in Canada.

Jenny Huang moved to Canada from China in 2009 with her daughter and husband.

“I only started learning English in junior high (in China) and knew just a few English words when I came,” Huang said in Cantonese. “I go to English classes but it’s hard to learn a new language as an adult. I can understand better than I speak.”

With limited English, Huang said she also has limited job opportunities and gets by working in restaurants and garment factories.

The report found 35.7 per cent of Torontonians with no English or French had a household income below the poverty line compared to 20.2 per cent of residents overall. The unemployment rate for residents without official-language ability was three percentage points higher than the Toronto average.

Source: Lost for words: One in every 20 Torontonians can’t speak English or French, study finds

Australia’s citizenship program should focus on Indigenous introduction, Darwin linguistics teacher says

As IRCC prepares the revised citizenship study guide, with what I understand extensive consultations with Indigenous peoples (to be released later this year?), some interesting reflections from Australia on improving the understanding of Indigenous peoples and new citizens, and language:

As Ganesh Koramannil passed through Sydney Central train station in 2004, a man approached and asked him for $2.

It was an interaction he would have long forgotten, except the man was the first Indigenous Australian Mr Koramannil had ever met.

It could have remained among his only insights to a culture with more than 60,000 years of history, had his wife not turned down a job in Canberra to take up one in Maningrida, 500 kilometres east of Darwin.

After moving to the Arnhem land community four years after arriving in Australia to study English, Mr Koramannil was finally introduced to “the most welcoming culture” he had ever come across, which he said had unprecedented similarities with his own.

“You give an Aboriginal language speaker any Indian name, they will pronounce it very clearly without any accent. Give it to the Europeans, they will give you six varieties,” he said.

“There’s linguistic similarities between Aboriginal languages and Indian languages. My mother tongue for example is Malayalam. There are sounds that are very much part of Yolngu language.

At the time of publishing, Mr Koramannil was the only Territorian to write a submission to the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment Bill 2018, which aims to toughen the eligibility requirement for new migrants to become citizens.

But Mr Koramannil said that for many migrants, their knowledge of Indigenous Australia would never extend far beyond his experience at the Sydney train station.

He said Australia’s immigration program offered no systemic way of introducing newcomers to Indigenous culture.

Instead of introducing stricter tests and eligibility requirements, Mr Koramannil has called for an “experiential” citizenship pathway, where migrants were taught about culture, history and values in dedicated sessions.

“The link to our Indigenous past and its present and future relevance [should] be included as a mandatory requirement for citizenship,” he said.

Tougher citizenship test proposed

The original bill to toughen up citizenship requirements was struck down 2017, when the Government missed the deadline for the Senate which saw it struck off by default.

The Greens, Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team had all opposed the changes.

But One Nation senator Pauline Hanson introduced it again 2018 and it was referred to a committee for inquiry.

Among the proposed changes will be a separate English language test, which will check for a ‘competent level’ of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

It would also increase the general residence requirement, meaning newcomers will need to live in Australia for eight years before applying for citizenship.

The citizenship test would also include questions about Australian values and the privileges, and responsibilities of Australian citizenship.

In April 2017, when the first bill was launched, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Federal Government was “putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements”.

The Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory wrote a submission to last year’s bill, stating that while it was important for migrants to learn English, proficiency should not be an indicator for a person’s ability to make a positive contribution.

It said the idea may have adverse impacts for those from non-English speaking backgrounds and humanitarian entrants.

“It is our experience that fluency in English to the level proposed for migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds in a stand-alone English language test is not usually gained within the period of settlement, but can be viewed as a lifelong skill,” it said.

It said many of the proposals were “at best, unnecessary and, at worst, divisive and counterproductive”.

‘Language cannot be devoid of racial identity’

During Mr Koramannil’s time in Maningrida, he said Indigenous children, who had seldom met an Indian person before, would come up to and say “You are from India”.

It fascinated him.

“I said ‘How did they know?’ You know Maningrida — 600 or 700km away from here, one of the largest standalone Aboriginal communities — and kids of six years old [recognised me],” he said.

Looking back on it, he said he believed the children had sensed a familiarity between the two ancient cultures, just as people who spoke more than one language could recognise features of languages they didn’t speak.

In his opinion, if citizenship tests focussed so closely on English proficiency, it would come at a cultural and linguistic cost.

Mr Koramannil now works in Darwin teaching linguistics at a tertiary level.

The way he sees it, language is so deeply ingrained in a person’s racial identity that selecting citizens based on their language skills is tantamount to profiling.

“[Selecting people based on] language is profiling. And these days we speak multiple languages. And especially people trying to come to Australia, very few people won’t be bilingual.”

As a linguistics professional, and former IELTS examiner, he said he’d seen many “monolingual anglophone Australian professionals” fail to get their band score in writing.

The only reason he could see for such a test was to keep people of certain backgrounds away.

“The question is why are you trying to keep people away? Do keep people away on character for example, criminal background and that. But language is racially profiling,” he said.

Mr Koramannil said forming connections with Australia’s culture, values and history should instead form the basis of citizenship.

He believes newcomers should spend some of their time in Australia prior to becoming citizens learning about the country’s past, culture and values.

He has suggested ‘cultural welcome centres’, where Indigenous people could meet new migrants and explain their perspective of Australia to them, acting as “cultural translators” and helping forge connections.

Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is due to file a report by December.

The ABC has contacted the committee for comment.

Source: Australia’s citizenship program should focus on Indigenous introduction, Darwin linguistics teacher says

Australia: Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge wants new English language test for migrants

Unclear exactly who this will apply to beyond economic immigrants who most likely largely meet this requirement already given their version of express entry (which Canada largely was inspired by). Dependents of economic immigrants? Refugees?

But a shift from international tests to testing for conversational English has merit. But as always, the devil is in the details:

MIGRANTS could face a primary school level conversational English test as a requirement to becoming permanent Australian residents and citizens.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said speaking English was the key to integrating in society and engaging with the economy and education.

“Everyone should recognise we all have a vested interest in being able to converse and engage in the national language,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Hobart on Thursday.

He said the initial goal of primary school-level English was reasonable, saying it was an obvious measure to help migrants achieve in Australia.

“It is plainly in everybody’s interest that everyone, ideally, should have English language skills,” Mr Turnbull said.

Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge said Australia could move to a locally designed test focusing on conversational English, rather than using international exams.

“If you have a lot of people not speaking the language then you start to get social fragmentation and we don’t want to see that happen,” Mr Tudge told Sky News.

He said the government was considering extending the test to make it a requirement for permanent residency.

“We’re looking at whether or not we can have a reasonable, basic conversational English language requirement at that stage,” Mr Tudge said.

“We want people to be able to interact with one another, work together, play together and continue to contribute to Australian society.”

Australia is approaching a million non-English speakers and the increase is concerning, Mr Tudge said.

He wants to avoid “parallel communities” developing, which he said were an issue in some European countries.

“The secret to our success is we’ve largely had integrated communities where people have blended together regardless of where they’ve come from,” he said.

It’s not the first time Mr Tudge has flagged the importance of English for migrants.

In March he suggested migrants must demonstrate they’ve made an effort to integrate before becoming citizens, steps which could include joining a Rotary Club or a soccer team.

Any changes would need to pass parliament, but that is by no means guaranteed.

Previous changes to citizenship laws were blocked in the Senate last year and fresh talks with cross bench senators would be needed.

Source: Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge wants new English language test for migrants

Des examens de français mieux adaptés

Appears to have been a comprehensive and thoughtful revision:

Finis les corrections trop sévères et les thèmes trop vagues. Mieux adapté au candidat, l’examen de français obligatoire que les immigrants doivent réussir pour devenir membres d’un ordre professionnel vient d’être entièrement revu pour faciliter la réussite. Et déjouer les tricheurs.

« L’ancien examen n’était pas conçu pour évaluer la compétence langagière liée à la profession », reconnaît Danielle Turcotte, directrice générale des services linguistiques à l’Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF). « Alors que maintenant, tout est conçu pour que les candidats se sentent directement impliqués dans un processus lié à leur profession, à travers une étude de cas. »

Autre changement important : la grille d’évaluation sera plus souple pour la correction de la production écrite, la « bête noire » des candidats, a reconnu Mme Turcotte. Ainsi, on tolérera « de nombreuses erreurs liées à la qualité de la langue », pourvu qu’elles ne nuisent pas à la compréhension. « Les virgules et les accents, ça ne compte pas [comme des fautes] », a-t-elle souligné. Si un candidat écrit « malhreuse » au lieu de « malheureuse », on comprend ce qu’il veut dire, ajoute-t-elle. De la même façon, on ne pénalisera pas un candidat s’il met un article féminin devant un nom masculin. « On n’est plus au mot à mot ou au lettre à lettre. On est dans un contexte de langue seconde. » Cela ne veut pas dire qu’une personne peut se contenter de « baragouiner » le français, avertit-elle. « On vise la compréhension globale, qui assure que la communication se fait de façon à assurer la sécurité du client ou du public. »

Une longue attente

Cela faisait des années que les ordres professionnels réclamaient pour leurs futurs membres un examen qui tienne compte de leur contexte professionnel. En 2012, le comité d’examen de l’OQLF a décidé de répondre à la demande du milieu en créant un nouveau test en collaboration avec chacun des ordres, qui devaient déterminer eux-mêmes les compétences langagières à atteindre. Des experts en évaluation des apprentissages de l’Université de Montréal ont aussi été consultés. D’où le délai de cinq ans avant d’en arriver à cette nouvelle version de l’examen.

« Ça paraît long, mais ne perdez pas de vue la démarche qu’il a fallu faire avec les 46 ordres professionnels », a expliqué Mme Turcotte. Et l’approche par compétence, ici préconisée, demeure assez nouvelle, a-t-elle ajouté.

Ce qui change grosso modo ? Avant, le candidat avait notamment à écrire un texte d’environ 200 mots portant sur une situation en milieu de travail, mais sans nécessairement de lien direct avec le quotidien de sa profession. Par exemple, on pouvait lui demander d’écrire une lettre pour souligner le départ d’un collègue à la retraite ou pour répondre à la plainte d’un client.

Cette fois, l’examen, d’une durée d’au maximum 2 h 30, se fera d’une traite, les quatre étapes — compréhension écrite et orale, expression écrite et orale — étant préalables les unes aux autres et formant un tout. Le candidat reçoit d’abord une fiche avec des consignes qu’il doit comprendre avant de passer à la seconde étape, une discussion avec un maximum de sept autres candidats de sa propre profession. Il devra ensuite écrire un texte d’après ce qu’il aura compris de la discussion de groupe pour finalement terminer son examen par un entretien avec l’évaluateur. Certaines étapes sont filmées et enregistrées.

« Tous les examens ont leur limite, mais […] les scénarios qui mettent l’accent sur la capacité à communiquer dans un contexte de travail, c’est beaucoup plus réaliste », a affirmé Marion Weinspach, cofondatrice de l’entreprise Le français en partage, qui offre des cours de français à cette clientèle d’immigrants voulant intégrer un ordre professionnel.

Si le candidat échoue ne serait-ce qu’à une seule des quatre étapes, il devra recommencer l’examen en entier et être réévalué sur toutes les compétences. Et, comme c’était le cas auparavant, il pourra recommencer l’examen autant de fois qu’il le souhaite (dans les délais prescrits par son ordre professionnel). L’examen est gratuit et il est offert depuis la fin du mois de janvier.

Des inquiétudes

Une enseignante de français se dit très inquiète de la deuxième étape, celle de la discussion de groupe où les candidats devront parler et comprendre les autres qui, comme eux, ne maîtrisent pas le français. « Ils vont entendre parler des gens avec toutes sortes d’accent et ensuite mettre par écrit des informations qui vont avoir été dites de façon imparfaite », s’est inquiétée cette professeure de plus de 20 ans d’expérience qui souhaite garder l’anonymat. L’OQLF rétorque qu’une personne animant la discussion s’assurera du bon déroulement de l’activité.

Et s’il sera plus difficile de préparer les étudiants spécifiquement pour cet examen, au moins la tricherie sera éliminée. « Avant, ils connaissaient les grands thèmes et pouvaient apprendre par coeur des textes qu’ils réécrivaient. »

L’assouplissement des critères d’évaluation pour le français écrit est « un couteau à double tranchant », croit Marion Weinspach. « L’écrit est devenu un petit peu moins exigeant, mais d’un autre côté, c’est au niveau de l’expression orale, où il y a un vocabulaire très spécifique à connaître, que ça devient plus exigeant. Être capable de lire un certificat de localisation pour un courtier ou de verbaliser un bilan pour un comptable, c’est plus difficile mais c’est plus réaliste. Et c’est ce que les ordres avaient demandé. »

La présidente du Conseil interprofessionnel du Québec, Gyslaine Desrosiers, salue la nouvelle version de l’examen, mais rappelle que tout le poids de l’intégration en français des travailleurs immigrants ne doit pas reposer sur l’OQLF. « L’examen, c’est un seul élément de la trajectoire. Il faut qu’il y ait des efforts faits en amont, par l’individu lui-même et son employeur. Le MIDI [ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion] doit aider en dégageant des budgets. » Elle met toutefois en garde contre une baisse des exigences. « Dans un contexte de mondialisation, il y a énormément de pression pour ça, […] mais la protection du public exige un minimum de fonctionnement dans la langue. Dans ce sens, l’OQLF a fait son travail et revu son examen. »

via Des examens de français mieux adaptés | Le Devoir

Erreur dans le recensement linguistique: Statistique Canada s’explique

Not an easy time before parliamentarians:

Statistique Canada avait «détecté certains changements» dans les données sur la langue à l’étape de la validation, mais «n’a pas, à ce moment-là, capté» qu’il aurait fallu procéder à une révision avant de diffuser les données linguistiques qui ont provoqué un tollé au Québec.

«Je sais ce qui s’est produit. Mais comment on a manqué cette erreur-là, c’est cette partie que je ne sais pas encore», a lâché devant les députés du comité permanent sur les langues officielles Marc Hamel, directeur général du programme du recensement.

L’agence fédérale avait déjà fait son mea culpa en août dernier, expliquant que l’erreur avait été causée par le logiciel de compilation de données. Celui-ci a inversé les réponses dans des formulaires en français d’environ 61 000 personnes, dont environ 57 000 au Québec.

La bourde avait eu pour conséquence de surestimer la croissance de l’anglais dans la province et dans certaines de ses régions, tant pour la langue maternelle que pour la langue parlée à la maison, ce qui avait inquiété politiciens et défenseurs de la langue française.

«Ce n’est pas le système qui n’a pas détecté (l’erreur). Ce sont les gens qui ont testé le système qui n’ont pas détecté que le système ne lisait pas le questionnaire de façon conforme», a spécifié Marc Hamel aux élus.

Le député conservateur Alupa Clarke lui a demandé si des têtes allaient rouler chez Statistique Canada, déplorant que «de plus en plus, aujourd’hui, on vit dans une société où on ne met jamais au banc des accusés les responsables».

«Dans un cas comme celui-là, on ne parle pas des individus, on parle des processus. Si à chaque fois que quelqu’un faisait une erreur, il était congédié, on en congédierait peut-être plusieurs. Les erreurs sont rares», lui a répondu M. Hamel.

«On a fait les correctifs appropriés pour éviter que ce genre de situation comme ça se reproduise encore. Est-ce que je peux vous dire aujourd’hui que dans les 100 prochaines années, ça n’arrivera pas encore? Absolument pas. L’erreur est humaine», a-t-il ajouté.

Au haut fonctionnaire, qui s’est défendu de «prêcher par nonchalance», Alupe Clarke a suggéré d’envoyer une «lettre diplomate» aux 5000 employés de l’agence pour leur dire de faire gaffe à l’avenir, établissant un parallèle avec son expérience dans les Forces armées.

«Moi, j’ai fait l’armée, puis nous, ça ne niaise pas, là. Il y a une discipline (…) puis quand on fait la guerre, ça marche», a-t-il lâché.

Un peu plus tôt, son collègue néo-démocrate François Choquette s’était étonné que l’agence ait diffusé les données linguistiques alors que certaines d’entre elles, en particulier dans certaines villes à forte majorité francophone, étaient clairement suspectes.

«Attendez que je comprenne comme il faut: 164 pour cent d’augmentation de la population anglophone à Rimouski, 115 à Saguenay, 110 à Drummondville. Vous avez eu ces chiffres-là, qui n’étaient pas normaux, et vous avez quand même décidé de les sortir?», a-t-il questionné.

Le directeur adjoint de la division de la statistique sociale, Jean-Pierre Corbeil, a répondu que ce n’était «pas aussi simple» et qu’il «fallait être prudent quand on faisait des comparaisons historiques», surtout compte tenu des changements survenus sous les conservateurs en 2011.

Ces données contenues dans la livraison initiale de données du 2 août dernier étaient passées sous le radar jusqu’à ce que le président de l’Association d’études canadiennes, Jack Jedwab, lève un drapeau rouge après avoir passé les chiffres au peigne fin.

Les données revues et corrigées publiées quelques jours après ont confirmé que le français avait effectivement perdu du terrain au Québec, mais moins qu’annoncé initialement, et que l’anglais n’avait pas progressé, mais plutôt reculé, dans la province.

En présentant les nouveaux chiffres, l’agence fédérale avait fait acte de contrition et reconnu que cette erreur était d’autant plus regrettable qu’elle concernait un enjeu fort délicat au Québec.

«Nous sommes très conscients de l’aspect très sensible de cette question, de ces enjeux, et Statistique Canada va corriger le tir, simplement», affirmait Jean-Pierre Corbeil, directeur adjoint de la division de la statistique sociale et autochtone, qui était aussi au comité, mardi.

Source: Erreur dans le recensement linguistique: Statistique Canada s’explique | Mélanie Marquis | National

New language and residency rules for Canadian citizenship kick in next week 

The coming into force of these changes within six months of Royal Assent is faster than the almost one year period for the C-24 changes that C-6 undoes. These will have an impact on the number of applications and new citizens.

  • The changes to residency requirements (from four out of six to three out of five years) will have a one-time impact, but with likely a small ongoing one.
  • The changes to testing ages are unlikely to have much of an impact with respect to 14-17 year olds given their time in the Canadian school system.
  • With respect to 55-64 year olds, there will be an ongoing impact. About seven percent (2013 numbers) of all applications were from this age cohort. So there will likely be both a significant one-time bump of those who have not applied over the last two and a half years given testing concerns (more than seven percent), as well as an ongoing impact of up to seven percent.
  • Fees will remain a significant barrier for lower-income immigrants, including of course refugees, and the Minister’s lack of flexibility remains of concern.

The impact of these changes in terms of any sense of pent-up demand will likely await first quarter 2018 data, with early signs from fourth quarter 2017 data:

Starting Oct. 11, permanent residents will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship if they have lived in the country for three out of the previous five years.

Also, applicants over 55 years of age are once again exempt from the language and knowledge tests for citizenship under the amended citizenship regulations to be announced by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen on Wednesday.

The changes will be welcoming news for the many prospective applicants who have been holding off their applications since the newly elected Liberal government introduced Bill C-6 in March 2016 to reverse the more stringent changes adopted by its Conservative predecessor to restrict access to citizenship.

Citizenship applications are expected to go up, reversing the downward trend observed over the last few years after the Harper government raised the residency requirement for citizenship — requiring applicants to be in Canada for four years out of six — and stipulated that applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must pass language and citizenship knowledge tests.

Immigrant groups and advocates have said the more stringent rules discouraged newcomers’ full integration and participation in the electoral process.

“Citizenship is the last step in immigrant integration. Those unnecessary obstacles put in place by the previous government are hurting us as a country,” Hussen told the Star in an interview Tuesday. “We are proud of these changes and are excited about it.”

Another Liberal reform that takes effect next Wednesday is granting one year credit to international students, foreign workers and refugees for time spent in Canada before becoming permanent residents toward their residency requirements for citizenship.

Despite the anticipated surge in citizenship applications as a result of the relaxed requirements, Hussen said the department will ensure resources are in place to respond to the increased intake. However, he insisted there is no plan to reduce the current $630 citizenship fee for adults and $100 for those under 18.

The changes announced Wednesday are part of the amendments that received Royal Assent in June, including repealing the law that gave Ottawa the power to strip citizenship from naturalized citizens for crimes committed after citizenship has already been granted as well as handing over the power of citizenship revocation to the Federal Court from the immigration minister.

According to government data, 108,635 people applied for Canadian citizenship in the year ended on March 31. Historically, citizenship applications received have averaged closer to 200,000 a year. 

Source: New language and residency rules for Canadian citizenship kick in next week | Toronto Star, Government Bill C-6 Backgrounder

Yes, the Quebec ‘language police’ does serve a purpose: Konrad Yakabuski

Good balanced commentary:

In 2013, Quebec’s language-enforcement agency made a global fool of itself by attempting to crack down on a Montreal restaurant’s failure to translate the names of well-known Italian food items on its menu into French. Thus was born Pastagate, which was so embarrassing that it forced the normally hardline (on language) Parti Québécois government of the moment to rein in the Office québécois de la langue française. The head of the OQLF even lost her job.

Since then, the agency charged with promoting French and applying the dispositions of the province’s 40-year-old Charter of the French Language, otherwise known as Bill 101, has kept a low profile. The former PQ government freed it of the obligation of having to investigate every complaint it receives, allowing the agency to use its judgment and, hence, avoid future Pastagates to the best of its ability. This rankles some French purists who think the agency, often referred to derisively by anglophones as the Quebec language police, has been neutered.

The news this week that the OQLF will no longer “systematically” reject the use of widely accepted English terms – forcing businesses to use a French alternative proposed by the OQLF on signage, in advertisements or in the workplace – won’t make it any new friends among those who think that opening the door even a crack to les anglicismes is inviting trouble. Purists argue it is the OQLF’s job to counter the use of English terms in Quebec French, not countenance it.

Indeed, it was not that long ago that Quebec French was saturated with English terms simply because the local parlance contained no handy alternative. Francophone Quebeckers would trek to their local Canadian Tire to pick up des spark plug, des wiper or un block heater. Before the advent of official bilingualism federally and Bill 101 in Quebec, market forces were such that North American manufacturers and retailers had no incentive to come up with French names for their products.

The OQLF’s work to come up with French terms was once described by one former head of the agency as “an enterprise of decolonization.” That may be a bit overdramatic. But it did allow francophone Quebeckers, especially unilingual ones, to name their reality with words they actually understood.

It’s easy for anglophones to have a blasé attitude toward the introduction of the odd French word into English. They might feel differently if they were confronted with French terms everywhere they turned, if they had to use French expressions to describe everyday occurrences in their lives, because no English ones existed.

But in a world where English is the lingua franca, that’s not a problem anglophones generally face. English tends to get the naming rights to every new scientific discovery, invention or social trend. It’s not because English is a particularly inventive language. It’s just the globe’s dominant one. But who knows? With China’s rise, that may change.

The OQLF’s move to adopt new criteria for determining whether it is acceptable to use a so-called anglicism is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that certain French alternatives will never take hold. Grilled cheese is so ubiquitous, and so universally understood, that it is senseless to force restaurants to replace it with sandwich au fromage fondant on their menus. Besides, that’s precisely the kind of overkill that subjects the OQLF to ridicule.

It’s much better for the OQLF to focus its scarce resources on creating French neologisms for the hundreds of English technical terms that are introduced every year, particularly in the high-technology sector. That is the OQLF’s main 21st-century challenge.

Canada accounts for only 7.2 million of the world’s 220 million francophones – though that latter figure includes so-called partial French-speakers, largely in Africa. The point is that, just as British and Canadian English differ in many ways (what we call a truck they call a lorry), Quebec French differs from the French spoken on other continents. The OQLF has been a leader in modernizing the French language and the French themselves have taken note.

“To remain alive, a language must be able to express the modern world in all its diversity and complexity. Each year, thousands of new notions and realities appear that must be understood and named,” notes the mission statement of France’s Commission d’enrichissement de la langue française, which was created in 1996 and modelled after the OQLF. “The creation of French terms to name today’s realities is a necessity.”

Source: Yes, the Quebec ‘language police’ does serve a purpose – The Globe and Mail