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

An increasingly diverse linguistic landscape: Highlights from the 2016 Census

Excerpts from the StatsCan summary:

Immigrant languages show strong growth

“Immigrant languages” refer to languages (other than English and French – the national official languages) whose existence in Canada is originally due to immigration after English and French colonization. This expression excludes Aboriginal languages and sign languages, in addition to English and French.

The first results from the 2016 Census, released on February 8, 2017, showed once more that international migration is the key driver of population growth in Canada. As such, Canada’s linguistic landscape is constantly changing. In the 2016 Census, over 7.7 million people reported an immigrant mother tongue (alone or with other languages). This corresponds to 22.3% of the Canadian population.

Over 7.3 million people reported speaking an immigrant language at home. The main immigrant languages spoken at home by Canadians in 2016 were Mandarin (641,100 people), Cantonese (594,705 people), Punjabi (568,375 people), Spanish (553,495 people), Tagalog (Pilipino) (525,375 people) and Arabic (514,200 people). Proportionally speaking, the number of people who speak each of these languages individually represents between 1.4% and 1.9% of the Canadian population.

Some languages saw significant growth from 2011 to 2016. Among the languages spoken by at least 100,000 people, Tagalog (Pilipino) (+35.0%), Arabic (+30.0%), Persian (Farsi) (+26.7%), Hindi (+26.1%) and Urdu (+25.0%) experienced the largest increases. The number of people who spoke a Chinese language at home rose 16.8% from 2011 to 2016 (see note to readers).

Chart 2  Chart 2: Variation between 2011 and 2016 in the population who reported speaking certain immigrant languages, Canada
Variation between 2011 and 2016 in the population who reported speaking certain immigrant languages, Canada

Chart 2: Variation between 2011 and 2016 in the population who reported speaking certain immigrant languages, Canada

Conversely, some European languages were reported by fewer people as the language spoken at home, led by Italian (-10.9%), Polish (-5.5%), German (-3.3%) and Greek (-2.3%).

These trends reflect the changes that Canada has undergone in terms of the geographic origin of its immigrants. The number of people who speak languages from countries that are recent sources of immigration, primarily Asian countries, is on the rise. Meanwhile, the number of people who speak certain European languages—which reflect older waves of immigration—is declining.

Immigrant languages are more commonly spoken in Canada’s large census metropolitan areas (CMAs). The infographic Immigrant Languages in Canada gives a general overview of the main immigrant languages spoken in the different regions of Canada.

The population with an immigrant mother tongue is increasing across Canada

The population with an immigrant mother tongue rose in every region of Canada. In absolute numbers, Ontario (+352,745 people) and Western Canada (+414,260 people) saw the largest growth from 2011 to 2016.

In relative terms, the Atlantic provinces (+33.2%) and the territories (+27.6%) saw the largest increase in the population with an immigrant mother tongue, despite accounting for only 1.2% of this population in 2016. In 2011, these two regions accounted for 1.0% of this population.

The population with an immigrant mother tongue is largely concentrated in large CMAs, with nearly two-thirds living in the CMAs of Toronto (35.3%), Vancouver (14.1%) and Montréal (13.0%). These proportions were down slightly from 2011, when they were 36.3%, 14.3% and 13.3% respectively.

In relative terms, the population with an immigrant mother tongue experienced more rapid growth in the CMAs of Edmonton (+31.1%), Calgary (+28.0%) and, to a lesser extent, Ottawa-Gatineau (+15.5%). This growth was 10.3% in Toronto, 10.6% in Montréal and 11.5% in Vancouver.

The document Linguistic diversity and multilingualism in Canadian homes presents the main immigrant mother tongues in the large CMAs in Canada. In Montréal and Ottawa-Gatineau, Arabic was the main immigrant mother tongue. In Calgary and Edmonton, the three most common immigrant mother tongues were, in order, Tagalog, Punjabi and Cantonese. In Toronto and Vancouver, they were Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi.

Cree languages are the Aboriginal languages most commonly spoken at home

The 2016 Census of Population provides data on close to 70 Aboriginal languages.

Cree languages were the Aboriginal languages most often reported as the language spoken at home in Canada (83,985 people) in 2016. Inuktitut was spoken by 39,025 people, while 21,800 people spoke Ojibway, 13,855 people spoke Oji-Cree, 11,780 people spoke Dene and 10,960 people spoke Montagnais (Innu).

Overall, the number of people who speak an Aboriginal language at home (228,770 people) is higher than the number of people who have an Aboriginal mother tongue (213,230 people). This difference, particularly significant among youths aged 0 to 14, shows the growing acquisition of an Aboriginal language as second language. In this age group, 44,000 people have an Aboriginal language as a mother tongue, while 55,970 people speak an Aboriginal language at least on a regular basis at home.

More detailed analysis highlighting the richness and diversity of Aboriginal languages will be made available with the release of 2016 Census data on Aboriginal Peoples on October 25, 2017.

English and French are pathways of integration into Canadian societyLinguistic diversity is also measured by the growth of multilingualism in Canadian homes. Multiple languages in the homes of Canadians of all origins are becoming more common.

The proportion of the Canadian population who speak more than one language at home rose from 17.5% in 2011 to 19.4% in 2016. There were also more multiple responses to the question on mother tongue, with the proportion of people who reported more than one mother tongue rising from 1.9% in 2011 to 2.4% in 2016.

Multilingualism primarily occurs when official languages are used increasingly with an immigrant language. For more information, see Linguistic diversity and multilingualism in Canadian homes.

For example, 69.9% of people with an “other” mother tongue (reported alone) spoke English or French at home in 2016—mostly in combination with the mother tongue.

Similarly, 69.8% of people who spoke an “other language” at home (regardless of mother tongue) did so in combination with at least one of the two official languages.

Overall, 98.1% of Canadians reported that they were able to hold a conversation in at least one official language in 2016, and 93.4% spoke English or French at home at least on a regular basis.

Strong growth of Arabic in the Atlantic provinces

There was an increase in immigrant languages as mother tongue and as a language spoken at home in the Atlantic provinces. Arabic in particular saw strong growth from 2011 to 2016 and was the main immigrant language spoken at home in three Atlantic provinces.

The only exception was Prince Edward Island, where Mandarin was the main immigrant language spoken at home (2,290 people).

Montagnais (Innu) (1,505 people), an Aboriginal language, was the other language most frequently reported spoken at home in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Decline in the use of French at home in Quebec

The various linguistic indicators show an increase in other languages and in English, and a decline in French in Quebec.

Arabic was the most common immigrant language spoken at home (213,055 people) in 2016 in Quebec, up 23.7% from 2011.

English as a mother tongue rose from 9.0% in 2011 to 9.6% in 2016, and as a language spoken at home it increased from 18.3% in 2011 to 19.8% in 2016.

French saw a decline as a mother tongue (from 79.7% in 2011 to 78.4% in 2016) and as a language spoken at home (from 87.0% in 2011 to 86.4% in 2016).

Nearly half of Canadians with an immigrant mother tongue lived in Ontario in 2016

Ontario accounted for nearly half (49.5%) of Canadians whose mother tongue or language spoken at home was an immigrant language in 2016, down slightly from 2011 (50.9% for mother tongue and 51.2% for language spoken at home).

Immigrant languages spoken at home rose significantly in Ontario from 2011 to 2016, led by Arabic (+30.5%), Persian (Farsi) (+24.0%), Urdu (+21.3%), Tagalog (Pilipino) (+19.3%), Chinese languages (+17.4%) and Punjabi (+14.5%).

Asian languages see strong growth in the western provinces

Tagalog (Pilipino) is the main immigrant language spoken at home in the Prairie provinces. From 2011 to 2016, Tagalog (Pilipino) increased 123.1% in Saskatchewan, 68.3% in Alberta and 42.3% in Manitoba.

In numbers, Punjabi was the main immigrant language spoken at home in British Columbia (222,720 people) in 2016, up 10.9% from 2011, followed closely by Mandarin (202,625 people) and Cantonese (200,280 people).

Strong growth for Tagalog in the territories

The number of people who reported speaking Tagalog (Pilipino) rose sharply in Yukon (+105.4%), the Northwest Territories (+58.8%) and Nunavut (+54.5%). The main “other” languages spoken at home were Dogrib (Tlicho) in the Northwest Territories (2,005 people) and Inuktitut in Nunavut (25,405 people). From 2011 to 2016, the number of people speaking Inuktitut in Nunavut rose 12.1%.

All French linguistic indicators increased in the three Canadian territories.

Source: The Daily — An increasingly diverse linguistic landscape: Highlights from the 2016 Census

Australia: Coalition’s test likely to disadvantage those who need citizenship most | The Guardian

As the Australian government proceeds with its changes, the same issues raised by refugee advocates as in C-24:

Citizenship applicants will need to demonstrate a higher level of English proficiency if the government’s proposed changes to the Australian citizenship test go ahead.

Applicants will be required to reach the equivalent of Band 6 proficiency of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

To achieve Band 6, applicants must correctly answer 30 out of 40 questions in the reading paper, 23 out of 40 in the listening paper and the writing paper rewards language used “accurately and appropriately”. If a candidate’s writing has “frequent” inaccuracies in grammar and spelling, they cannot achieve Band 6.

Success in IELTS requires proficiency in both the English language and also understanding how to take – and pass – a test. The proposed changes will then make it harder for people with fragmented educational backgrounds to become citizens, such as many refugees.

How do the tests now work?

The current citizenship test consists of 20 multiple choice questions in English that ask about Australia’s political system, history and citizen responsibilities.

While the test does not require demonstration of English proficiency per se, it acts as an indirect assessment of language.

For example, the question “Which official symbol of Australia identifies commonwealth property?” demonstrates the level of linguistic complexity required.

The IELTS test is commonly taken for immigration purposes as a requirement for certain visa categories; however, the designer of the IELTS argues that it was never designed for this purpose. Researchers have argued that the growing strength of English as the language of politics and economics has resulted in its widespread use for immigration purposes.

Impact of proposed changes

English is undoubtedly important for participation in society but deciding citizenship based on a high-stakes language test could further marginalise community members, such as people with refugee backgrounds who have the greatest need for citizenship yet lack the formal educational background to navigate such tests.

The Refugee Council of Australia argues that adults with refugee backgrounds will be hardest hit by the proposed language test.

Data shows that refugees are both more likely to apply for citizenship and twice as likely as other migrant groups to have to retake the test.

Mismatched proficiency expectations

The adult migrant English program, where many adult refugees access English learning upon arrival, expects only a “functional” level of language proficiency.

For many adult refugees – who have minimal first language literacy, fragmented educational experiences and limited opportunities to gain feedback on their written English – “competency” may be prohibitive to gaining citizenship. This is also more likely to impact refugee women, who are less likely to have had formal schooling and more likely to assume caring duties.

Bar too high?

The challenges faced in resettlement, such as pressures of work and financial responsibilities to extended family, often combine to make learning a language difficult and, by extension, prevent refugees from completing the citizenship test.

Similar patterns are evident with the IELTS. Nearly half of Arabic speakers who took the IELTS in 2015 scored lower than Band 6.

There are a number of questions to clarify regarding the proposed language proficiency test:

  • Will those dealing with trauma-related experiences gain exemption from a high-stakes, time-pressured examination?
  • What support will be provided to help applicants study for the test?
  • Will financially disadvantaged members of the community be expected to pay for classes and materials to prepare for the citizenship test?
  • The IELTS test costs $330, with no subsidies available. Will the IELTS-based citizenship/language test attract similar fees?

There are also questions about the fairness of requiring applicants to demonstrate a specific type and level of English under examination conditions that is not required of all citizens. Those born in Australia are not required to pass an academic test of language to retain their citizenship.

Recognising diversity of experiences

There are a few things the government should consider before introducing a language test:

1. Community consultation is essential. Input from community/migrant groups, educators and language assessment specialists will ensure that the test functions as a valid evaluation of progression towards English language proficiency. The government is now calling for submissionsrelated to the new citizenship test.

2. Design the test to value different forms and varieties of English that demonstrate progression in learning rather than adherence to prescriptive standards.

3. Provide educational opportunities that build on existing linguistic strengths that help people to prepare for the test.

Equating a particular type of language proficiency with a commitment to Australian citizenship is a complex and ideologically loaded notion. The government must engage in careful consideration before potentially further disadvantaging those most in need of citizenship.

Source: Coalition’s test likely to disadvantage those who need citizenship most | Sally Baker and Rachel Burke | Australia news | The Guardian