Fight for fewer words: Pierre Poilievre promises new law against government jargon

One of the few areas where I agree with Poilievre with respect to public facing information. Harder of course to do so in legislation and regulation.

One of the ironies is that when the previous government was writing the new citizenship guide Discover Canada in 2009, we argued for more plain language for the guide and related test but the political staffer responsible largely ignored our arguments (Discover Canada is written at a high school level, more sophisticated language than the formal CLB 4 requirement):

Pierre Poilievre is waging one of his final battles in the Conservative leadership race — one in which even his main rival is onside.

His latest target? The jargon used by the federal bureaucracy.

In a video posted to social media on Thursday, the apparent front-runner promises to enact a “Plain Language Law,” that he says would bring an end to government jargon, including in legislative documents.

Poilievre began his announcement by invoking the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the famous French author of “The Little Prince,” who once wrote a line about perfection.

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to subtract,” Poilievre said.

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “our governments do nothing but add and add and add paperwork and forms and endless red tape.”

Poilievre said his new law would ensure government publications are instead written in simple, straightforward sentences,but he didn’t explain how such a law would work — or how the bill itself would be written without using jargon.

The law would also empower the auditor general to scan government publications for the presence of bureaucratese, he says, and provide Canadians with a government website where they can report any gibberish.

He said the law would also make it a job requirement for the government to hire writers that can write plainly and adapt bilingual language training for public servants to ensure they learn the most easy-to-understand words.

As for why it’s needed, Poilievre argues government documents, including forms, are needlessly complicated because the bureaucrats who write them use overly technical language, which creates hurdles for small businesses that have to read them.

All that time spent trying to understand what the documents say adds up, he says.

The federal government already has a policy about how its communications should sound, with rules stating its messages must be non-partisan and clear. The policy came into effect in 2016, early on in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tenure.

Poilievre’s announcement Thursday sparked a rare moment of agreement with Jean Charest, the former Quebec premier whom Poilievre has lambasted throughout the race for being out of touch with the current party.

In a short statement, Charest spokeswoman Laurence Tôth wrote: “We welcome this policy announcement.”

Poilievre’s fight for fewer words appears to be one he takes personally, as he complained about politicians’ use of jargon in a speech given more than a decade ago.

Back in 2009, when the prominent Tory only had five years of being a member of Parliament under his belt, he advised young conservatives on the value of learning to communicate as a way to advance their political careers.

Poilievre, who now boasts one of the largest social media followings in Canadian politics, complained then about how few people on Parliament Hill knew how to write and speak in a way that everyday Canadians could understand.

“It is not their responsibility to decipher excessively verbose language,” he said of voters.

Poilievre instructed his 2009 audience that the best way to learn to communicate plainly is to write for newspapers — which take complex ideas and use simple language to explain them to readers — and knock on doors.

Poilievre’s skill as a communicator is one of the reasons his supporters say they are backing him. His campaign says it sold more than 300,000 memberships and many Conservatives expect he will be elected the party’s next leader Sept.10.

Voting results will be announced that evening at a convention in Ottawa.

The party announced Thursday the event will feature a familiar face as a special guest speaker: Peter MacKay.

The former cabinet minister is an elder statesman in the movement, the party says, having led the erstwhile federal Progressive Conservative party into a merger with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, which birthed the modern-day Conservative Party of Canada.

MacKay decided against joining the leadership race this year, saying he was still paying down campaign debts from the 2020 leadership contest, which he lost to former leader Erin O’Toole.

Source: Fight for fewer words: Pierre Poilievre promises new law against government jargon

Yakabuski: Official bilingualism is officially dead in Canada

Overly dramatic header but as we see in initial reactions in Quebec, recent action/inaction by the federal government, and the ever increasing gap between immigration to English Canada compared to Quebec, the trendline is not encouraging:

Statistics Canada surely did not time the release of language data from the 2021 Census to coincide with the launch of an election campaign in Quebec. But its publication of findings that confirm the decline of French within the province and across Canada are sure to light a fuse on the campaign trail as Premier François Legault calls for Ottawa to cede more powers to Quebec.

Neither did the federal agency likely consider the optics of releasing its report on the heels of the Aug. 15 Fête nationale de l’Acadie, the annual celebration of francophones in Atlantic Canada that marks the 1755 expulsion of thousands of their ancestors from the region by the British. Many ended up in Louisiana, where the French-language is today spoken by only a tiny minority of their descendants.

In May, as he revealed plans to seek full control over immigration policy if his Coalition Avenir Québec wins the Oct. 3 election, Mr. Legault warned that Quebec runs the risk of becoming another Louisiana without the ability to choose its own immigrants, including those who come to Quebec through the federal family reunification program. “It is a question of survival for our nation,” he said then.

Statistics Canada’s Wednesday report, showing that more newcomers to Quebec are using English as their first official language, will only serve to buttress Mr. Legault’s argument. The proportion of Quebeckers who primarily spoke English rose to 13 per cent in 2021 from 12 per cent in 2016, topping the one-million mark for the first time. The share who spoke predominantly French at home fell to 77.5 per cent from 79 per cent, despite extensive government efforts to “francize” new immigrants.

More than 70 per cent of Quebeckers who speak English as their first official language live on the Island of Montreal or in the suburban Montérégie region. The concentration of English speakers in and around the Quebec metropolis has long created linguistic tensions. Protecting Montreal’s “French face” is seen as imperative by most francophone Quebeckers, but many allophone newcomers to the city still gravitate toward English, sometimes even after attending French public schools.

And as Montreal goes, many fear, so goes the province. Which is why Bill 96 – the law adopted by Mr. Legault’s government in June that caps enrolment in English-language junior colleges among dozens of other measures aimed at protecting French – is seen by many francophones as a strict minimum.

Across Canada, French has been on the decline for decades despite Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s government adoption of the Official Languages Act in 1969. In 1971, French was the first official language spoken by 27.2 per cent of Canadians. By 2016, the proportion had declined to 22.2 per cent. In 2021, it fell again to 21.4 per cent. Where will it stand in 2026? You don’t need a PhD to figure it out.

The dream of a bilingual Canada d’un océan à l’autre may never have been more than that. But the reduction of French to folkloric status everywhere outside Quebec and in pockets of New Brunswick and Northern Ontario is the writing on the wall. Between 2016 and 2021, the proportion of the population speaking French at home declined in every region of the country except Yukon, where it rose to 2.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent. In New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province, the share speaking French at home fell to 26.4 per cent from 28 per cent.

It may be fashionable among English-Canadian elites to enrol their kids in French immersion classes. But anemic rates of bilingualism hors Quebec and New Brunswick speak for themselves. Outside Quebec, Canadians who claimed an ability to conduct a conversation in both official languages dropped to 9.5 per cent from 9.8 per cent and down from a peak of 10.1 per cent two decades ago.

Even the federal public service, which once aspired to set an example, no longer prioritizes Canada’s official languages equally. In May, a Radio-Canada report showed that francophones are underrepresented in the upper echelons of the federal bureaucracy. Now, there is a push to waive French-English bilingualism requirements if applicants speak an Indigenous language or aspire to.

Removing barriers to career advancement faced by Indigenous people in Canada is a legitimate objective. But francophones argue it should not mean the diminution of the status of French within the public service. They worry that the appointment of Mary Simon as Governor-General, despite her inability to speak French, paves the way for more such nominations. They are not wrong to worry.

The latest census figures will exacerbate feelings of linguistic insecurity among francophone Quebeckers in particular. There will be consequences. We may witness a few of them on the campaign trail.

Source: Official bilingualism is officially dead in Canada

StatsCan: While English and French are still the main languages spoken in Canada, the country’s linguistic diversity continues to grow

Of note, if not unexpected given immigration impact:

English is the first official language spoken by just over three in four Canadians. This proportion increased from 74.8% in 2016 to 75.5% in 2021.

French is the first official language spoken by an increasing number of Canadians, but the proportion fell from 22.2% in 2016 to 21.4% in 2021.

From 2016 to 2021, the number of Canadians who spoke predominantly French at home rose in Quebec, British Columbia and Yukon, but decreased in the other provinces and territories.

The proportion of Canadians who spoke predominantly French at home decreased in all the provinces and territories, except Yukon.

For the first time in the census, the number of people in Quebec whose first official language spoken is English topped 1 million and their proportion of the population rose from 12.0% in 2016 to 13.0% in 2021. Moreover, 7 in 10 English speakers lived on Montréal Island or in Montérégie. 

The proportion of bilingual English-French Canadians (18.0%) remained virtually unchanged from 2016. From 2016 to 2021, the increase in the bilingualism rate in Quebec (from 44.5% to 46.4%) offset the decrease observed outside Quebec (from 9.8% to 9.5%). 

In Canada, 4 in 10 people could conduct a conversation in more than one language. This proportion rose from 39.0% in 2016 to 41.2% in 2021. In addition, 1 in 11 could speak three or more languages. 

In 2021, one in four Canadians had at least one mother tongue other than English or French, and one in eight Canadians spoke predominantly a language other than English or French at home—both the highest proportions on record.

The number of Canadians who spoke predominantly a South Asian language such as Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi or Malayalam at home grew significantly from 2016 to 2021, an increase fuelled by immigration. In fact, the growth rate of the population speaking one of these languages was at least eight times larger than that of the overall Canadian population during this period.

In contrast, there was a decline in the number of Canadians who spoke predominantly certain European languages at home, such as Italian, Polish and Greek.

Aside from English and French, Mandarin and Punjabi were the country’s most widely spoken languages. In 2021, more than half a million Canadians spoke predominantly Mandarin at home and more than half a million spoke Punjabi.

Among Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, 7 in 10 spoke an official language at home at least on a regular basis. 

In 2021, 189,000 people reported having at least one Indigenous mother tongue and 183,000 reported speaking an Indigenous language at home at least on a regular basis. Cree languages and Inuktitut are the main Indigenous languages spoken in Canada.

Among individuals with an Indigenous mother tongue, four out of five spoke that language at home at least on a regular basis, and half spoke it predominantly.

Source: While English and French are still the main languages spoken in Canada, the country’s linguistic diversity continues to grow

More Canadians report strong attachment to their language than to Canada: poll

Not surprising that language attachment stronger in Quebec and among Indigenous peoples. The margin of 3 percent among all Canadians not significant given online poll:

A new survey finds more Canadians report a strong attachment to their primary language than to other markers of identity, including the country they call home.

The survey, which was conducted by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies, found 88 per cent of respondents reported a strong sense of attachment to their primary language, whereas 85 per cent reported the same for Canada.

The greater importance of language was especially notable among francophones and Indigenous Peoples.

Reports of strong attachment to primary language exceeded all other markers of identity, including geography, ethnic group, racialized identity and religious affiliation.

Of the markers of identity considered in the survey, Canadians were the least likely to report a strong sense of attachment to a religious group.

Association for Canadian Studies president Jack Jedwab said the survey’s findings highlight the important role language plays in people’s identities.

“I think many Canadians may be surprised by it, who may not think intuitively that language is as important as other expressions of identity that get attention,” he said.

Jedwab said people should be mindful of not downplaying the importance of language given how significant language can be to a community. He said language has a dual function of facilitating communication and being an expression of culture.

“There can be a tendency for people to diminish the importance of other languages,” he said.

“We’ve not paid historically sufficient attention to Indigenous languages, which we’re now seeing our federal government invest considerably in, trying to help sustain and revive Indigenous languages,” he added.

The online survey was completed by 1,764 Canadians between July 8 and 10. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered truly random samples.

For Canadians whose primary language is French, 91 per cent reported a strong sense of attachment to their language, in comparison to 67 per cent who reported the same sentiment for Canada.

In Quebec, more people reported a strong sense of attachment to their primary language than to the province.

Only 37 per cent of Canadians reported a strong sense of attachment to a religious group.

The findings come ahead of Statistics Canada’s latest census release on languages in the country, which is set to be published on Wednesday.

Jedwab said the census release will be especially important to Quebec, where there’s a close monitoring of the state of the French language in comparison to other languages.

The Leger survey also found more than half of francophone Quebecers say they know English well enough to hold a conversation. That’s in contrast to less than one in 10 English respondents in all provinces except Quebec and New Brunswick who say they can hold a conversation in French.

According to the last census, English-French bilingualism rose from 17.5 per cent in 2011 to 17.9 per cent in 2016, reaching the highest rate of bilingualism in Canadian history. Over 60 per cent of that growth in bilingualism was attributable to Quebec.

Source: More Canadians report strong attachment to their language than to Canada: poll

Mulcair: A sneak attack on language rights

Of note for those who remember these “battles” and those who do not:

Quebec and the Constitution are back in the headlines and anyone who remembers Meech and Charlottetown will understandably want to duck and cover. This time around though,  no one is asking for consent from other provinces or from Canadians via a referendum.

Quebec has included what it claims to be unilateral amendments to the Constitution Act 1867 (the B.N.A. Act) in a sweeping proposal  (Bill 96) that seeks to reinforce the status of French there. Many of those changes are indeed provincial in nature and deal with things like labour and consumer rights. The scope and effect of those types of changes will be the object of a good debate in Quebec’s legislature, the National Assembly, and given Legault’s majority most will pass into law.

Because it also affects rights concerning the language of legislation and the courts, Bill 96 deserves a much more thorough review than the nodding approval party leaders in Ottawa have quickly given to that part of it that seeks to amend the constitution unilaterally.

This is a subject I’ve spent much of my career working on. My first job in the Legislative branch of the Quebec Justice Ministry included a memorable mad dash as everyone scrambled, in December of 1979, to react  to a Supreme Court decision that had just been rendered in the Blaikie case. We had to quickly prepare, for re-enactment, all of the Québec laws adopted since the original Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) went into force in August of 1977. Bill 101 removed the obligation that had existed since 1867, in that same B.N.A. Act,  to simultaneously enact all laws in English and in French.

The Blaikie case, as it is called, was important for several reasons. First, the judges unanimously ruled that section 133 of the B.N.A . Act, that requires English and French in laws and in the courts, was not part of Quebec’s constitution and therefore could not be amended unilaterally by the province. Second, the Supreme Court simultaneously corrected a much older illegal Act, the Manitoba Official Language Act of 1890, that removed the French-language rights that had been promised in the Manitoba Act of 1870.

Language rights go to the core of our nation because they deal with the promises we made as this great country of ours came together. It’s been a rocky road at times but the Official Languages Act provided, over 50 years ago, a fresh boost to those promises. Pierre Trudeau even lost one of his prominent Western ministers over the issue. That minister, James Richardson, was from one of the most prominent Winnipeg families and he stood firmly against official bilingualism.

I wound up working in Manitoba after the Supreme Court ruled, a second time,  that all the laws there had to be translated and French and English had equal standing in the courts. That second ruling, in 1985, had become necessary because the Manitoba  government had ignored the first one, arguing (without much of a straight face) that the prior ruling was directive and not mandatory. Keen observers will note that it took over 95 years for Manitoba francophones to have their rights restored and and barely two years for anglophones in Quebec to get theirs.

It was of course mandatory and right after that second Supreme Court ruling, I’d been hired to help oversee and revise the translation of some 10,000 pages of laws and regulations. It was a Herculean task and the Supreme Court was there to monitor and ensure compliance with its definitive ruling.

It’s that history that makes Justin Trudeau’s acquiescence so surprising. He appears to sincerely believe that section 45  of the 1982 Constitution applies to Quebec’s unilateral changes to the B.N.A. Act and that the proposal is legitimate because it only affects the province’s own constitution.

But there’s another section, 43, that says that if the changes affect the right to use English or French, then you need a debate and a motion from both the House of Commons  and the Senate before the change can take place.

Section 43 was ably used by former premier Lucien Bouchard to change Quebec’s constitutionally guaranteed Catholic and Protestant school boards into a French and English system. The House of Commons and the Senate had had to discuss and vote and the English-speaking community of Quebec was consulted and widely agreed. That’s how you change a constitution: you discuss, debate and vote.

Legault’s proposed changes to the B.N.A. Act do indeed affect language rights. Trudeau, Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh with their “move along, nothing to see here” attitude are trying to convince themselves and us that this is simply about Quebec amending its own constitution. That’s the argument Quebec had unsuccessfully argued before the Supreme Court in the Blaikie case back in the 1970’s. With these changes, it could win that case today.

What is and what is not part of the province’s constitution? To begin with, a few paragraphs above, I committed the unpardonable by referring to Quebec’s legislature as…a legislature! The Quebec National Assembly is called that because Quebec decided it preferred the terminology from France and it unilaterally changed the name of its legislature to l’Assemblée Nationale. Pas de problème.

So too when Quebec decided  (like every other province that had one) to deep-six its ‘Legislative Council’ decades ago. It had every right to axe its provincial senate. It was Quebec’s call as it was, indeed, purely the jurisdiction of the province.  Not so with the changes being proposed now by Quebec.

Here they are in detail: “Quebecers form a nation” and  “French shall be the only official language of Quebec. It is also the common language of the Quebec nation”.

When you go through Bill 96, you see proposals to change a series of laws including the Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure, to remove the right to produce certain official documents if they’re written in English. An English-language birth certificate from B.C. will henceforth have to be officially translated as if it were from some obscure corner of the world with a little-known language. This is not just the Quebec constitution. This is the right to use English and French as contemplated by section 43. It is impossible that the lawyers at the Justice Department in Ottawa didn’t see this.

Bill 96 has to be read as a whole. Sections have to be construed in context, one with regards to the other in order to understand the overall effect. The context includes changes to existing language rights. The legislator is never presumed to be talking for no reason, the unilateral  changes to the B.N.À. Act are intended to produce and shield the desired overall result: less English in Justice, legislation and the courts.

Québec Justice minister Simon Jolin-Barrette was recently in a knock-down, drag-out fight with the Chief Justice of Quebec Court, Mme Justice Lucie Rondeau. Jolin-Barrette didn’t like the fact that the postings for new judicial appointments required a knowledge of English. She patiently pointed out that there is a constitutional right to a trial in English and that it’s up to the courts to ensure respect of that obligation. Jolin-Barrette didn’t agree and he’s using Bill 96 to remove  bilingualism as a systematic requirement for future judicial appointments even in areas with large anglophone populations. The right to a trial in English will rapidly become theoretical.

Years before Bill 101, Robert Bourassa’s Bill 22 had already proclaimed French to be the official language of Quebec. Stephen Harper had championed a motion in the House of Commons proclaiming Quebecers to be a nation. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that Bill 96 does indeed remove existing rights. Professionals, including lawyers, will lose their right to practise law if they fail to maintain what will become a new continuing requirement for a mandatory knowledge of French. Tests or other qualification at the beginning of their career (I had to take one to join the Bar) used to remain valid througout. They would henceforth be deemed to be subject to review and revocation of licensure in case of insufficient knowledge of French.

The big deal is that once those unilateral constitutional amendments are in place, the Quebec attorney general might succeed where their predecessors had failed in 1979. They could point to the new sections as proof that Quebec can indeed adopt its legislation in French only and provide an English translation later on. That could negatively effect everyone’s language rights across Canada as other provinces such as Manitoba and New Brunswick could take note and follow suit.

In 2019, the Quebec and Montréal Bar Associations settled lawsuits that sought to ensure that Quebec respect its constitutional obligation to produce an English version of statutes had equal footing with the French, especially in terms of preparation of amendments. The “Mulcair precedent” referred to in those proceedings was mine. Having worked in Manitoba and been part of the debates there, I knew what the Supreme Court required and I raised it repeatedly when I was a member of the National Assembly. That constitutionally guaranteed equivalent of the English and French versions is in peril with these changes being endorsed by Trudeau and his pliant justice minister David Lametti.

There is a constant whittling away of the status of French and of French-language institutions throughout Canada and all Canadians should  be aware of it and demand their governments help to right that wrong. The most recent heartbreaking example is the scuppering of key French-language programs at Laurentian University in Sudbury leaving many francophone Masters and PhD students high and dry. There is money in the most recent federal budget to come to the aid of minority francophone education in just such a case but so far language minister Melanie Joly has done nothing.

That type of continuing tragedy for the French minority in Canada is correctly pointed to as deux poids deux mesures when comparing the institutions of the English in Quebec and the French outside Quebec.

The essential question for our country’s future is this: do we want to aspire to greater rights for all Canadians or are we going to simply level things downwards, to the lowest common denominator?

Trudeau seems to have veered away from his often espoused vision of a bilingual multicultural Canada towards one where linguistic and religious minorities are on their own. When he and Lametti refused to lift their little fingers to help hard-pressed religious minorities fighting in court against Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21, the writing was on the wall.

Rights are essential. Failure to defend those rights comes at a cost to our strength, unity and well-being as a country, long term. Short term electoral priorities are no substitute for thoughtful defence of fundamental values and rights.

It’s clear that neither Trudeau nor O’Toole nor Singh has given a great deal of thought to the substantive sections Bill 96. The great irony is that even if they went the route of the more demanding section 43, there’s absolutely no doubt that the House would pass a motion approving it. Trudeau has claimed that he has a legal opinion stating that Québec can indeed proceed on its own to amend the Canadian constitution without even bringing the issue before Parliament. When Lametti was asked on an English Montréal radio station if he was willing to share that legal opinion with Canadians, he skated.

Legault has a clear plan for pulling Québec away from, if not out of, Canada. That plan, as revealed by Legault himself, has three components: language, immigration and culture. He is running circles around our current crop of leaders in Ottawa.

Despite the historical long odds, if done right, there really is reason to hope that this could be turned into a rare opportunity for a deeper understanding of the real differences that exist between the two solitudes. But it can’t be done in a sneaky, backhanded way, without a proper debate as required by the Constitution.

Trudeau is wrong to say the constitution of Canada can be amended unilaterally by Québec. It is not wrong to follow the constitution to bring about change that can close a tough chapter in our history. After all, the much maligned 1982 Constitution, that Quebec never signed, could wind up being used by Québec to try to improve things for the future, as long as rights are guaranteed and respected from coast to coast to coast.

Source: A sneak attack on language rights

Citizenship in Scandinavia – What are reasonable demands for full membership?

Interesting comparison, showing despite the different approaches, the underlying views on citizenship requirements in all three countries were very similar:

In 2018, together with our colleagues in the other Scandinavian countries, we undertook a representative survey in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Young people from ages 20 to 36 were interviewed – just over 7500 in total. Individuals from the majority populations, descendants of immigrants from Iraq, Pakistan, Poland, Somalia, Turkey, and Vietnam, were included. Immigrants from Iraq and Somalia also participated in the survey in all three countries, while immigrants from Pakistan, Poland and Turkey were included, in addition, in the Norwegian sample. All respondents were asked what they considered reasonable requirements for citizenship, what they thought of the existing rules in their respective countries, and to what extent they felt they were recognized as members of the national community.

Citizenship is the last stop on the way to formal membership in a new homeland. Before this, immigrants with legal status already enjoy many rights. New members of Scandinavian societies have access to some civil and social rights, from day one in the country. Still, citizenship is regarded as important and attractive, especially among those who come from countries with greater legal, economic, and political uncertainty. Citizenship in Scandinavia protects them from deportation, in principle at least. It bestows help overseas, grants the right to vote in parliamentary elections – and not least, gives access to a Scandinavian passport, with all the rights to travel freely and work in the entire EU region.

In the last few years there has been a trend to implement stricter requirements for citizenship in many European countries, such as knowledge tests (language, history, and society), proof of self-sufficiency, and longer waiting times.

Among researchers, these stricter requirements are often interpreted from either a control or an integration perspective: Recent increases in immigration have made authorities keen on finding legal ways to control access to citizenship. On the other hand, concerns over integration have raised the bar for competence in language and knowledge about society, and those who are permanent residents and seek citizenship are required to meet this higher bar in order to become full members.

Regardless of how one interprets the politics, these laws create indisputably higher barriers. There has been an (implicit) assumption among researchers that the stricter requirements are not in immigrants’ interest, but no empirical research has been done. This new survey is the first to investigate these issues empirically.

The three Scandinavian countries are interesting to compare because they cover the entire scale when it comes to citizenship requirements. Denmark is one of the strictest countries in Europe when it comes to citizenship. Sweden is on the liberal outer edge, while Norway – as is often the case with immigration and integration policies – finds itself somewhere in the middle.

We began our study with the assumption that these marked political differences would be mirrored in the immigrant groups and descendants’ attitudes in the three countries – that immigrants and descendants in Denmark would be more critical of the country’s rules, than corresponding groups would be to Swedish policies in Sweden, for example. We also thought the majority populations would want stricter requirements than the minorities would, especially in Denmark. The results did not meet our expectations though, and in many ways were very surprising.

Overall the survey does not show big differences between the three countries, and when it comes to attitudes toward how the rules are and should be, there are barely differences between the three groups (majority, immigrants, and descendants). The prevailing attitude is that it is legitimate to set requirements for new members of society who become citizens – the majority across groups believe these requirements should include five years of residence, a simple language and society test, an oath, and being part of the work force. At the same time, they think it should be legal to keep one’s original citizenship when naturalizing. In other words, there should be clear requirements to become a full member of a Scandinavian society, but these should be reasonable and possible to meet. The results paint a picture of consensus on what “reasonable” means – a framework that lies somewhere between the extremes represented by Denmark and Sweden.

Other institutions, like the education system, labor market, and health care system are probably more important as a basis for attitudes toward membership in society than citizenship.

How should we interpret these findings? The alignment in attitudes across our survey respondents is a pointer to the fact that life in Scandinavia is not so different across the three countries, despite the respective states’ different policies on immigration. In fact, other institutions, like the education system, labor market, and health care system are probably more important as a basis for attitudes toward membership in society than citizenship.

The survey does not tell us anything about emphasis placed on different institutions’ importance for feelings of membership, acceptance, and belonging. But we do see indications of experiences of both discrimination and of lower levels of trust among minority groups.

The consensus on requirements, nevertheless, suggests that the citizenship institution continues to matter as a framework for togetherness. The survey also indicates that minority members of society are reflected actors, alongside majority society members, when it comes to guarding the last ticket into society – and what should be demanded, in order to ensure the functioning of an increasingly diverse society.

Source: Citizenship in Scandinavia – What are reasonable demands for full membership?

Québec élargit l’accès à la francisation pour les immigrants

Noteworthy in the background of Bill 21 discrimination and the reduction in immigration levels:

Davantage d’immigrants auront accès à la francisation et ils seront mieux compensés pour se présenter en classe, a annoncé cet avant-midi le ministre de l’Immigration.

Cet élargissement du programme est permis par un investissement supplémentaire de 70 millions décidé par le gouvernement.

« Au Québec, les personnes immigrantes doivent évoluer en français, a dit le ministre Simon Jolin-Barrette en conférence de presse au centre-ville de Montréal. C’est pourquoi nous devons mettre en place le meilleur système possible pour favoriser la francisation. »

Parmi les mesures annoncées :

• L’allocation pour les étudiants en francisation à temps plein passera à 185 $ par semaine (contre 141 $ actuellement)

• Les étudiants en francisation à temps partiel recevront une allocation de 15 $ par jour (contre 0 $ actuellement)

• Les frais de garde de ces derniers seront remboursés à hauteur de 9 $ par jour (contre 7 $ actuellement).

• Les étudiants étrangers et les travailleurs temporaires auront aussi accès à la francisation.

Par ailleurs, tous les Québécois d’adoption auront accès à la francisation, peu importe depuis combien de temps ils sont installés dans la province. Jusqu’à maintenant, seuls les immigrants arrivés depuis moins de cinq ans y avaient droit.

« En donnant la possibilité à toutes les personnes immigrantes de se franciser, nous améliorons leurs chances de se trouver un emploi correspondant à leurs compétences et à répondre aux besoins du marché du travail », a dit le ministre Jolin-Barrette. « L’immigration est l’une des solutions à la pénurie de main-d’oeuvre. »

Accueil positif

Des organismes actifs dans le domaine de la francisation se sont dits satisfaits des annonces du ministre, cet avant-midi.

« C’étaient des revendications qu’on faisait depuis de nombreuses années, a fait valoir Pablo Altamirano, directeur de l’Alliance pour l’accueil et l’intégration des immigrations. L’allocation pour les étudiants à temps partiel va aider énormément pour l’assiduité des étudiants : les gens ne pouvaient pas toujours se déplacer à cause du coût des transports. »

Anait Aleksanin, du Centre d’appui aux communautés immigrantes, s’est aussi réjouie de l’annonce. « C’est une très bonne nouvelle. Il y a beaucoup de mesures qu’on attendait depuis longtemps », a-t-elle dit.

La Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec a accueilli positivement l’annonce, particulièrement en ce qui a trait aux cours de francisation à temps partiel. « Les nouveaux arrivants pourront mettre leurs compétences à contribution plus rapidement, en plus de mettre en pratique leur apprentissage du français au quotidien, avec leurs collègues de travail », a déclaré le grand patron de l’organisation, Stéphane Forget, via communiqué.

La Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) s’est montrée plus ambivalente : elle a salué les améliorations annoncées, mais aimerait voir davantage de francisation dans les milieux de travail.

« Il faut que les travailleurs et travailleuses puissent être libérés de leurs tâches pendant les heures de travail afin de pouvoir assister à des cours de francisation tout en étant rémunérés », a indiqué la centrale syndicale dans un communiqué. « C’est un gros pari que de penser qu’après leur journée de travail, ces travailleurs […] vont être prédisposés à se déplacer pour aller suivre une formation en français. »

Source: Québec élargit l’accès à la francisation pour les immigrants

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