Quebec: Les francophones discriminés [international students]

More commentary.

Checked Quebec numbers: CEGEP international student enrolment up more than 5 times (de 2 899 en 2009-2010 à 16 505 en 2019-2020) compared to university enrolment that only doubled during the same period (de 24 504 en 2009-2010 à 48 406 en 2019-2020). http://www.education.gouv.qc.ca/colleges/enseignants-et-personnel-de-college/references/enseignement-superieur/portrait-statistique-des-etudiants-internationaux-a-lenseignement-superieur/

But the relative shift from French to English CEGEPs is notable, irrespective of any discrimination issues:

Le Québec bataille pour sa place d’État francophone fier depuis des lustres au sein d’un Canada qui n’en a généralement que faire, soupirant d’ennui entre deux réformettes de façade. À divers niveaux, tous les gouvernements du Québec se sont préoccupés des combats à livrer pour résister aux assauts bien vigoureux de l’anglais, entre autres dans le champ de l’éducation. Le gouvernement de François Legaultveut d’ailleurs donner plus de mordant à la loi 101, car la fronde anglophone n’a jamais été aussi vive.

Pendant que sur le front politique le discours est à la défense du fait français, le terrain regorge d’incohérences qui ne commandent que de l’indignation. Comment en effet concilier ces deux données ? L’explosion spectaculaire du nombre d’étudiants internationaux dans les collèges du Québec — en hausse de 369 % en dix ans — a surtout profité aux établissements d’enseignement de langue anglaise. Mais en moins de deux ans, Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada (IRCC) a refusé 35 642 candidats originaires des principaux pays francophones du Maghreb et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest qui voulaient venir étudier au Québec.

Une première analyse brute des données dévoilées la semaine dernière par la journaliste du DevoirSarah R. Champagne donne à penser que le « système », dans son gigantisme et son indolence bureaucratique, effectue de la discrimination à l’entrée. Ouvrir les vannes à des étudiants anglophones venus de l’Inde et les accueillir à pleines portes dans des établissements privés non subventionnés de Montréal ? Que oui ! Mais accepter des candidats inscrits à des études supérieures en provenance du Maghreb et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, deux zones francophones ? Que nenni !

Les taux de refus pour ces deux bassins de locuteurs pourtant très francophones « frôlent les 100 % », dénoncent des avocats en immigration, qui ne s’expliquent pas le quasi-automatisme dans le rejet de candidatures pourtant bien défendues — dossier financier très solide, entre autres critères observés par les ministères de l’Immigration. Un nouveau système de tri automatique des candidatures en vigueur depuis 2018 serait-il en partie la cause de ces refus en bloc ? Personne ne peut le certifier, mais cela pourrait par exemple expliquer que, sur la base de revenus moyens par habitant très peu élevés dans certains pays d’Afrique, des dossiers de grande qualité présentés par des individus soient écartés avant même d’être analysés. Cette question mérite d’être creusée.

Plus on cherche à comprendre cette grande absurdité, plus on s’enfonce dans les contradictions. Celle-ci par exemple : un couple congolais au dossier financier plus que bien ficelé a reçu sa réponse de refus en l’espace d’une semaine en provenance des autorités canadiennes — déjà de quoi faire sourciller quand on sait que la question des délais interminables dans le traitement des dossiers d’immigration constitue le principal problème dénoncé par Québec. L’argument qu’on leur a donné ? L’agent d’immigration n’a pas été convaincu qu’ils quitteraient le Canada après leurs études. Quitteraient, oui. Pourtant, les politiques officielles et l’énergie déployée tant par le gouvernement du Québec que par celui du Canada vont dans le sens complètement contraire : celui de travailler au maintien des étudiants étrangers en sol québécois après la fin de leurs études. Que comprendre de ce cirque ?

Pour les mêmes pays d’origine, le Québec voit ses taux de refus plus élevés qu’ailleurs au Canada, ce qui s’expliquerait en partie par une méconnaissance des agents d’immigration du système collégial québécois, certains dossiers étant refusés sur la base d’une mauvaise liaison entre la demande d’étude et le cheminement scolaire du candidat. C’est à n’y rien comprendre : les cégeps existent depuis 1967 au Québec.

Le Québec, qui perd ici pied et contrôle sur une immigration potentielle de qualité en son propre sein, aurait raison de vociférer et de revendiquer la pleine maîtrise sur les flux d’entrée en ses frontières. Mais il devra aussi pratiquer un sérieux auto-examen. S’il n’a rien à voir avec le refus de candidatures francophones en provenance de pays du Maghreb et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, c’est quand même dans sa propre cour que s’est jouée l’augmentation faramineuse d’étudiants étrangers anglophones — parfois même inscrits dans des cégeps francophones.

Dans une étude publiée par l’Institut de recherche en économie contemporaine, Éric N. Duhaime brosse un portrait statistique sans équivoque : alors que le recrutement d’étudiants étrangers au collégial s’était toujours historiquement tourné vers des bassins francophones, la tendance s’est inversée depuis 2017 environ. En 2019, « plus de la moitié des étudiants internationaux du réseau collégial provenaient de l’Inde (7687), dépassant les effectifs de la France (4072) ». Marché lucratif, détournement de mission pour le réseau de l’éducation et… impact significatif sur la langue d’usage dans les rues de Montréal, qu’on le veuille ou non.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/editoriaux/649134/etudiants-etrangers-les-francophones-discrimines?utm_source=infolettre-2021-11-23&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne

BIPOC or POC? Equity or Equality? The Debate Over Language on the Left.

Good discussion of the various positions and rationales, along with the risks of language debates distracting from addressing the harder intractable issues. I share the latter concern, as these debates are much easier than actual initiatives to reduce barriers and improve inclusion.

And a reminder that BIPOC is an American term, reflecting their reality, as Joseph Heath correctly called out in his The term ‘BIPOC’ is a bad fit for the Canadian discourse on race:

In California, a Black college freshman from the South is telling a story about his Latino friends from home when he is interrupted by a white classmate. “We say ‘Latinx’ here,” he recalls her saying, using a term he had not heard before, “because we respect trans people.”

In Philadelphia, Emma Blackson challenges her white neighbor’s assertion that Black children misbehave in school more than others. “It’s just my implicit bias,” the neighbor offers, saying that she had recently learned the phrase.

In Chicago, Kelsey O’Donnell, 31, wonders why colleagues and friends have suddenly started saying “BIPOC,” an acronym that encompasses individuals who are Black, Indigenous or other people of color. Where had it come from? “There was really nobody to ask,” says Ms. O’Donnell, who is white. “It was just, ‘This is what we say now.’”

Americans have always wrestled with language when it comes to describing race, with phrases and vocabulary changing to meet the struggles and values of the moment. But especially in the wake of last summer’s protests for social justice, there is a heightened attention to this language, say scholars and activists, as some on the left try to advance changes in the culture through words.

“You can’t change what you can’t name,” Cathy Albisa, vice president of institutional and sectoral change at the racial justice nonprofit Race Forward, said.

For some people, though, the new lexicon has become a kind of inscrutable code, set at a frequency that only a narrow, highly educated slice of the country can understand, or even a political litmus test in which the answers continually change. Others feel disappointment, after so many protests last summer demanded far deeper change on issues like criminal justice and voting rights.

“I really believed America was having a reckoning when it came to race,” said Ms. Blackson, a Black graduate student in epidemiology who has expressed her disillusionment on Twitter. “So far it’s been a lot of words.”

Unsurprisingly, the language itself has become contested, especially by conservatives who have leveraged discomfort with the new vocabulary to energize their base of white voters, referring to it as “wokespeak.” One conservative think tank circulated a list of words — including “microaggressions” and “Black Lives Matter” — that it said could alert parents that what has been labeled “Critical Race Theory” is being taught in their children’s schools. 

The new language extends beyond race, adding phrases and introducing ideas that are new to many Americans. Gender-neutral terms like “Latinx,” for people of Latin American descent, “they/them” pronouns that refer to a single person, and “birthing parent” or “pregnant people” instead of “mother,” to be inclusive of trans people, are also gaining traction.

Some activists defend the focus on language, saying that the way people use words is not mere symbolism but is necessary to achieving justice.

“Saying something like, ‘Black people are less likely to get a loan from the bank,’ instead of saying, ‘Banks are less likely to give loans to Black people,’ might feel like it’s just me wording it differently,” Rashad Robinson, president of the racial justice organization Color of Change, said. “But ‘Black people are less likely to get a loan from the bank’ makes people ask themselves, ‘What’s wrong with Black people? Let’s get them financial literacy programs.’ The other way is saying, ‘What’s wrong with the banks?’”

Mr. Robinson added, “When you’ve been on the margin, being able to claim a language and a narrative and a set of words to express yourself is incredibly important.”

Still, some other self-identified liberals who said they care deeply about social justice feel uncomfortable with some of the changes and the pressure that can be associated with them.

Ms. O’Donnell of Chicago said that, especially when she is among other white, college-educated liberals, “I’m exhausted by the constant need to be wary or you’ll instantly be labeled racist or anti-trans.”

And Stephen Paisley of Ithaca, N.Y., said he cringed at hearing libraries described at an academic conference as “sites of violence,” which is intended to reflect biases in how their rare books collections are curated. Rather than language that “tries to guilt people into action,” he said, he wishes the message was “white people, too, suffer from living in a society in which racial injustices and inequities persist.”

Many of the words surfacing in today’s language debates are not new.

“Implicit bias” traces to the work of psychologists in the 1990s, when the field began to document the subconscious associations that cause people to harbor stereotypes. The effort to substitute “enslaved people” for “slaves” has been long advocated by many Black academics to emphasize the violence that defined American slavery and the humanity of those subjected to it, said Anne Charity Hudley, a linguist at Stanford.

But it is only recently, Dr. Hudley said, that “all these terms are swirling around more in the public consciousness.”

The murder of George Floyd by the police and the outraged protests that followed — in large cities but also in small towns and suburbs across the country — was one catalyst for spreading the terms. The words reverberated across social media and book groups. The word “racism” is being looked up online twice as often as before the killing of Mr. Floyd, according to Merriam-Webster, which has updated its definition to illustrate how racism can be systemic. And more companies, small and large, began requiring language training as part of broader programs they say are aimed at creating a more welcoming culture for diverse work forces.

In a reflection of its surging popularity, “BIPOC” (pronounced “bye-pock”) received its first Merriam-Webster dictionary entry this year, though a number of linguists said they were not sure how the term emerged.

One reason BIPOC has engendered both backlash and bewilderment, said Nicole Holliday, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, is because it seems to be an example of “top-down language reform.” Widely shared over social media last year, its champions have said it is intended to emphasize the severity of racial injustice on Black and Indigenous people. But few Black or Indigenous people use it, language scholars say.

In a national poll conducted by Ipsos for The New York Times, more than twice as many white Democrats said they felt “very favorably” toward “BIPOC” as Americans who identify as any of the nonwhite racial categories it encompasses.

In “Why BIPOC Fails,” an essay in a recent issue of the Virginia Law Review, Meera Deo, a sociologist and professor at Southwestern Law School, notes that the term can end up being “confusing” or “misleading.”

The acronym, which was widely adopted only in the last year or so, is often misread as meaning “bisexual people of color.” Asian and Latino Americans are often left to wonder whether they are covered by the “POC” part of the acronym.

Racial justice activists have also long distinguished “equality” from “equity,” but the latter has filtered into the mainstream more recently. Supporters of the word say that it is preferable to “equality,” which they argue suggests that equal treatment is sufficient to achieve fair outcomes — a premise they maintain disregards built-in disadvantages caused by past and present discrimination, and the need for policies to counteract them.

The terms can seem to change swiftly too. Some scholars are now arguing that “implicit bias” should be replaced with “complicit bias,” saying that the former has been used as a kind of exoneration from the biases one holds rather than a call to address them.

In another example, “L.G.B.T.Q.,” the abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning, has recently incorporated an “I” for intersex, for people whose biological sex characteristics don’t fit the traditional definitions of female or male, and an “A” for either asexual — someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction — or ally. And the addition of a “+” at the end is aimed at indicating that the term should not be seen as comprehensive.

“I’m trying to think why it makes me so angry that they keep adding letters,” said Laura Bradford, 52, of Nashville, Tenn., who is bisexual and married to a woman. “It’s like, ‘We’re trying to understand, but you’re making it too complicated!’’’

Still, like many Americans, Ms. Bradford said that she had felt “woken up” last summer after educating herself about racism in America. And the identity-politics term that disturbs her most is the pejorative use of “woke,” a word that has cycled through several meanings, including one that reflected her own experience but now carries the implication that social justice ideals are absurd or insincere.

“It’s mean,” she said. “Being woke is about realizing that you’ve been hurting someone for a long time.”

Whether using certain words is an indication of a willingness to upend the traditions that reinforce social inequalities, however, is unclear. For white liberals especially, “there is social pressure to engage with these words in the social moment,” Dr. Hudley said. “They see this as part of what it means to be an educated white person in certain places and spaces, whether they agree with it or not.”

The current struggles over language reflect meaningful shifts in thinking on some essential issues, experts say.

The addition of the word “structural” or “systemic” ahead of “racism,” for instance, stems from a broader acceptance of the idea that racism is not just personal prejudice but a set of disadvantages that start with the average white child being born into families that are wealthier than others, and extend to laws related to housing and voting, bank-lending policies and education systems.

“Compared to 18 months ago, the term ‘systemic racism’ is being used across the board, whether people are talking about it or denying its existence,” said the historian Ibram X. Kendi, whose book “How to Be an Antiracist” has been widely read.

For Nancy McDonald Ladd, a white senior minister at a Unitarian church in Bethesda, Md., that is made up of mostly white progressives, the fixation with language stems at least partly from a sincere desire to reorient one’s worldview. It can be hard to stay on top of lexical tweaks, which include words that distinguish between defining a person and describing a situation — “unhoused” instead of “homeless.”

Although the Rev. Ladd has sometimes seen her congregants’ deliberations over words as a substitute for more substantive action, the language is “not just virtue-signaling,’’ she said, referring to expressions of opinion intended to publicly demonstrate a person’s good character.

“It’s this deep-seated anxiety about failing,” she said. “So they’re reaching, we are reaching, reaching, reaching for the perfect language.”

Language change, linguists say, has long been a tool in shaping social perceptions of identity.

“Queer,” once a pejorative for gay, has been reclaimed as a self-affirming term, especially by a younger generation of the LGBTQIA+ community. “African American,” which became prevalent in the 1980s after the Rev. Jesse Jackson objected that “black” reduced the complexity of race to a skin color, is now being superseded by “Black,” with a capital “B,” to underline a shared political identity among disparate groups.

Changes in language, of course, also make people feel anxious because they signify changes in society.

The honorific “Ms.” for instance, encountered decades of resistance before it became a widely preferred alternative to identifying women by their marital status.

Still others see the attention on language as a dodge.

Increasingly prevalent statements known as “land acknowledgments,” in which officials mention that a speech or public event is taking place on land once occupied by Indigenous people, have recently come in for criticism. Summer Wilkie, a member of the Cherokee Nation, suggested in a recent essay that they can simply seem shallow and take focus away from policies that support Indigenous people.

Those statements that are meant to convey “thank you” or indicate that the speaker is a “guest,” Ms. Wilkie said, are especially “empty and alienating.”

Lucia Martel-Dow, an immigration lawyer in liberal Marin County, has had a similar thought about white progressives who reflexively use “Latinx.” She has no problem with the term, which has been adopted by a small fraction of U.S. adults who identify as being of Latin American descent, to avoid defaulting to the masculine “Latino” and to be inclusive of people who identify as neither male nor female. But how many white Marin residents making a point to use inclusive language, she wondered, also supported changing the zoning laws to create more housing opportunities for Latin American immigrants?

“You can say ‘Latinx’ all day,” she said, “but if you’re not doing the work, I don’t care.”

Such observations are borne out in a national survey this year by Jennifer Chudy, a political scientist at Wellesley College. Even white Americans with the highest levels of concern about racial discrimination, she found, ranked activities like “listening to people of color” or “educating myself about racism” as more important than “choosing to live in a racially diverse community,” “bringing racial issues to the attention of elected officials,” or voting.

One risk of using words without really meaning them, said Dr. Holliday, the linguist, is the overuse of a term — like “inclusion” — to the point where its meaning is diluted, which linguists call “semantic bleaching.”

Lucia Martel-Dow, an immigration lawyer in liberal Marin County, has had a similar thought about white progressives who reflexively use “Latinx.” She has no problem with the term, which has been adopted by a small fraction of U.S. adults who identify as being of Latin American descent, to avoid defaulting to the masculine “Latino” and to be inclusive of people who identify as neither male nor female. But how many white Marin residents making a point to use inclusive language, she wondered, also supported changing the zoning laws to create more housing opportunities for Latin American immigrants?

“You can say ‘Latinx’ all day,” she said, “but if you’re not doing the work, I don’t care.”

Such observations are borne out in a national survey this year by Jennifer Chudy, a political scientist at Wellesley College. Even white Americans with the highest levels of concern about racial discrimination, she found, ranked activities like “listening to people of color” or “educating myself about racism” as more important than “choosing to live in a racially diverse community,” “bringing racial issues to the attention of elected officials,” or voting.

One risk of using words without really meaning them, said Dr. Holliday, the linguist, is the overuse of a term — like “inclusion” — to the point where its meaning is diluted, which linguists call “semantic bleaching.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/01/us/terminology-language-politics.html

FATAH: The census battle over mother tongues

Not sure to which extent the campaign mentioned by Fatah makes a difference. 2016 Census reported 502,700 Punjabi speakers, 211,995 Urdu:

There are times when one wonders if the policy of multiculturalism is a value worth enshrining as a Canadian value or whether it’s a time bomb that is slowly eroding the foundations of our country.

Where once we had to bring the Quebecois and Anglo Canadians together and bridge the Protestant-Catholic divide, today we are facilitating endless petty schisms among new Canadians, matters often seeped in the very hostility they escaped.

Source: FATAH: The census battle over mother tongues

The Pandemic Imperiled Non-English Speakers In A Hospital

Of note, both the findings and the measures the hospital took to address the problem:

In March, just weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, the incident command center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston was scrambling to understand this deadly new disease. It appeared to be killing more black and brown patients than whites. For Latino patients, there was an additional warning sign — language.

Patients who didn’t speak much, if any, English had a 35% greater chance of death.

Clinicians who couldn’t communicate clearly with patients in the hospital’s COVID units noticed it was affecting outcomes.

“We had an inkling that language was going to be an issue early on,” says Dr. Karthik Sivashankar, the Brigham’s then medical director for quality, safety and equity. “We were getting safety reports saying language is a problem.”

Sivashankar dove into the records, isolating and layering the unique characteristics of each of the patients who died: their race, age, gender and whether they spoke English.

“That’s where we started to really discover some deeper, previously invisible inequities,” he says.

Inequities that weren’t about race alone.

Hospitals across the country are reporting higher hospitalizations and deaths for Black and Latino patients as compared to whites. Black and brown patients may be more susceptible because they are more likely to have a chronic illness that increases the risk of serious COVID. But when the Brigham team compared Black and brown patients to white patients with similar chronic illnesses, they found no difference in the risk of death from COVID.

But a difference did emerge for Latino patients who don’t speak English.

That sobering realization helped them home in on a specific health disparity, think about some possible solutions, and begin a commitment to change.

“That’s the future,” says Sivashankar.

Identifying the mortality risk is just the first step

But first, the Brigham had to unravel this latest example of a life threatening health disparity. It started outside the hospital, in lower-income communities within and just outside Boston, where the coronavirus spread quickly among many native Spanish speakers who live in close quarters with jobs they can’t do from home.

Some avoided coming to the hospital until they were very sick, because they didn’t trust the care in big hospitals or feared detection by immigration authorities. Nevertheless, just weeks into the pandemic, COVID patients who spoke little English began surging into Boston hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s.

” We were frankly not fully prepared for that surge,” says Sivashanker. “We have really amazing interpreter services, but they were starting to get overwhelmed.”

“In the beginning, we didn’t know how to act, we were panicking,” says Ana Maria Rios-Velez, a Spanish-language interpreter at the Brigham.

Rios-Velez remembers searching for words to translate this new disease and experience for patients. When called to a COVID patient’s room, interpreters were confused about whether they could go in, and how close they should get to a patient. Some interpreters say they felt disposable in the early days of the pandemic, when they weren’t given adequate personal protective equipment.

When she had PPE, Rios-Velez says she still struggled to gain a patient’s trust from behind a mask, face shield and gown. For safety, many interpreters were urged to work from home. But speaking to patients over the phone created new problems.

“It was extremely difficult, extremely difficult,” she says. “The patients were having breathing issues. They were coughing. Their voices were muffled.”

And Rios-Velez couldn’t look her patients in the eye to put them at ease and try to build a connection.

“It’s not only the voice, sometimes I need to see the lips, if smiling,” she says. “I want them to see the compassion in me.”

Adding interpreters and telemedicine tech

The Brigham responded by adding more interpreters and buying more iPads so that remote workers could see patients. The hospital purchased amplifiers to raise the volume of the patient’s voice above the beeps and machines humming in an ICU. The Mass General Brigham network is piloting the use of interpreters available via video in primary care offices. A study found lower use of telemedicine visits by Spanish-speaking patients as compared to white patients during the pandemic.

The Brigham’s goal is that every patient who needs an interpreter will get one. Sivashankar says that happens now for most patients who make the request. The bigger challenge, he says, is including an interpreter in the care of patients who may need the help but don’t ask for it.

In the midst of the first surge, interpreters also became translators for the hospital’s website, information kiosks, COVID safety signs and brochures.

“It was really tough. I got sick and had to take a week off,” saysYilu Ma, the Brigham’s director of interpreter services.

Mass General Brigham is now expanding a centralized translation service for the entire hospital network.

Seeing the inequities within the hospital workforce

Brigham and Women’s analytics team uncovered other disparities. Lower-paid employees were getting COVID more often than nurses and doctors. Sivashankar says there were dozens of small group meetings with medical assistants, transport workers, security staff and those in environmental services where he shared the higher positive test rates and encouraged everyone to get tested.

“We let them know they wouldn’t lose their jobs,” if they had to miss work, Sivashankar says. And he, along with managers, told these employees “that we realize you’re risking your life just like any other doctor of nurse is, every single day you come to work.”

Some employees complained of favoritism in the distribution of PPE, which the hospital investigated. To make sure all employees were receiving timely updates as pandemic guidance changed, the Brigham started translating all coronavirus messages into Spanish and other languages, and sending them via text, which people who are on the move all day are more likely to read. The Mass General Brigham system offered hardship grants of up to $1,000 for employees with added financial pressures, such as additional child care costs.

Angelina German, a hospital housekeeper with limited English, says she appreciates getting updates via text in Spanish, as well as in-person COVID briefings from her bosses.

“Now they’re more aware of us all,” German says through an interpreter, “making sure people are taking care of themselves. ”

Moving beyond the hospital walls to address disparities

The hospital also set up testing sites in some Boston neighborhoods with high coronavirus infection rates, including neighborhoods where many employees live and were getting infected. At least one of those sites now offers COVID vaccinations.

“No one has to be scheduled, you don’t need insurance, you just walk up and we can test you,” explained Dr. Christin Price during a visit to one of the testing sites last fall. It was located in the parking lot of Brookside Community Health Center, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Nancy Santiago left the testing site carrying a free 10-pound bag of fruits and vegetables, which she’ll share with her mother. Santiago said she’s grateful for the help.

“I had to leave my job because of [lack of] daycare, and it’s been pretty tough,” she said, “but you know, we gotta keep staying strong and hopefully this is over sooner rather than later.”

The Brigham recently opened a similar indoor operation at the Strand Theater in Dorchester. Everyone who comes for a coronavirus test is asked if they have enough to eat, if they can afford their medications, whether they need housing assistance and if they’re registered to vote.

The bags of free food, and the referrals to social support, are evidence of a debate playing out about the role hospitals will play, outside their walls, to curb health disparities rooted in racism.

“Poverty and social determinants of health needs are not going away any time soon, and so if there’s a way to continue to serve the communities, I think that would be tremendous,” says Price, who helped organize the Brigham’s community testing program.

Mass General Brigham leaders say they’ll take what they’ve learned dissecting disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and expand the remedies across the hospital network.

“Many of the issues that were identified during the COVID equity response are unfortunately pretty universal issues that we need to address, if we’re going to be an anti-racist organization and one that promotes equity strongly as one of our core strategies,” says Tom Sequist, chief of patient experience and equity for Mass General Brigham.

The Brigham’s work on health disparities comes, in part, out of a collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), and included a focus on gathering, analyzing and tracking data.

“There’s a lot of defensive routines into which we slip as clinicians, that the data can help cut through and reveal that there are some biases in your own practice,” explains IHI President and CEO Dr. Kedar Mate.

“If we don’t name and start to talk about racism and how we intend to dismantle it or undo it,” Mate adds, “we’ll continue to place Band-Aids on the problem and not actually tackle the underlying causes.”

But has the Brigham’s work lowered the risk of death from COVID for Spanish-speaking patients? The hospital hasn’t updated the analysis yet, and even when it does, determining whether (or how) the interventions worked will be hard to prove, Sivashankar says.

“It’s never going to be as simple as ‘We just didn’t give them enough iPads or translators and that was the only problem,’ and now that we’ve given that, we’ve shown that the mortality difference has gone away,” said Sivashankar.

But Sivashankar says more interpreters, iPads, and better messaging to non-English speaking employees, plus all the other steps the Brigham has taken during COVID have improved both the patient and employee experience. That, he says, counts as a success, while work on the next layer of discrimination continues.

Source: The Pandemic Imperiled Non-English Speakers In A Hospital

Time for widespread gender-neutral language in federal policy, legislation, say advocates

Of note:

The very act of not being included in government policy is discriminatory, says Estefan Cortes-Vargas, former Alberta MLA, diversity consultant, and one of the first openly non-binary people elected in Canada, referring to the sparse use of gender-neutral language. It’s an issue the federal government says it’s trying to fix, piece by piece.

This area has recently been a focus for the B.C. government, with sweeping changes made to more than 70 laws and regulations in March, replacing 600 clauses with gender-neutral terms.

According to Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s minister of jobs, economic recovery, and innovation, these changes were made in an effort to increase accessibility.

Sherwin Modeste, executive director of Pride Toronto, praised the changes as very progressive but said it’s something that still needs to be done federally, “because federal legislation carries weight through all the provinces and territories.”

However, the federal justice department told The Hill Times in an email statement that it has been implementing gender-neutral language, albeit in a “piecemeal” fashion.

“Over the years, the practice has evolved with the use of ‘they’ and its other grammatical forms and other drafting techniques in the English version of Acts. New acts are drafted using these techniques. When existing Acts are amended the drafters will, whenever possible, update the wording of the provisions that are being changed to reflect existing drafting conventions,” Justice Canada spokesperson Ian McLeod wrote.

In French, a gendered language, there are grammatical rules that could affect legislative language, he said. The department is studying this area, with the review being undertaken by departmental “jurilinguists.”

“The use of inclusive language acknowledges and values human diversity, and recognizes that individuals have differing experiences, values, beliefs, and lifestyles,” Women and Gender Equality Canada spokesperson Maja Stefanovska said in an email.

While she didn’t specify if they’re being followed, Ms. Stefanovska said the Translation Bureau has linguistic recommendations on inclusive correspondence in French.

While the English side of things generally has gender neutral replacements, like “spouse” for husband and wife, and “they” for he or she, French’s analogues are gendered, said Lee Airton, assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies in education at Queen’s University.

“It is an entirely different process to create gender neutral law and policy in French … it would be much more difficult, but no less necessary,” they said.

Practically speaking, Hélène Frohard-Dourlent, a bilingual senior strategist at gender consulting firm TransFocus, said one possible strategy is adding a dot before the final “e” in a word to indicate both masculine and feminine forms as well as the possibility of other grammatical genders. Another method is to rephrase sentences, they said, like switching “Alex is happy” to “Alex is a happy person” thus preventing happy from being tied to the person’s gender.

“And then, inevitably, if you are committed to neutral or inclusive French, you have to invent some new words and some new endings that are themselves going to be more inclusive,” they said.

The problem with this, Dr. Frohard-Dourlent noted, is that these words have to be socialized to the point where readers will actually understand them.

As for what these terms might look like, Joel Harnest, co-executive director of QMUNITY, an LGBTQ+ resource centre, said that cues should be taken from French-speaking trans folk, who can share the emerging language and phrases.

He also noted that not everything should be gender neutral. While it makes sense for certain words like husband or wife, he said that there is still a need for gender-based language when “you need to specifically call attention to or talk about a certain gender experience.” As an example, he pointed towards policy around gender-based violence.

“If we move too fast to this utopian ideal of a genderless future, we’re not really acknowledging the reality that those people have to live,” Mr. Harnest said.

Overall though, Liana Cusmano, who is interim president of the Green Party and uses they/them pronouns, says they’re receptive to the current approach for changing terminology.

“I think that’s definitely a good place to start, which is to slowly do revisions and then, when drafting new material, to apply the agenda … I don’t think that it would be a good idea to rush,” they said, adding that relying on people practiced in those legislative areas along with consultation with inclusive experts would be the best approach.

Their own party is in the process of implementing gender-neutral language in both English and French. The Liberal Party, according to spokesperson Braeden Caley, also uses gender-inclusive language, with regular policy and document review. The NDP and Conservative Party did not respond to requests for comment on their parties’ approach.

Jade Pichette, Pride at Work Canada’s manager of programs, said that there has been a lot of effort already made to move towards more inclusive language, such as changes to the style guides of the Public Service Alliance Canada—the federal government’s largest public-service union.

“Some of that work has already been done, it’s just being done on a subtle basis, where it isn’t a news story, where it isn’t necessarily picked up in the media, because we use they/them pronouns in our speech naturally,” they said. “We will just read through the document without even considering it.”

But even though some changes may happen without fanfare, they’re still critical according to inclusion experts.

Gender-neutral language has significant benefits, diversity experts say

“The very act of not being included in policy is discriminatory,” Mx. Cortes-Vargas said.

Mx. Pichette pointed towards the need to represent everybody who lives in Canada, including non-binary, agender, and two-spirit people “as a matter of respect but also as recognition of their lives.”

This broader representation, Mx. Airton said, not only has a symbolic impact, but also a practical one in terms of making policy and governance more accurate for the public and professionals. And, if there is no gendered language in a piece of policy, they said, then gender becomes less necessary to think about in a particular context.

“Gender, knowing if someone’s a man or woman, isn’t always relevant and can actually be a distraction because people use their common sense or folk knowledge about what men and women do or want to inform their decision making without realizing what they’re doing.’”

There may even be an impact on employers, Mx. Pichette said, with government stances influencing the polices and procedures of businesses.

According to Vandana Juneja, executive director of Catalyst, a women’s workplace advocacy group, this type of inclusion brings practical benefits to organizations, from enhanced financial performance to improved employee engagement and innovation.

On a more personal level, for Mx. Cortes-Vargas this sort of change would make it easier to navigate systems. For instance, when they go to the bank or fill out forms they have to pick gendered slots.

“They’ll say you have to pick one. And it’s like ‘no, I don’t—this is your problem, this isn’t my problem’ … I can’t go through and just fill out a form without having to negotiate existing in that space,” they said.

The benefit to changing these systems and writing things into policy would be a reduction of barriers, instead of continually having to ask if there’s room for them and having to get exceptions made, they said.

With gender-neutral language, Mx. Cusmano said they feel seen. While it’s difficult to put into words, the impact, they said, is huge and helps to build trust and effective collaboration.

“Gender identity is real to individuals and it has real impacts on their well-being,” they said.

Kai Scott, president of TransFocus, said the pervasive gendering of systems has significant impacts, with this “systemic exclusion” adversely affecting both mental and physical health and causing non-binary people to wonder if they’re important enough to be recognized in official documentation. “And the key thing is that if they have support and they’re affirmed, their social determinants go through the roof, they’re so positively impacted,” he said.

Mr. Modeste tied this to the economy. With more people comfortable and ready to get out there and work, the burden on society is reduced, he said. Respecting people’s gender identity is critical to alleviating these sorts of long-term impacts, he continued.

For him, gender-neutral language allows for authentic expression. In his case, having been married and lived part of the “straight life,” he said that if he had seen more gay men represented in the world when he was growing up his life would’ve been very different “in a positive way.”

Lawyer Raj Anand, a partner at WeirFoulds LLP with practice in constitutional law, pointed towards the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its emphasis on gender equality, noting that implementing gender-neutral language would also put into action the promise the Charter was designed to have.

“When the federal government takes [gender-neutral language] on, it sends a huge signal to others, as well as internally,” Mr. Scott said. “It’s really important for employees that work for the federal government to see this change, and if it affects them personally, they benefit from it.”

“But then also for those who it doesn’t impact, they might go, ‘oh well, why is this happening?’ And then we can have conversations about the benefits of gender-neutral language just to bring everybody along on this journey that’s so important for a variety of people.”

Source: Time for widespread gender-neutral language in federal policy, legislation, say advocates

Les immigrants auront peu d’incidence sur le déclin du français au Québec

More demystification:

Deux nouvelles études mettent en lumière les défis auxquels fait face la langue française au Québec. Elles confirment le recul net anticipé du poids des francophones au Québec d’ici une quinzaine d’années — et cela, peu importe les efforts déployés pour accueillir plus d’immigrants parlant français —, de même que l’importance que prend l’anglais en milieu de travail.

Dévoilées lundi après-midi par l’Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), ces études viennent étoffer des données contenues dans le grand Rapport sur l’évolution de la situation linguistique, publié en avril 2019, et dans une étude de Statistique Canada publiée en 2017.

Pas de grande surprise par rapport aux constats, donc, mais les conclusions « confirment ce que plusieurs études ont montré — le français décline », commentait lundi Myriam D’Arcy, directrice générale de la Fondation Lionel-Groulx, qui s’intéresse de près à ce dossier. « Il est temps d’agir : on attend impatiemment le projet de loi » que doit déposer le gouvernement Legault pour mettre à jour la Charte de la langue française.

La première étude s’appuie sur les Projections linguistiques pour le Canada, 2011-2036. Ce rapport prévoit notamment une diminution importante de la part de la population utilisant le français à la maison (de 82 % en 2011 à 75 % d’ici 2036).

L’OQLF a demandé aux chercheurs de Statistique Canada d’étudier différents scénarios — touchant tous la composition de l’immigration — pour mesurer s’ils auraient un effet sur la part relative du français dans les différentes catégories habituelles (langue maternelle, principale langue d’usage à la maison, etc.). Résultat ? Les « scénarios auraient somme toute un effet assez limité sur l’accroissement du poids démographique de la population québécoise de langue française », notent les chercheurs.

Même un scénario « théorique peu probable » qui ferait en sorte que 100 % des immigrants du volet économique (c’est Québec qui assure leur sélection) seraient originaires de pays francophones « ne permettrait de faire progresser que marginalement les différents indicateurs du français ».

L’OQLF conclut donc elle aussi que « le poids des francophones de langue maternelle et celui des personnes dont le français est la langue parlée le plus souvent à la maison diminueront d’ici 2036 ». Dans le premier cas, on parle d’un recul d’au moins sept points de pourcentage ; dans le second, d’au moins six points.

Au travail

Pour l’étude Langues utilisées dans diverses situations de travail au Québec en 2018, l’OQLF a mandaté une firme de sondage pour qu’elle éclaircisse qui parle anglais au travail et pour quelles raisons. L’Office s’est gardé d’établir des comparatifs ou de commenter la situation.

Sur l’île de Montréal — là où se concentrent les questions liées à la protection du français —, 53 % des travailleurs parlent surtout français au travail, alors que près de 19 % utilisent surtout l’anglais. Le quart des travailleurs passent d’une langue à l’autre.

Pourquoi ? Près de la moitié (49 %) des répondants qui utilisent au moins régulièrement l’anglais le font pour « offrir un service à la clientèle du Québec ». Parmi les autres raisons mentionnées régulièrement, il y a notamment le fait que des « collègues préfèrent utiliser » l’anglais (25 %).

Source: Les immigrants auront peu d’incidence sur le déclin du français au Québec

Conservatives Back Bloc Québécois Push To Make French The Mandatory Language For Quebec Immigrants

Pandering. Quebec already selects its economic class immigrants where it sets language criteria. Citizenship is exclusive federal jurisdiction which the Conservatives know and should respect. And the “decline” of French is more a myth than reality as it pertains to the language most often spoken at home, where immigrant languages have increased rather than English (see André Pratte’s https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/opinion-questioning-whether-french-is-in-decline-should-not-be-heresy):

Conservatives MPs voted nearly unanimously with Bloc Québécois members Wednesday in favour of making French the mandatory language for all immigrants to Quebec.

Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé’s private member’s bill, however, was defeated — 147 in favour to 172 against — with the Liberals, NDP and Green Party members opposed.

In a statement, the Bloc accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly of failing to act to counter the decline of the French language in Quebec. “[They] have a big credibility deficit,” MP Mario Beaulieu, the Bloc’s critic for official languages declared.

Last week, Joly proposed several new measures to achieve what the government calls “substantive equality” of both official languages. Among the proposals, the federal Liberals proposed giving workers employed by companies under federal jurisdictions in Quebec the right to work in French, as well as those in other regions of the country with a strong francophone presence.

Right now, the Citizenship Act states that applicants aged 18 to 54 must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada before obtaining citizenship. The Bloc campaigned in 2019 to change the law so that those residing in Quebec need to demonstrate only knowledge of French.

The bill also suggested that anyone 18 to 65 should have to demonstrate their language capability.

Several dozen Grit MPs sought to register their objection to the bill en français.

Over on the Conservative side, less French was spoken but all but one vote — New Brunswick MP John Williamson — lined up with the Bloc.

Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, who registered her support in French, told HuffPost Canada there are about 8,000 francophones in her Sarnia–Lambton riding, and they’re seeking a bilingual designation from the province to obtain French-language services in the region. “This is an important issue,” she said.

“I think it is important to protect the French language in Canada, especially in Quebec.”

As someone who previously travelled frequently to Quebec for work, Gladu said, she believes receiving services in French is particularly important.

“Our party supports strengthening the French language in Canada,” she said, “and we would like to see this bill go to committee.”

British Columbia MP Dan Albas told HuffPost Canada that he had concerns about the bill’s changing the maximum age for requiring linguistic knowledge to 65 from 54 but felt that the bill “warrants study at committee.”

That line was also repeated by Quebec MP Pierre Paul-Hus, who told HuffPost that while the bill has the commendable objective of protecting French, it might be hard to impose language requirements on those 54 to 65, “because the change can be difficult for new arrivals.”

That said, he added that his party believes the bill should be sent to committee and amended.

Pressed about his personal opinion on the bill, Paul-Hus said he was “before anything else, a Quebecer who is proud of his francophone heritage.

“And I want Quebec to remain that way,” he said, in French.

During a debate in the House of Commons last fall, Bérubé said her bill’s objective was to ensure that anyone who becomes a citizen and resides in Quebec can “integrate into their host society.”

“In Quebec, the common language is French. The purpose of the [province’s] Charter of the French Language is to make French the official and common language of Quebec,” she said. “Right now, a permanent resident who wants to become a citizen and reside in Quebec could do so without knowing a single word of French.”

‘Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French,’ says Liberal MP

The Liberals’ response came from Soraya Martinez Ferrada, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. She spoke of her own experience arriving in Quebec as a political refugee, and seeing her single mother and grandparents take French classes.

“We all received our citizenship before we could speak French. Today, my children and my cousins are all young Quebec francophones who work and study in French. That was possible in 1980, and I think it is still possible today,” she said.

Martinez Ferrada said the federal government is determined to help all newcomers obtain the language skills they need to integrate into their host community and noted that Quebec already selects its economic-class immigrants.

“Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French. Census data show that, 10 years after they arrive in Canada, 90.5 per cent of economic immigrants, 71.1 per cent  of immigrants under the family reunification program and 84.3 per cent of refugees speak French,” she said during the bill’s only debate in November.

Montreal MP Anthony Housefather told HuffPost that he believes the current requirement — to have adequate knowledge of French or English no matter where you are in the country should stay that way.

“We live in a bilingual country and when becoming a citizen you should be able to do this in French or English anywhere in Canada you happen to live,” he said. “These qualifications for citizenship should not be different based on the province or territory someone happens to live in.”

Housefather added that the Tories’ position was “very much a reversal on previous Conservative positions on Quebec and language issues, which is consistently happening these days to compete with the Bloc.”

Tories have high hopes in Quebec

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has made no secret that his goal is to obtain 30 seats in Quebec during the next election. The party currently has 10. For the Liberals and the Tories, securing a large portion of Quebec’s 78 seats is often seen as a ticket to a majority government.

Manitoba Conservative MP Raquel Dancho told the Commons last fall in declaring the Tories’ support for the bill that the Conservatives were doing so because they have “great respect for the Quebec nation and understand the cultural importance of protecting the French language.

“The Conservatives are offering Quebeckers a serious alternative to the Liberals. We are the only ones who can beat them in the next election and form the next government,” she said.

But standing in either party’s way is a popular Bloc Québécois, which currently has 32 seats and, according to the latest Angus Reid survey, 29 per cent support among respondents, compared with 31 per cent for the Liberals and 18 per cent for the Conservatives.

The Liberals tried to quash a previous version of the Bloc’s bill back in 2018. Bill C-421 — as it was then called — was deemed by a subcommittee to be unconstitutional and non-votable. The Bloc appealed and a secret vote was held in the House that the Liberals — who had a majority of the seats back then — were successful in defeating.

Three years ago, things were different.

The Conservatives did not participate in the bill’s only debate.

Bloc bill riddled with errors, says lone Quebec NDP MP

Pierre Nantel, at the time an NDP MP, spoke in favour of the bill, saying his party’s Quebec caucus would surely have sent the bill to committee for further study if it had been given a chance.

“It is shameful and disrespectful for any Quebec MP to ignore the vulnerability and value of Quebeckers’ quiet nationalism and to fail to proudly defend Quebec’s distinct identity,” Nantel said in the chamber. (Nantel was later dumped by the NDP and was defeated running as a Green candidate in the 2019 election.)

This time round, the party’s lone Quebec MP, Alexandre Boulerice, told HuffPost the Bloc’s bill is riddled with errors and he doesn’t think his party’s support in the province will suffer because of the New Democrats’ opposition.

For example, Boulerice said, the bill doesn’t take into account future interprovincial moves, doesn’t make note that Quebec already gives francophones priority through its economic immigrants, or that it places an unfair and unnecessary burden on those that arrive as refugees.

“La fausse bonne idée quoi,” he wrote, in an email, loosely translated as a bad good idea, or a good idea at first glance.

Source: Conservatives Back Bloc Québécois Push To Make French The Mandatory Language For Quebec Immigrants

Move to curtail minority-language instruction in schools signals ongoing shift in China’s cultural policy

Of note:

Like many schools in China, the Yanji City Number 6 Middle School posts its school calendar on an outside wall. On the list are the usual subjects: language and literature, math, English, biology, politics, physics, history and sports.

Missing, however, is any reference to the Korean-language instruction that once defined this place. Like many other schools in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Number 6 has long taught most courses in Korean.

Yanbian borders North Korea and counts 35 per cent of its population as ethnically Korean. But teaching Korean wasn’t just a nod to demographics or history – it was the law. For Koreans, local regulations mandated that courses could be taught in Chinese only with special permission.

Beginning this school year, that suddenly changed.

“Other than Korean class, subjects like math and science are all taught in Mandarin,” said one Korean man in Yanji. “Before, it was all taught in Korean.” A propaganda poster on the wall calls for those at the school to “build up the sense of unity of the Chinese nation.”

It “feels like the suppression of an ethnic minority – or possibly the cancellation of ethnic languages altogether,” the man said. Police closely followed a Globe and Mail reporter on a recent trip to Yanji, and The Globe is not identifying people interviewed there to shield them from retribution.

What happened in Yanji, however, was not accidental.

Last year, a commission under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the permanent body of China’s central legislature, examined rules that mandate use of local languages and found them unconstitutional, according to a disclosure made last week. The review takes aim at language policies nearly identical to those found in Yanbian and Inner Mongolia, where fierce protests and teacher strikes erupted last fall after officials halted most Mongolian-language instruction.

It is one of the strongest indications to date that what is taking place in classrooms on the distant fringes of the country reflects a major change in Beijing’s approach to those whose language and history differ from the dominant Han culture, which makes up more than 90 per cent of the country’s population.

The constitutional review appears to form “part of a concerted effort aimed at changing national policy towards minorities,” said Changhao Wei, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center and the founder of NPC Observer, a website that tracks Chinese legislative development.

The broader Chinese ambition is about “Han supremacy. It’s a racial project of domination,” said Gerald Roche, an anthropologist who specializes in language politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne. “They want to be at a point where they are a nation united by language.”

From the early days of Communist Party rule, China has carved out a unique place for its minority populations. Following a Soviet model, it officially recognized 56 nationalities, categorizing people from the dominant Han to the Hezhe, which in 1964 numbered just 718 people. The Chinese Constitution guaranteed ethnic groups “the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own traditions and customs.”

Though chairman Mao Zedong ultimately suppressed some ethnic policies, since 1949, China’s 55 minority groups have received benefits including government-backed language support, advantages in hiring and education and exemptions from the strictest family-planning policies.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, has overseen major changes. Across China, cities and provinces – including Yanbian – are stripping away the additional university placement exam points long awarded to ethnic minorities to improve their scores. Affirmative-action-style hiring policies are being reworked. Officials have rescinded lenient family planning policy for some minority groups, including the largely Muslim Uyghurs.

Mr. Xi has advocated the “forging of a communal consciousness of the Chinese nation,” calling for greater recognition of Chinese culture by people of all ethnic groups. Authorities must strengthen Chinese language education, emphasize patriotic education and “bury the seeds of loving China in every child’s heart,” Mr. Xi said in 2019.

Late last year, Beijing for the first time appointed a Han official to lead the National Ethnic Affairs Commission – Zhu Weiqun, one of China’s most prominent voices on ethnic affairs, has argued that China’s current ethnic policies are in need of replacement, saying recognition of minorities and preferential policies toward smaller ethnic groups fractures national unity.

Banishing minority-language instruction, Chinese authorities and scholars have said, is necessary to reduce poverty and create equal workplace opportunity.

Teaching Mandarin is the best way to “improve the quality of the next generation of ethnic minorities,” said Yang Wenhui, an ethnic studies scholar at Yunnan University. “They can’t afford to always be falling behind.”

The promotion of Mandarin began in earnest in 2001, with the adoption of a national language law. By 2009, half of China’s population was deemed competent in Mandarin. By last year, 80 per cent had reached that level.

Beijing’s insistence on Mandarin education, however, has been interwoven with efforts to suppress ethnic dissent. After riots in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008 and 2009, a “more oppressive assimilatory dynamic really emerged,” said Prof. Roche, who spent eight years living in Qinghai and working with linguistic minority groups.

In 2017, authorities in Xinjiang placed teachers in intensive Mandarin-language summer instruction. Last year, a similar program was rolled out nationwide, with authorities pledging to increase teachers’ use of “excellent Chinese language and culture.”

In Yanji, the imposition of Mandarin instruction has support within the Korean community. “I went to Korean schools. I couldn’t keep up with my classmates at all when I entered the university,” one man said. “Mandarin was too difficult.” He has placed his own child in a Chinese kindergarten. “Our mother tongue is Korean. We can speak [it] at home if we really want to,” he said. Local bookstores, too, continue to stock large quantities of Korean-language titles.

Others, however, worry what’s happening in schools is a sign their own government has turned on them.

“Our mother tongue has been removed just because we are an ethnic minority group,” a Korean woman says. “We can see from places like Tibet and Xinjiang that for a minority to become too strong isn’t a good thing these days. It feels to me like oppression.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-move-to-curtail-minority-language-instruction-in-schools-signals/

Sweden proposes language requirement for would-be citizens

Pretty standard requirements elsewhere:

Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson presented details of an inquiry into the proposals on Wednesday morning.

“Language is the key to work, but also the key to society,” said Johansson as he outlined why the government thought it needed to find “a better balance between rights and responsibilities” for would-be citizens.

Foreign nationals applying to become Swedish would need proof of Swedish skills at A2 level for speaking and writing, the second lowest out of six levels on the Common European Framework of Reference, and B1 for reading and listening.

To take the test, it would cost 500 kronor ($60) for the section relating to civil society and 2,000 kronor for the language component.

Citizenship applicants could alternatively provide proof of passing Grade 9 in a Swedish high school, or a course at upper secondary school, or the highest level of the Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) course.

The language requirements would apply to people aged between 16 and 66 who apply for Swedish citizenship, but certain exceptions are proposed, including for people with certain disabilities or those who are from a vulnerable background – for example being stateless or illiterate – who can prove they have tried to reach the required knowledge level but been unsuccessful.

Citizens of other Nordic countries who live in Sweden would also be exempted, as they are subject to a different process and are only required to notify authorities, rather than apply, in order to receive citizenship.

The proposals were put together based on reviewing the processes in place in other European countries, of which only three including Sweden do not currently require a language test.

But the details aren’t finalised yet. The next stage is to send the proposals out for consultation from relevant authorities, and they may be adapted depending on the responses received. Then a proposal would need to be passed by parliament and work to begin on putting together the tests.

“This is a reasonable proposal and we hope that it can be put into place as soon as possible, but of course this is a large organisational challenge,” said Johansson.

The government committed to investigating language tests for citizenship applicants in the cross-bloc deal struck with the Centre and Liberal parties, whose support the Social Democrat-Green coalition needed to form a government.

Separately, the government is looking into whether language skills should be required for permanent residence in Sweden.

Source: https://www.thelocal.se/20210113/sweden-proposes-language-requirement-for-would-be-citizens

Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

Virtue signalling, given that citizenship is exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Challenge for Liberal, CPC and NDP Quebec MPs and will see if any pander to this bill:

The Bloc Québécois will get to debate a bill Thursday that would require anyone applying for Canadian citizenship in Quebec to demonstrate functional proficiency in French.

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet says that familiarity with the official language of Quebec is essential amid what he calls an ongoing threat to the mother tongue of most Quebecers.

Currently, most applicants must demonstrate a professional proficiency in either English or French to qualify for citizenship, but a private member’s bill Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé introduced in February would change that to require French for immigrants who have settled in Quebec.

The chance to debate the legislation comes after Montreal Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos told the House of Commons official languages committee last week that the idea of a French-language decline is a “myth.”

She reversed her comments following a social media backlash, saying in a statement Saturday her remarks were “insensitive,” that French is in decline and that she hopes to find ways to protect it.

Blanchet said some Liberals threw Lambropoulos “under the bus” in calling her out for her initial remarks, and suggested the governing party was hypocritical in its professed concern for the state of the French language.

“What is insensitive actually is the reaction of the rest of her caucus,” Blanchet said Wednesday. “She probably said out loud what many of them do think.

“I strongly doubt that when they have private conversations in the corners of their caucus they say, ‘Oh, French is in a bad situation.'”

Meanwhile, reports of a recent tweet — since deleted — by Chelsea Craig, the Quebec director of the federal Liberal party, referring to the province’s 43-year-old language law as “oppressive” fanned the regional firestorm.

Craig posted a subsequent message to Twitter on Wednesday stressing that Bill 101 is important and stating in French that “French is declining in Quebec and it must be protected.”

But the damage was done. For the third day in a row, Bloc and Conservative MPs hammered the Trudeau government with questions about the state of the French language in Canada.

“It makes no sense,” Conservative MP Alain Rayes said in French during question period in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.

“Will the prime minister immediately condemn her disrespectful comments?”

Blanchet asked Trudeau whether he agreed with Craig.

“Does the prime minister of Canada believe that Bill 101 is ‘oppressive’ against the English in Quebec” Blanchet asked in French.

The prime minister replied that the government supports the law — known as the Charter of the French Language — and recognizes that in a bilingual Canada, Quebec “must be first and foremost French-speaking.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he supports stronger laws to protect French, adding that the government needs to provide more educational tools to foster language development.

Source: Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens