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Lost in translation: Government’s plan to change (but not eliminate) a language requirement for Canadian citizenship

Should Canada require would-be Canadian citizens to pass a language test in either French or English before they are able to become citizens? While this has been the case for years, it is now time to re-think this.

Immigrating to Canada is often the first step to becoming a Canadian citizen.  Depending on the stream of immigration that one uses to come to Canada, minimum language requirements often must be met before that individual is permitted to immigrate here.  Economic streams, for example, require that applicants meet minimum language requirements so that they are able to find gainful employment and adapt to life in Canada quickly.  The family streams, however, do not require minimum language requirements be met.

There are many factors that determine whether an individual is suitable to immigrate to Canada on an economic basis, but language ability is a key factor.  Why, then, are these same individuals going to be required to showcase their language abilities yet again, should they decide to apply for citizenship? If they required language tests before immigrating to Canada, why require them to dig up old test scores. Shouldn’t Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have this record?

For immigrants we do not require language test results from (family immigrants, refugees, protected persons), Canada made a decision that they can live, work, and study here for the rest of their lives without needed a language test. If they are already here, why make them take a test years after immigrating. If language proficiency is so important, we should test it at the front end of immigration, not the back end.

One of the proposed changes to the way in which citizenship is granted is to lower the required time spent in Canada from four to three years.  I would think that adaptability to Canadian life would be more greatly influenced by the amount of time one is required to live in Canada than it is by displaying their language capabilities (for some, a second time).

After the release of Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s report last week, it is clear that the Canadian government should focus more on issues like citizenship fraud, and a little less on whether or not an individual can speak the Queen’s English (or French).

*This blog was co-written by Leanne Verreault, immigration legal assistant.

 

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About Reis Pagtakhan

Reis Pagtakhan is an immigration law partner with MLT Aikins LLP. His extensive experience includes assisting businesses obtain temporary entry to Canada and permanent residency for their executives, employees and contractors from all over the world. Reis has lectured on and written papers on immigration law for the Law Society of Manitoba, the Manitoba Bar Association, the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and the Community Legal Education Association of Manitoba. He has presented position papers before the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Department officials and Manitoba Labour and Immigration. He has written articles on immigration for the CBC, the Winnipeg Free Press, trade, industry and ethnic publications.

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