Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney spoke at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations and outlined how a transformed immigration system would benefit the Canadian economy.
In his speech the Minister outlined a series of changes planned for the immigration system to make it faster, more flexible and focused on jobs to promote national economic growth and prosperity that can benefit all regions of Canada.
Proposed changes to the economic immigration system include eliminating the backlog of old Federal Skilled Worker applications, modernizing how selection is done under that program to better reflect the importance of younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and better language skills, creating a new Federal Skilled Trades program, and modifying the Canadian Experience Class to better facilitate the transition to permanent residence by successful skilled temporary workers.
Economic Action Plan 2012 also announced changes to CIC’s Business Immigration Programs, which will target more active investment in Canadian growth companies and more innovative entrepreneurs. Under proposed legislative amendments, CIC intends to introduce new small-scale programs on a temporary basis to try innovative approaches to economic immigration. Improvements to the existing Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) could be rolled out over a longer timeframe, as any changes would require extensive consultations with provinces and territories, particularly the province of Quebec, which operates its own Investor program under provisions in the Canada-Quebec Accord. Furthermore, adjustments to the current IIP would have to go through the regulatory process.
“The changes I’ve announced are to ensure that immigrants who come to Canada can contribute to the economy quickly,” Minister Kenney said. “And the cornerstone of success is being able to speak one of Canada’s official languages. That is why the government is also proposing changes to the citizenship rules so that new citizens have the language abilities they need to succeed.”
Under the proposed change, prospective citizens would be required to provide objective evidence of their language ability with their citizenship applications. Applicants would be able to demonstrate language ability by submitting a variety of evidence, including the results of approved third party tests, evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French, or evidence of achieving the appropriate language level in certain government funded language training programs.
“The proposed change would encourage citizenship applicants to ensure that they can speak English or French when they apply,” Minister Kenney said. “Language is an important component of the successful integration of immigrants and new citizens.”
Adequate knowledge of English or French is a requirement for citizenship in Canada and has been a requirement since the first Citizenship Act of 1947. The Government of Canada provides language training free of charge to permanent residents.