The folks at the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in Ottawa are keeping real busy these days.
In addition to other recent announcements, they have just introduced their third major piece of legislation designed to amend our immigration regulations.
A recap is in order.
Firstly, the feds have Bill C-17 pending. This bill aims to deny work permits to foreign strippers headed for Canada with a view of protecting them from our licensed, but “exploitive,” strip clubs.
Then there is Bill C-50, which is also on a bumpy road to passage. Changes to our immigration regulations were tucked into this budget bill and seek to turn our minister of immigration, and her successors, into super ministers who can proclaim new immigration rules without parliamentary, cabinet, or public input or oversight.
Now, we have a third proposed regulatory amendment that introduces two main initiatives.
First, we’ll start with the good news.
CIC proposes to simplify the landing process for applicants in the skilled worker class and the business classes. These applicants will still be required to send their applications to visa posts outside Canada for processing. However, those who find themselves in Canada in lawful temporary status (i.e. as workers or visitors) at the time that their immigrant visas are issued overseas will be able to get landed here without leaving the country. Presently, they would have to drive or fly to the nearest Canadian port of entry to seek landing. This welcome change will, undoubtedly, avoid a lot of unnecessary schlepping.
Now, the not-so-good news.
It is proposed that all applicants in the skilled worker class, and in the business class (i.e. investors, entrepreneurs, and the self-employed) undergo a formal third-party language test in English or French regardless of their nationality, mother tongue, or language of instruction.
At present, applicants in these categories can elect to undergo such a test or submit other evidence of their abilities in one of our official languages.
However, the department feels that assessing such alternative evidence is slowing down its officers. The department considered issuing a narrow exemption for “native English or French speakers” but couldn’t find a “clear and fully defensible definition” of one. Instead, it proposes to require everyone to do the test.
While this is being touted as “fair,” I can’t wait to see the looks on the face of some American or British-born engineer or businessman, or perhaps a French poet, when I tell them they need to undergo language testing and they may have to fly or drive for hours to get to the nearest test site.
This doesn’t make us look “fair.” It makes us appear as if we lack basic common sense.
Given my own Canadian education and work experience I’d be miffed if I were to be asked to do an English test if I were immigrating to the U.S. or U.K.
Other countries have defined fair exemptions to language testing.
So should we.
Guidy Mamann practises law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at email@example.com.