Canadian Immigration System Adopts Stricter Stance on Language Proficiency


Under the ministry of Jason Kenney, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has gradually increased the required level of language proficiency for prospective immigrants. In response to the problems of underemployment and difficulty with integration among immigrant communities across the country, the federal government is shifting to a firmer stance on the ability of prospective immigrants to communicate in one of the official languages.

According to a 2012 Immigration Canada report, a surprising 60% of immigrants express that they cannot conduct a formal conversation in either English or French, and approximately 600,000 of newcomers work in a foreign language, predominantly Punjabi, Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, and Tagalog. The country’s 2011 census also shows canada’s language diversity,, with one in five Canadians speaking a non-official language at home.

The lack of language proficiency of immigrants is a serious concern for the Canadian government. Besides the issue of underemployment of highly skilled immigrants due to their low language proficiency, their inability to communicate in the official languages tends to result in ethnic enclaves in some metropolitan areas, as observed with immigrant hubs in Vancouver. In turn, this isolation of immigrant communities from the larger Canadian society breeds distrust and insecurity among Canadians.          

As a result of these concerns, the federal government has announced the effectuation of  a series of new measures and reforms to current immigration programs, including to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TPFW), that increase its standards of language proficiency for immigrants However, the measures raise worries in respect to the global competition to attract highly skilled immigrants from around the world. Would a stricter immigration policy discourages talented individuals from coming to Canada?

Douglas Todd, a columnist for the Vancouver Sun, argues that it does not. Since countries that produce the greatest number of Canadian immigrants, namely Indian, China, and Philippines have significantly large populations that aim to emigrate, it is unlikely that these countries would be unable to keep up with the language demands of the Canadian system.

According to Todd, a more stringent stance on language proficiency may disqualify some prospective immigrants to come to Canada, but  it would be more tragic for Canadian immigrants, after investing much time and money, to arrive in a new country finding themselves in difficult financial situations and being isolated from the larger Canadian society.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based law firm that provides professional advice and legal services on Canadian immigration. For more updates and tips on Canadian immigration, visit Remember to like FWCanada on Facebook, and follow the firm on Twitter.

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