At the National Law Conference in Montreal Last week, Diane de Courcy, Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities for the Quebec provincial government announced a plan to increase demands on French language proficiency for the Quebec Skilled Workers Program (QSW). This announcement echoes Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney’s policy orientation to elevate language proficiency standards for prospective immigrants at the federal level.
Although actual changes to the QSW program’s point system, used to determine the eligibility of immigrants to come to Quebec as workers, have not occurred, de Courcy’s proposal may soon be put into action. Currently, applicants to the QSW program are awarded points for proficiency in French at the beginner level. Conversely, de Courcy`s changes to the program will require applicants to demonstrate an intermediate level of French to receive points for language proficiency.
de Courcy’s plan reflects the provincial government’s mandate to attract french speaking immigrants, as noted in the proposed amendment she made to the Quebec Charter of French Language earlier this year. As a member of the Parti Quebecois, de Courcy presented a draft revision to the Charter on February 5th, 2013. The revision stated that the growth of the French language at the workplace is slowing down, and thus calls for the “francization” of the province’s immigrants. At present, this amendment has not yet been passed.
“In addition to contributing to the strengthening of French in Quebec society, the bill is accompanied by measures to support the French language and the integration of immigrants, particularly in employment,” stated de Courcy. “Our government wants to ensure that this integration is done in French, both in the workplace and within society.”
It seems that a consensus on the importance of language proficiency in determining the successful integration of skilled immigrants into the Canadian economy has been widely emphasized in the Canadian governmen’s discourse this year. In this sense, de Courcy’s call for an increase in language requirements is no surprise. However, in regards to Quebec’s French language policy changes, a concern remains: taking into account growing unemployment in Quebec and emerging employment opportunities in other English speaking provinces in Canada, will the deliberate intervention to bolster proficiency in French exclusively harm the immigrants’ ability to find a job in other provinces of the country?
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