Putting Cana­dian ci­ti­zen­ship val­ues to the test

Sherbrooke Record - - EDITORIAL - Peter Black

This is Cana­dian Ci­ti­zen­ship Week, Oct. 8 to 14, of­fi­cially. And, as a com­mu­niqué from Im­mi­gra­tion, Refugees, Ci­ti­zen­ship Canada (IRCC) de­clared, ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies dur­ing the week were brought to “new heights.” The lofty venues in­clude the CN Tower in Toronto, the Van­cou­ver Look­out and the Olympic Sta­dium in Mon­treal.

IRCC said the el­e­vated cer­e­monies are to cel­e­brate the new rules for be­com­ing a Cana­dian cit­i­zen, en­shrined in Bill C6, which the de­part­ment says make it faster and eas­ier for new­com­ers to be­come cit­i­zens. This stream­lin­ing, ac­cord­ing to IRCC, has re­sulted in a 40 per­cent in­crease in the num­ber of new cit­i­zens pro­cessed, 152,000 in the past year, com­pared to 108,000 for the same pe­riod the pre­vi­ous year.

A key change in the Bill is the re­duced time per­ma­nent res­i­dents must be phys­i­cally present in Canada be­fore ap­ply­ing for ci­ti­zen­ship, from four out of six years, to three out of five years.

As­tute fol­low­ers of the re­cently ter­mi­nated Que­bec elec­tion cam­paign may re­call Coali­tion Avenir Québec Leader and now premier-des­ig­nate François Le­gault was stumped when a re­porter asked him what length of time per­ma­nent res­i­dents must wait be­fore ap­ply­ing for ci­ti­zen­ship. “A few months,” he guessed, later ad­mit­ting he needed to bone up on his ci­ti­zen­ship ba­sics.

Le­gault pre­sum­ably has now got his facts straight as he and his government pre­pare to en­act the CAQ’S prom­ise to, in ef­fect, set the bar some­what higher for new­com­ers to be­come Cana­dian cit­i­zens who plan to live in Que­bec.

We are re­fer­ring to the twin tests of French lan­guage pro­fi­ciency and of Que­bec “val­ues.” Those who flunk the tests, ac­cord­ing to Le­gault, would be re­ported to the fed­eral government which has the power, and pre­sum­ably, the obli­ga­tion, to show the door to failed ap­pli­cants.

A de­gree of lan­guage pro­fi­ciency is al­ready re­quired of ci­ti­zen­ship ap­pli­cants to Canada. The oblig­a­tory ci­ti­zen­ship test is done in ei­ther English or French, re­quir­ing the hope­ful to ab­sorb the study guide, Dis­cover Canada - The Rights and Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of Ci­ti­zen­ships, in ei­ther of­fi­cial lan­guage.

While the lan­guage is clear and sim­ple in the guide, for a would-be Cana­dian who speaks an­other lan­guage, pass­ing the test would seem to pose a se­ri­ous chal­lenge, upon which hang one’s hopes and dreams, and those of your fam­ily.

Un­der­stand­ing the con­tent of the guide well enough to an­swer ques­tions about it would seem to go hand-in-hand with an­other re­quire­ment of Cana­dian ci­ti­zen­ship, namely ba­sic lan­guage pro­fi­ciency, or as the IRCC says, “ad­e­quate knowl­edge” of ei­ther of­fi­cial lan­guage.

“Ad­e­quate knowl­edge” is de­fined as Level 4 speak­ing and lis­ten­ing abil­ity, mean­ing be­ing able to un­der­stand sim­ple ques­tions, direc­tions and in­struc­tions, use ba­sic gram­mar tenses, have enough vo­cab­u­lary to ex­press your­self and an­swer ques­tions, and take part in short, ev­ery­day con­ver­sa­tions.

Ap­pli­cants need to pro­vide proof of lan­guage pro­fi­ciency with Ircc-ap­proved third-party tests, gov­ern­ment­funded lan­guage training pro­grams, or com­ple­tion of se­condary or post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion in English or French.

It’s not clear how the CAQ plan for French lan­guage tests would work in re­la­tion to the ex­ist­ing re­quire­ments for Cana­dian ci­ti­zen­ship. The ob­vi­ous dis­tinc­tion is that all those hop­ing to live in Que­bec once they be­come cit­i­zens of Canada would be com­pelled to take a French test be­fore get­ting their Cer­tifi­cate of Se­lec­tion, Que­bec’s stamp of im­mi­grant ap­proval.

We’ll leave it to oth­ers to de­cide whether this, on its mer­its, is an un­rea­son­able or of­fen­sive re­quire­ment. Le­gault’s mo­ti­va­tion, that un­less im­mi­grants speak more French his grand­chil­dren won’t be speak­ing it, may be more con­tentious.

Also in need of some clar­i­fi­ca­tion, say ob­servers, is just what the pro­posed “val­ues” test is all about. Dur­ing the cam­paign Le­gault of­fered a few ex­am­ples of ques­tions, drawn from Que­bec’s char­ter of rights and free­doms: Do you think women are equal to men? Do you rec­og­nize that the state is sec­u­lar? Do you rec­og­nize that we have a demo­cratic so­ci­ety? Do you rec­og­nize that ho­mo­sex­u­als have the same rights as oth­ers in our so­ci­ety?

Noth­ing there along the lines of the ad­mon­ish­ment against the ston­ing of women in the in­fa­mous Hérouxville guide to im­mi­grants. Still, ques­tions will con­tinue to be raised about what value there is in adding such a val­ues test to the grilling im­mi­grants al­ready face.

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