Thursday, April 12, 2012

Select immigrant workers to face mandatory language testing: ministers

BY JASON WARICK, THE STARPHOENIX, WITH POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES



Thousands of new immigrants in Canada will require basic language skills, federal Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced in Wednesday in Saskatoon.
Kenney said low- and medium-skilled workers applying under the Provincial Nominee Program will be subject to mandatory English or French language testing, and will be required to meet a minimum standard for speaking, reading, writing and listening in one of Canada’s two official languages.
As a result, immigrants coming to Canada under the program will arrive with much better language skills and will be selected for the impact they can have on Canada’s economy, he said in a news release.
“We have supported enormous growth in the number of provincial nominees in recent years because it makes sense for the provinces and territories to have the flexibility to meet regional needs.”
The cost of the tests will be paid by the applicant or their prospective employer.
The changes take effect July 1, and will not affect workers already approved before that point.
The new language requirements will impact tradespeople, those in manufacturing, sales and services, as well as certain clerical and assistant categories.
Applicants will be required to provide valid test scores from a designated testing agency.
Temporary foreign workers who arrive before July 1, 2012 and transition to the provincial nominee program within a year have a one-time exemption.
More than 38,000 workers and their families came to Canada last year through the program which gives the provinces and territories a greater say in immigration in a bid to fill gaps in their local labour markets.
It’s also helped spread out the immigrant population as more and more people have been choosing to settle outside traditionally popular provinces like Ontario and British Columbia.
Kenney lauded the work of the Saskatchewan government and Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration Minister Rob Norris. Kenny said at the press conference there is an “economic revolution” occurring in the province, in part due to the improved immigration policies of both levels of government.
“It is great to see this province humming with energy,” Kenny added.
He noted Saskatchewan immigration rates have more than quadrupled since 2005, and those new residents are helping boost the economy. The provincial boom has seen the program grow to 5,354 immigrants in 2010 compared to just 173 in 2003.
Norris welcomes the new language requirements, saying they will be good for the Saskatchewan economy, but also for the workers. He said it will ensure safer workplaces, higher wages and improved chances of success in Saskatchewan society.
Norris said immigration is just one piece of the economic strategy. He said the government also places a high priority on improving the education, training and employment of Saskatchewan aboriginal people, noting there have been 10 consecutive months of increases in aboriginal employment in Saskatchewan.
“It’s not either-or,” he said. “We’re very pleased,(but) there’s a lot more to do.”

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