Language commissioners urge governments to increase Francophone immigration outside Quebec
Ottawa – Fredericton – Toronto – OCTOBER 30, 2014 – The Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Graham Fraser, his New Brunswick counterpart Katherine d’Entremont and Ontario’s French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau are pressing the federal and provincial governments to step up their efforts to increase immigration in Francophone communities outside Quebec. They are also pushing for the adoption of four guiding principles to ensure immigration contributes to the development and vitality of these communities.
“Immigration is crucial to the vitality, indeed the future, of official language minority communities,” said Commissioner Fraser. To benefit from immigration, Francophone and Acadian communities must attract immigrants in proportions equal to or greater than their demographic weight. But these communities are the big losers in terms of immigration, because only 2% of immigrants who settle outside Quebec are French-speaking, whereas these communities make up 4% of the population, or approximately 1 million Canadians. The commissioners see this situation as worrisome.
The federal government is currently making several changes to Canada’s immigration system, focusing on the economy, quicker labour market entry and recruitment of immigrants with skills in demand in Canada. “We’ve reached a turning point. In the past year, the federal government has renewed its commitment to addressing the shortage of Francophone immigrants. Meanwhile, we are just months away from one of the most substantial immigration system reforms in our history. Right now, we have an opportunity to transform immigration into a truly positive force for Francophone communities outside Quebec. We cannot let it pass us by,” explained Commissioner Fraser.
The three language ombudsmen believe that the federal immigration framework should be tailored to the specific objectives of the provincial and territorial governments for the selection, recruitment, integration and retention of Francophone immigrants. Such measures would help address the different socioeconomic contexts of minority communities.
“Ontario has led the way by setting a 5% target for Francophone immigration. The government must now make sure it has all the necessary tools, including a pan-governmental-community approach and cooperation with the federal government, to reach that target and address the needs and priorities of not only Francophone newcomers, but also those of the host communities in Ontario,” said Commissioner Boileau.
Commissioner of Official Languages Katherine d’Entremont welcomes the Government of New Brunswick’s commitment to ensuring 33% of the province’s immigrants are Francophone by 2020. Commissioner d’Entremont urges the two levels of government to work closely together to preserve the vitality of the province’s Francophone community. “Immigration is a shared jurisdiction. For Francophones in New Brunswick to maintain their 33% share of the population, the federal and provincial governments must adopt a long-term concerted approach.”
While acknowledging government efforts with regard to Francophone immigration in Canada, the commissioners feel that results have been slow in coming. Consequently, they believe it is imperative that the following four guiding principles be adopted:
- Immigration must help maintain, and even increase, the demographic weight of Francophone minority communities in Canada.
- Federal and provincial immigration policies and programs must be designed and tailored to address Francophone immigrant recruitment, integration and retention needs specific to the different contexts of Francophone minority communities across Canada.
- Strong federal-provincial-community partnerships, long-term strategies for the selection, recruitment, welcoming, education, integration and retention of immigrants, and sufficient resources are needed to ensure that immigration supports the development and vitality of Francophone minority communities.
- Governments must develop an evaluation and accountability framework to measure progress achieved and ensure attainment of immigration objectives in Francophone minority communities.
In 2012 and 2013, the three commissioners signed agreements to, among other things, increase cooperation and discussion among their respective offices. It is in that spirit that the three commissioners are tackling the immigration issue.
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