Jason Kenney: Adding Insult to Irony
While I’m beating up on our beleaguered Immigration Minister, here’s something else to consider. Yesterday, Jason Kenney suggested that new immigrants just aren’t trying hard enough to learn English or French, and will now be absolutely required to demonstrate ‘competence’ (as determined by…?) in one of our two official languages or be denied citizenship.
In some ways this story is a bit of a man-bites-dog tale. After all, as Kenney himself points out, language skills are already supposed to be a requirement for citizenship – it’s mostly a matter of enforcement and of determining what constitutes ‘competence’.
But Kenney’s sudden concern over the language skills of new Canadians seems pretty hollow given that he also recently cut funding to a language program for immigrants run by the Canadian Arab Federation. The irony has not been lost on the CAF, who point out that the ESL services they offer have nothing to do with the advocacy activities that Kenney had taken such exception to – and that most of the people in the program are actually Chinese.
There is another aspect to the issue of language skills and immigration that no one seems to be addressing. Among the many impediments to new Canadians learning English or French – time, money, aptitude – one of the most basic is age. Quite simply, the older you are, the more difficult it is to learn a new language. So in some ways, Kenney’s new emphasis on language skills discriminates against elderly immigrants being brought in as part of extended family units.
We North Americans tend to forget that in most parts of the world (and even here until recently), children, parents and grandparents all tend to live together or in close proximity. The grandparents look after the kids while the parents work, the parents care for the grandparents at home instead of sending them off somewhere, and everyone increases their chances of integrating successfully because they can all help each other find jobs, housing, social activities, etc. Not only is this arrangement extremely stable, it also cuts down on the need for services such as day care and old age homes.
So why would our government want to discourage grandparents from immigrating along with their extended families by requiring them to learn another language so late in life?
Something to consider.