Provincial Premiers want more French Speakers to Immigrate to Canada

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Provincial and territorial Premiers also call for more powers over selection of newcomers

The leaders of Canada’s provinces and territories have agreed to reach a target of 5% francophone (i.e. French-speaking) immigration outside the province of Quebec. This target follows the objective of the federal government that, by 2018, francophone newcomers will represent at least 4% of all economic immigrants who settle outside Quebec.

The provincial and territorial Premiers issued a joint statement on the matter at a Council of the Federation held in Whitehorse, Yukon in late July. This marks the first time that the 13 Premiers have together endorsed an immigration target for francophones looking to settle in Canada.

Settlement outside Quebec

With its rich culture and pride in its linguistic heritage, Quebec is often the first place francophones look to when starting out on their Canadian immigration objectives. The rest of Canada, however, also has a sizeable francophone population of over one million individuals, representing around 4% of the total population outside Quebec. The government of Canada, as well as the Premiers, want to maintain and build on these vibrant communities.

In its year-end Express Entry report, the federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) noted that, in 2015, 2% of candidates issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence under the Express Entry immigration selection system were French speaking, though they only represented 1% of candidates in the Express Entry pool. IRCC stated that it is currently exploring ways to increase the amount of French-speaking candidates interested in applying to come to Canada through Express Entry.

Mobilité Francophone

Recent developments since that report was published reflect a commitment from the federal immigration authorities to stimulating francophone immigration outside Quebec. One of these initiatives is the Mobilité Francophone stream of the International Mobility Program, which launched on June 1

Through Mobilité Francophone, Canadian employers outside Quebec may now recruit French-speaking and bilingual foreign skilled workers without needing to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to prove that no Canadian citizens or permanent residents could fill the position. The federal government has since coordinated recruitment events in countries with French-speaking populations, so that employers may have access to talented individuals who wish to come to Canada and work.

While Mobilité Francophone is not itself an immigration program, it may provide the key opportunity a French-speaking person needs to gain work experience in Canada and apply for Canadian permanent residence. Indeed, federal Immigration Minister John McCallum has explicitly stated that Mobilité Francophone is designed for this purpose.

“We’re going to encourage skilled francophone workers to come to Canada and settle in communities outside Quebec, and we’re going to encourage them to apply for permanent residence,” said Minister McCallum.

The goals of Mobilité Francophone show a commitment to the development of minority communities and the fostering of cultural diversity. Internal policy instructions from IRCC state that “work that promotes the use of French outside Quebec strengthens and supports the social and cultural fabric of Canadian society while respecting the federal, bilingual and multicultural character of Canada.” Career fairs in France have proved popular with individuals wishing to find temporary employment in Canada. At these fairs, industry professionals from provinces such as Ontario and New Brunswick recruit in such diverse areas as software engineering, the restaurant industry, childcare, and fashion, among other industries.

Provinces are already attracting French speakers

While the statement issued at the Council is aspirational, there are already in existence a range of Canadian immigration options that may be particularly attractive to individuals with French proficiency.

For example, the French-Speaking Skilled Worker stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP)allows Express Entry candidates with advanced-intermediate French ability (Canadian Language Benchmark 7) to obtain an enhanced OINP provincial nomination certificate. With this, the candidate may receive 600 additionalComprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points and an ITA at a subsequent draw from the pool. Candidates who have previously been exposed to French may, with a bit of additional effort and revision, reach adequate-intermediate proficiency and potentially benefit from this Canadian immigration option.

All Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allow candidates and applicants to submit test results confirming French ability for PNP streams in which language ability is a factor. Essentially, French ability is deemed to be no less valuable than English ability under many PNP streams.

Provinces want more say

In addition to petitioning the federal government for an increase in cap limits for provincial and territorial nominee programs, Premiers called for an equivalent agreement to the Canada-Quebec Accord to be established for all provinces and territories. The Canada-Quebec Accord, ratified in 1991, gives Quebec jurisdiction over the selection of its immigrants. Similar agreements between the federal government and the individual provinces would give the provinces greater power to select immigrants to respond to the unique needs of the province.

The next steps

While the federal objective for francophone immigration is 4% of economic immigrants settling outside Quebec by 2018, Premiers have unanimously called for a goal of 5%. Provincial and territorial representatives are expected to meet with federal authorities in the spring of 2017 to discuss an action plan for increasing the numbers of French speakers settling outside Quebec. A preliminary meeting is expected for October.

“Francophone and bilingual individuals looking to make Canada their home may be encouraged by recent commitments from the federal immigration authorities to developing and strengthening francophone minority communities,” says Attorney David Cohen.

“With this new focus on growth and strengthening of minority francophone communities outside Quebec, potential applicants may find even more opportunities to settle and integrate throughout Canada.”