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Why Canada wants immigrants to face language test

Last updated on: August 18, 2010 02:05 IST

Starting June 26 this year, Canada made it compulsory for all skilled immigrant applicants to take an English or French language test.

Countering the protests against the new immigration rule, Doug Kellam, spokesperson, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, told "We are talking about skilled workers, who will be working here as professionals, we are not talking about family class applicants, refugees."

"We know that the ability to speak English or French is a very, very strong predicator of success. If you come to this country and you are unable to speak one of the two official languages, you may starve. In fact, if you are coming into a profession, the level of language you have to have is that much higher to be able to succeed."

"Under the old system, we had allowed applicants to either undergo a test or supply some evidence of their ability to communicate in one of the two official languages and what we found from that it was very inefficient," he added.

"There were challenges to decisions made by visa officersÂ… It was not working in our favor that way. We decided to have a standardised test that's administered by an expert party. The applicants go to that organisation, mail in their results and visa officers get the information. It is objective. It is efficient, and we are able to process visa applications much faster now. We are doing it to get better results, more reliable results, yet doing it faster."

When asked about the case of one Sara Landreth, who has a PhD in English literature and has been recruited to teach the language in Canada, being asked to take the test, Kellam said, "It may look odd, but she and all skilled workers must take the language test."

"The minister has considered exemptions," he added. "Our people in the department, who are in the policy areas, looked at whether they could implement exemptions and make them work. They concluded that they couldn'tÂ… Some reasons for exemption could be challenged as discriminatory. So, it was decided that although there would be cases like this one (Landreth's), we were better off not having exemptions."

Kellam said if they introduced exemptions to the new system, visa officers would have to decide if the exemption applied. There would be applicants challenging the decision, leading to the same problems they faced earlier.

He clarified that the mandatory language tests would not be applicable to those who applied before June 26.

Ajit Jain in Toronto