Over the past few weeks, there have been several announcements made by the federal government concerning reforms to immigration policies.
I have tried to keep on top of all of the changes. Many Canadians are applauding these changes and I am sure that in some areas of the country, the changes will be welcomed.
The change that concerns me the most as to the potential effect on Brandon, is the English Language Proficiency requirement.
Brandon’s immigration has been largely driven by Maple Leaf Foods bringing in foreign temporary workers, who apply to the Provincial Nominee Program to become permanent residents. They can then bring their spouse and children here and settle into our community. At the present time, there is no English language testing to apply for the PNP.
As of July 1, 2012, all applicants who are applying for the PNP will be required to pass an English Language Proficiency test. I know many people respond to this as being a positive. But let’s apply this to Brandon.
The jobs for which Maple Leaf recruits internationally are ranked as low skill jobs. The people who apply for these jobs and stay at Maple Leaf are doing low skilled jobs in their home countries. They have little, if any English language skills.
The federal government will now require those who wish to apply to the PNP to pass an English (or French) test. The levels of the test will require the person to easily converse in English and show basic proficiency in reading and writing.
So, let’s run a scenario. Paul has just left his wife and three children to come to Brandon with hopes of bringing them over at a later date with aspirations of making a better life for his family. He arrives in Brandon, starts a new job and is now living with strangers. The work is heavy and hard and he is exhausted at the end of the day.
But now he has to add learning English as a priority if he wants to bring his family over. He doesn’t have much opportunity to practice English though. He wears protective hearing gear at work and doesn’t do any speaking. When he comes home, his roommates all speak his first language, so that’s what they use.
Days roll into weeks and then months, and Paul has not learned nearly enough English to pass this test. And his foreign temporary worker permit will be running out soon. So he resigns himself to the fact that he will be heading back to his home country.
This is what we could be facing, groups of foreign temporary workers coming to Brandon for a two-year period and returning to their home country. They will not be buying homes or cars. Nor do I expect them to invest in our community.
I understand the federal government’s concentration is on highly skilled workers and maybe the language requirement makes more sense.
But in our smaller communities, we have limited need to fill highly skilled jobs and we will still have the need to hire from other countries to fill the jobs we can’t find Canadians to fill.
I am sure that none of us want a revolving door of foreign temporary workers.
We want people to stay, bring their families and become a part of our community.
We have experienced the upside to having our community grow. We are all richer for it.
» Leslie Allen is the executive director of Westman Immigrant Services. Her column appears monthly.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 19, 2012