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Why provinces would be hurt by immigration language requirements

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are largely a success but minimum language proficiency standards are necessary to reduce incidents of immigration…

By Sadiya Ansari , in 2012 Blogs The Fed-Prov File , on February 21, 2012 Tags: , , , ,

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are largely a success but minimum language proficiency standards are necessary to reduce incidents of immigration fraud, Canada’s immigration minster, Jason Kenney, said late last month.

PNPs have allowed provinces to nominate immigrants for permanent residence according to regional labour needs rather than relying on federal economic immigration programs, which take a country-wide outlook, since 1998.

How welcoming is Canada? Photo courtesy of Flickr user 5of7 via Creative Commons

If the feds set minimum language requirements for PNPs, it would encroach upon provinces’ ability to recruit newcomers on their own terms, as pointed out in this recent Winnipeg Free Press op-ed. Minimum language requirements would be especially detrimental to those provinces that target semi-skilled workers in industries such as construction, hotel and lodging and food services.

Prairie provinces in particular have become increasingly reliant on their PNPs to build a permanent semi-skilled workforce.  Under PNPs, more than 36,000 new permanent residents are brought into Canada each year; between 42,000 and 45,000 immigrants are expected to be admitted via the program in 2012.

In the meantime, many employers already rely heavily on the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which doesn’t have a minimum language requirement. Designed to fill temporary jobs, the TFWP is also especially popular in high-growth prairie provinces like Alberta.

However, a 2010 IRPP study suggested that TFWs, whose visas tie them to a single employer, are subsequently vulnerable to employment abuse. Permanent residents, even those with low language skills, are not as vulnerable to abuse because they enjoy labour mobility.

A minimum language requirement for PNPs would shut out a significant number of semi-skilled workers hoping for permanent residency, thereby increasing the number of TFWs. Provinces reliant on PNPs would suffer as employers invest in the resources needed to constantly turn over TFWs as their visas expire.

Canada shouldn’t be using temporary labour for permanent jobs. Instead the country should be investing in those that want to invest in Canada.