ARCHIVED - II. Canada’s Official Language and Immigration policies

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A. Official Languages

In 1969 the federal government adopted Canada’s first Official Languages Act (OLA). It declared that English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada. Section 2 of the OLA called for respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and ensured equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions.

In 1988 the government reinforced the terms by which support was extended to the country’s official language communities when it adopted the new Official Languages Act. Thus the new Act contained innovative language that went well beyond what previously existed. Part VII of the 1988 Act states, in section 41: “The Government of Canada is committed to: (a) enhancing the vitality of the English and French linguistic communities in Canada and supporting and assisting their development; and (b) fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.”

Promoting linguistic duality, in general, and the vitality of official language minority communities, in particular, would henceforth involve every federal department and agency. With respect to the latter objective, the enhancement of the “demographic vitality” of official language minority communities is an essential element in the development and growth of Canada’s Anglophone and Francophone official language minority communities (Commissioner of Official Languages, 1989).

As already mentioned, the Speech from the Throne in January 2001 states unequivocally that “Canada’s linguistic duality is fundamental to our Canadian identity and is a key element of our vibrant society.” It continues:

The protection and promotion of our two official languages is a priority of the Government — from coast to coast. The Government reaffirms its commitment to support sustainable official language minority communities and a strong French culture and language. And it will mobilize its efforts to ensure that all Canadians can interact with the Government of Canada in either official language (Speech from the Throne to Open the First Session of the 37th Parliament of Canada).
1. Linguistic Vitality Defined

There has been some debate over the meaning and implications of linguistic vitality. A review of the parliamentary debates of the period when the notion of vitality was introduced into the Official Languages Act leaves the impression that the application would be flexible and based on the changing conditions of the official language communities. The interpretation of vitality made by the Canadian judiciary suggests that the legislator desired a broad application of the concept.

The test of linguistic vitality is often confined to the demographic condition of a given community, specifically its evolving numbers and/or its changing population share within a given geographic area (city, province or country), as well as the degree of language loss that it encounters. Although government plays a fundamental role in support of a community’s institutional life, there are limits to what it can do to stimulate demographic vitality. Simon Langlois notes that a de-emphasizing of the demographic factor would represent a serious error in examining the question of vitality (Langlois, 2000).

Others, however, have stressed the non-demographic dimensions of vitality. There is an evident correlation between the demographic and non-demographic aspects of communal life, between the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of vitality (O’Keefe, 1998). What are the optimal conditions for vitality in official language communities?

Landry, Allard and Bourhis (1995) have established the following criteria to determine whether a given community meets the conditions of vitality.

  • Status - pertaining to a configuration of prestige variables (i.e., economic, social, socio-historical, language);
  • Demographic – relating to the number of group members and their distribution; and
  • Institutional support – referring to the extent to which a language group receives formal and informal representation in the various institutes of a nation, region or community.

If these factors constitute the sum of what is today defined as vitality it would follow that a government commitment to this objective should direct its efforts to these areas. Underlying these factors is the organizational or institutional capacity of the group; what is described as its degree of institutional completeness is regarded as essential to the community’s well-being.

Natural increase, migration and language retention or language loss are fundamental aspects of demographic change. For many Francophones outside Quebec, language transfers are the major threat to sustaining vitality. Language is not, however, the major challenge to the demographic vitality of Quebec’s Anglophone communities. Rather, it has been the very unfavourable rates of interprovincial migration that culminated in significant population losses between 1971 and 1986. Official language communities may therefore attribute a different meaning to the notion of vitality depending on their respective circumstances. A Montreal Anglophone will very likely have a different set of needs to achieve conditions of vitality than an Anglophone from the Gaspé Peninsula. Measures to promote vitality in Moncton may differ from those needed to do so in St. Boniface. In effect the situation encountered by a linguistic community may result in several interpretations of what constitutes linguistic vitality, and varying solutions are required to achieve that end.

International and interprovincial migration can be critical to the demographic situation of a given community. According to Maurice Beaudin, immigration has not been favourable for Francophones outside Quebec. As he notes, in the last 15 years about 3% of immigrants who arrived in Canada were of French mother tongue, and about 82% of them settled in Quebec (Beaudin, 1998).

B. Canada’s Immigration Policy

Historically, the aim of Canadian immigration policy was to promote population growth. It was to be a selective policy largely dependent on the absorptive capacity of the economy. In the first half of the 20th century, immigration was not designed to change the basic character of the Canadian population. European immigration was favoured, and restrictions were maintained on immigrants from Asia. In effect immigration policy had reasonably clear ethnic as well as economic goals (Green and Green, 1999).

In 1962 the government of Canada removed the discriminatory aspects of its immigration policy. Henceforth entry to the country was to be based on such factors as education and/or other skills rather than on a candidate’s nationality. This resulted in a considerable increase in the number of source countries of immigrants coming to Canada. In 1966, with the amalgamation of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and the Department of Labour, the level and composition of immigration was to be linked to labour market needs.

A selection or point system was introduced in 1967 as a major step to limit the discretionary powers of immigration officers and to provide them with a set of explicit guidelines. Canada’s Immigration Act defined three main policy objectives: (i) to facilitate the reunion in Canada of Canadian citizens and permanent residents with their close relatives from abroad; (ii) to fulfill Canada’s international legal obligations with respect to refugees and to uphold its humanitarian traditions; (iii) to foster the development of a strong and viable economy and the prosperity of all regions in Canada.

Although immigration has a profound impact on demographic realities, the Immigration Legislative Review (CIC, January 1997) observes that Canada has no demographic policy to consider. In the case of official language minority communities, there are no real demographic objectives as regards the immigrant presence. Whereas Quebec, which is the only province with sole selection powers, establishes certain demolinguistic goals as regards immigration, elsewhere in Canada any such evaluation is rendered difficult by the absence of criteria against which to measure the contribution of immigration to population objectives.

Among the objectives of the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which was given Royal Assent in November 2001 are:

  • to permit Canada to pursue the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration;
  • to enrich and strengthen the social and cultural fabric of Canadian society, while respecting the federal, bilingual and multicultural character of Canada;
  • to support the development of a strong and prosperous Canadian economy, in which the benefits of immigration are shared across all regions of Canada;
  • to promote the successful integration of permanent residents into Canada, while recognizing that integration involves mutual obligations for new immigrants and Canadian society.

The responsibilities of immigrants described by CIC are:

  • to obey Canadian laws;
  • to participate in Canada’s democratic processes;
  • to respect the rights and freedoms of others;
  • to respect Canada’s linguistic duality and multicultural heritage.

The key domestic challenges recently identified by CIC include:

  • ensuring that all parts of Canada share in the benefits of immigration; and
  • eliminating barriers to settlement and integration.

From an economic standpoint, CIC views immigration as a way to bolster the population and to readjust its age structure. Thus the long-term policy goal appears to be to use immigration to make the Canadian workforce more skilled and flexible. This objective characterizes much recent debate about the modification of the point system. Some argue, however, that immigration policy is not always a good tool for meeting such goals. Given the profile of those persons who settle in Canada, they question, among other things, whether contemporary immigration offsets the aging of the population.

C. Official Languages and Immigration: Policy Intersections

Canada’s immigration policy may not have explicit demographic goals, but it undoubtedly has a considerable impact on the demography of official language communities. Perhaps the most obvious intersection between the two policies involves CIC’s objective to “enrich and strengthen the social and cultural fabric of Canadian society, while respecting the federal, bilingual and multicultural character of Canada” (Canada, November 2001). This is compatible with Heritage Canada’s goal of advancing “the equality of status and use of English and French and the enhancement and development of the English and French linguistic minorities in Canada” (Canada, June 1995).

In addition, in the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, there is a specific objective relating to minority official language communities:

  • 3(1)(b.1) to support and assist the development of minority official languages communities in Canada.

And the following clauses have been added with respect to the application of the new Act:

  • 3(3)(d) ensures that decisions taken under this Act are consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including its principles of equality and freedom from discrimination and of the equality of English and French as official languages of Canada; and
  • 3(3)(e) supports the commitment of the Government of Canada to enhance the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada.

CIC has not yet proposed regulations to specifically address those new provisions of the Act.

Over the years, CIC has conducted several reviews of its selection criteria for potential immigrants. Although the according of points to potential immigrants for knowledge of official languages can be viewed as an identity-based objective, it also has a significant economic dimension in that it facilitates the adaptation of new immigrants. Indeed, research on employment levels and employment earnings demonstrates that language knowledge is a crucial factor in successful adaptation and insertion.

Under the present selection system some 70 out of a possible 110 points on the selection grid are required for entry into Canada. Language carries a maximum weight of 14% or 15 points (it was 10 points prior to January 1, 1986, at which time five points were added for knowledge of official languages). Of the 15 points available, up to nine can be awarded for the strongest knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages. Language ability can account for the third highest number of points allotted to a potential immigrant. Other points which can be allocated include: education (16 points maximum), an education/training factor (18 points maximum), knowledge of English and/or French (15 points maximum), personal suitability (10 points maximum), and a demographic factor (10 points maximum), plus bonus points for entrepreneurs or investors (30 points maximum) (CIC, January 2001).

A recently issued CIC report entitled Towards a New Model of Selection notes that most jobs in Canada are conducted in only one official language (CIC, November 1998). For the labour market, it is the strongest of the official languages that matters the most in acquiring and sustaining employment.

The report found that knowledge of the second official language does not translate into higher earnings or reduced unemployment (except in the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick and the city of Ottawa). It concludes that the points awarded for the second language may be too high in relation to that provided for the primary language. The CIC report nonetheless affirms that there may remain an economic rationale for awarding some points for a second official language. Knowledge of a second language may play a role in obtaining work quicker or another job if unemployed. The bilingual individual may also have a slightly wider array of job choices.

The CIC report adds that any changes to the weight and point structure of the language criterion would need to be balanced elsewhere in the selection system to ensure that skilled workers with average language knowledge would still be able to obtain enough points for admission.

As to selection criteria in the area of language knowledge, the report makes the following recommendations.

  • Language proficiency (i.e., ability to communicate) should be a key selection factor.
  • The importance of language should be reflected in a heavier weighting in the new grid.
  • The point spread between the “fluency” level of proficiency and the other levels should be widened.
  • The point split between primary and secondary languages should be adjusted to place the most emphasis on the primary language. However, the grid should still recognize and encourage bilingualism.
  • Language should not be used as a barrier to entry. Any changes to the weights and point structure of the language criterion should be balanced elsewhere in the new selection system.

Under the new Act, the proposed grid, which allocates 16 points for fluency in the first official language and 4 points for fluency in the second official language, is consistent with the aforementioned recommendations. The proposed revamped system is designed to:

  • ensure that the selection system for skilled worker immigrants allows for an efficient selection of individuals who can succeed in a fast-changing knowledge-based economy; and
  • ensure that Canada selects skilled worker immigrants who have a flexible range of abilities, rather than narrow skills in one particular occupation that may no longer be in demand in Canada.

At first look the proposed selection grid appears to be beneficial for immigrants who know Canada’s official languages, in that the weight accorded to language knowledge increases to 20 points from 16. There is, however, an important nuance with regard to the knowledge of the second official language. In effect, the ratio of first to second language knowledge in the proposed grid is 4 to 1, whereas it is 3 to 2 under the current system. As such, bilingualism among immigrants is less important in the proposed attribution of points. In the province of Quebec’s selection grid, the ratio of points awarded for first and second language knowledge is 2.5 to 1.

It is important to examine the impact that any change to the point system might have on the ability to attract persons who speak both official languages and notably those French speakers who wish to settle outside Quebec.

1. CIC Action Plans on Official Languages

In recognizing its commitment to the implementation of section 41 of the OLA, and to give effect to the federal government’s statutory commitment to promote linguistic duality and to enhance the vitality of linguistic minority communities, CIC has presented action plans since the year 1998 and projected various initiatives through to the year 2002. The CIC action plans have reiterated that “measures will be taken to raise awareness in CIC offices in Canada and abroad of the importance of developing OLM communities.” Among the objectives that characterize CIC’s commitment to section 41 are the following.

  • To facilitate the integration of immigrants into OLM (official language minority) communities.
  • To encourage OLM communities to participate in CIC activities.
  • To promote awareness among CIC’s clients and the general public of Canada’s bilingual character and the presence of OLM communities in every province and territory.
  • To consider the interests of OLM communities when developing policies and programs.
  • To ensure that CIC policies and programs foster the recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

Below are the principal initiatives that the branches of CIC have either undertaken or intend to pursue.

Selection Branch: This branch will consider section 41 in the development and review of policies, especially those relating to foreign students and access to professions and trades, and ensure that the knowledge of English and of French continue to be treated equally under federal selection criteria for skilled immigrants. (This equal treatment facilitates the selection of skilled immigrants destined for Francophone OLM communities.)

Integration Branch: Through CIC’s regional representatives, this branch will consult community associations to determine the linguistic needs of its clients.

Settlement Division: This branch will promote the interests of OLM communities during negotiations with provinces on the realignment of the administration of settlement services. It will incorporate specific clauses concerning the provision of official language services and offer settlement services to communities integrating newcomers. These services will be provided in English and/or French.

International Region: This region will invite OLM organizations to submit materials for missions abroad with a particular emphasis on their communities and the services they provide to new immigrants.

The actions described above pertain to the dissemination of information to potential candidates and the strengthening of settlement services upon their arrival. They do not touch directly on such demographic issues as selection (something upon which the point system will undoubtedly have a more direct effect). However, in its 1999-2000 progress report, CIC suggests that the new legislation will give the Selection Branch an opportunity to reinforce the importance of the knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages. CIC’s 1999-2000 action plan states that it is working with the Société franco-manitobaine (SFM) to attract more French-speaking immigrants to Manitoba. Certainly these are good examples of measures that can be taken in conjunction with other Francophone communities. CIC appears open to further examine such possibilities.

D. Federal-Provincial Immigration Agreements

Immigration agreements entered into with the provinces by the federal government have a potentially crucial impact on the recruitment and integration of new arrivals. Over two decades ago Quebec secured greater powers in the area of immigration. Many observers credit these arrangements for the Quebec government’s ability to attract more French-speaking immigrants. Immigration agreements with other provinces were struck more recently, so it is difficult to measure their impact on the promotion of the vitality of official language communities. There remain concerns that the objectives of federal immigration policy do not coincide with those of the provinces.

1. Canada and Quebec: Immigration Agreements

Quebec government initiatives are an example of the way immigration policy can support the demographic vitality of linguistic communities. The co-operation between the federal and Quebec authorities represents a tacit acknowledgment that in certain cases it is both legitimate and feasible to use immigration as a means to support linguistic vitality. In promoting the vitality of the French language, the Quebec government is aware of the crucial role played by immigration (Pâquet, 1997). From the early part of the century until the 1960s, many French Canadian leaders were uneasy about the influx of immigrants. There was some concern that it would diminish the demographic weight of Francophones within Canada. There was a certain fear and hostility toward immigrants, which produced an unhealthy climate for relations between linguistic and ethnic communities. Following the Second World War, Quebec opinion leaders took a greater interest in the impact of immigration. With the significant decline in the birth rate of French Canadians in the 1960s, a decline in the proportion of French speakers in the country’s population was predicted. In part this projected decline was attributed to the fact that immigrants were overwhelmingly integrated into English language institutions.

In December 1968, Bill 75 created the Quebec Ministry of Immigration. A 1971 agreement between the Canadian and Quebec governments assigned Quebec officers abroad a role in informing potential applicants about the province’s linguistic reality. In 1975 another arrangement transformed this role to that of an adviser to the federal authority for applicants who wished to come to Quebec. Perhaps the most important agreement was struck in 1978: the Canada-Quebec Agreement on immigration and selection of foreign nationals. Thereafter significant authority was assigned to Quebec in selecting applicants who wished to settle in that province. The government of Quebec proceeded to develop goals for the numbers of French-speaking immigrants it wished to attract. Statements by federal officials at that time made it clear the extent to which the transfer of immigrant selection was understood to have a bearing on Quebec’s demographic situation. While the federal immigration policy did not have explicit demographic objectives, it did not deter Quebec from establishing such goals.

During the late 1970s the Quebec government made efforts to direct new arrivals to French-language institutions. After the adoption of the Charter of the French Language in 1977, with only few exceptions the children of immigrants were directed to French-language schools. This provision had the effect of largely conferring the responsibility for the welcoming of new immigrants to the province’s French-language institutions. In the late 1980s the Quebec government negotiated the transfer of responsibility, and funding, from the federal authorities for reception and settlement services for new arrivals. In doing so Quebec further reinforced its role with regard to the integration of new immigrants. The Canada-Quebec Immigration Accord, also known as the McDougall-Gagnon-Tremblay agreement, stipulated that the federal government will remain responsible for establishing the levels of immigration but will permit Quebec to obtain a share of total Canadian immigration that corresponds to the province’s proportion of the country’s population.

Between 1968 and 1989 close to 180,000 French-speaking immigrants entered the province, approximately 35% of the entire flow of new arrivals to Quebec. Another 130,000 arrived between 1990 and 1999, nearly 37% of total immigration. Moreover, the knowledge of French among Quebec’s immigrant population increased from slightly over 50% in 1971 to approximately 73% in 1996.

Increasingly, immigrants came from a wide range of source countries, and Quebec struggled with the impact of the growing ethnic diversification introduced into a French-language milieu. New approaches were required to address the identity issues arising from heightened diversity. In 1990 the Quebec Ministry of Cultural Communities and Immigration issued a policy statement or action plan on immigration and integration entitled Let’s Build Quebec Together (MCCI, 1990). This document includes many of the objectives that still guide contemporary Quebec immigration policy. It reiterated Quebec’s conviction that immigration can and must strengthen the French language and identified four challenges, largely interdependent, with which future Quebec immigration was to be associated. They were: redressing the demographics of Quebec (also referred to as demographic recovery); economic prosperity; the perennial reality of the French fact; openness to the world.

Reduced levels of immigration were perceived as a threat to the province’s economic and cultural vitality, so it was deemed important to meet the challenge of redressing the demographics without diminishing the position of the French language.

The point system for selecting independent workers as established by Quebec immigration authorities requires that a candidate obtain 65 points.

  • Training: education, 11 points; 2 more for second specialty; 4 for specialized training.
  • Employment: job guaranteed, 15 points; skills in demand, 12 points; employability, 7 points.
  • Age: 10 points.
  • Language knowledge: French, 15 points maximum; English, 6 points maximum.
  • Adaptability: visited Quebec, 5 points maximum; personal qualities, 5 points; knowledge of Quebec, 2 points.
  • Experience: work experience, 10 points; managerial experience, 15 points (MRCI, Grille EMP, 2001).

While the points awarded for the French language are two-and-a-half times those for English, Quebec’s system still rewards candidates who know both languages. Approximately 19% of the total selection grid is accorded to language knowledge, and eligible candidates who know both French and English can earn about one-third of the points needed for admission.

As a consequence of Quebec immigration policies that placed increased emphasis on attracting French speakers, notably in the area of recruitment, more immigrants and their descendants today form part of Quebec’s Francophone community. At the same time the number of English-speaking immigrants has remained higher than the Anglophone community’s share of the provincial population, and in the 1990s such immigration has helped stabilize the Anglophone community’s demographic condition. Without immigration, the population losses of Quebec Anglophones arising from interprovincial migration would likely have meant a further erosion in the community’s population.

2. Other Immigration Agreements

In the past few years, CIC has entered into other immigration agreements with the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Under these agreements the province will assume full responsibility for designing and delivering settlement and integration services and programs for newcomers and also play a larger role in consultations to determine immigration policy and planning and to boost business immigration. The federal government will maintain its role in setting national standards. Federal funding for settlement services and programs will be transferred to the province (CIC, Federal-Provincial Agreements on Immigration, 2001). These partnerships are designed to permit the development of a “made to measure” approach to immigration in order to maximize the many benefits that new arrivals bring to these provinces.

E. Information Dissemination

1. Canada

The dissemination of information about Canada to prospective immigrants can be pivotal to both the recruitment and adaptation of new arrivals. In a survey of Francophone immigrants in Toronto, some 71% reported that they were aware that services were available in the French language upon their arrival in the country. Nearly a third, however, appeared unaware of the existence of such services (Larocque, 1997). It is not clear that new arrivals obtained their information from Canadian immigration officials. In the same study nearly one-third of these new arrivals indicated that they knew a lot or a good deal about Canada prior to settling here. Conversely, some 59% claimed that they had a limited knowledge about Canada, and just under 10% knew nothing at all. The five principal sources of information for new immigrants can be broken down as follows: the media (45%), schools (41.7%), family (38.3%), friends (28.5%) and, the lowest ranking, Canadian government officials (25%). In light of these findings it is imprudent to suggest that immigration officials play a lead role in informing prospective immigrants about the country (Larocque, 1997). Of course some of this is attributable to the categories of Francophone immigrants (i.e., family class) and the source countries from which they emanate.

It is important not to create wrong expectations about the linguistic situation in the country. In this regard there have been conflicting reports among immigrants about the information that they have received relative to conditions in Canada outside Quebec. While some contend that immigrants are told that they cannot find employment in Canada without knowing the English language, other Francophone immigrants who settle outside Quebec have been surprised to discover that these parts of the country are not as bilingual as they were led to believe.

On the whole, the information disseminated by CIC provides a reasonable depiction of the language situation in Canada. More can be done, however, to make immigrants aware of the importance of linguistic duality as a fundamental marker of identity in Canada.

Below we review the information provided to immigrants by CIC and Quebec’s Ministry of Relations with Citizens and Immigration (MRCI) with respect to demographic and linguistic realities. CIC has the following to say about language in Canada.

  • There are two official languages in Canada, English and French. Almost everyone in Canada speaks at least one of these languages, and millions of Canadians speak both. There are Anglophone and Francophone communities in every province and territory. English is the language of the majority everywhere in Canada except in the province of Quebec, where French is the official language. French is spoken in many communities in other provinces, especially New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba. New Brunswick is an officially bilingual province.
  • One of the most important skills you will need to adapt to life here in Canada is to speak English or French. Once you learn one or both of these languages, you will find it easier to get a job, to understand Canada, and to communicate with your children, who will be busy learning English or French at school. You will also need to know English or French to become a Canadian citizen (CIC, Welcome to Canada, 2001).

The widely distributed CIC publication A Look at Canada contains sections on Canada’s official languages, and its description of the conditions in the provinces refers to linguistic duality. The issue is treated as follows.

  • English-speaking and French-speaking people have lived together in Canada for more than 300 years, and English and French are Canada’s two official languages. Linguistic duality is an important aspect of our Canadian identity. Over 98% of Canadians speak either English or French or both. You must know either English or French to become a Canadian citizen.

Other documents issued by CIC to those who settle in Canada do not sufficiently stress the importance of the French fact, however. The best example of this is the publication entitled A Newcomer’s Introduction to Canada (CIC, 1997). The “A New Beginning” section highlights the importance of learning English or French and notes that “the best way to adjust to your new community is to get involved! Try to speak English or French, even if you make mistakes. Understanding Canada’s official languages will help you adapt more easily.”

A subsequent section of the guide, “A Profile of Canada”, legitimately points to the importance of First Nations and the multicultural reality but does not refer to the French fact as a vital characteristic about which new Canadians should be aware.

Immigrants should know that French is not only the language of an historically rooted community but that of a rich culture whose vitality the federal government is committed to sustaining.

2. Quebec

The Quebec government has recently made changes in the content of the information that it transmits to potential candidates for immigration. There is now a much greater emphasis on Quebec’s diversity. MRCI describes the linguistic situation for immigrants in the following manner.

A French-speaking society open to diversity

  • In Quebec, French is the first language for 82% of the population.
  • To affirm Quebec’s French-speaking identity, protect linguistic rights and promote the evolution of the French language, successive governments have legislated to ensure the use of French in the various areas of public life while guaranteeing the English-speaking minority the use of its language and institutions.
  • In Quebec, education is mostly in French. Education is also available in English and in private schools. Temporary foreign workers can choose the language of instruction and educational institution for their children for the duration of their stay.
  • Montreal, a Quebec metropolis, is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. Montreal is an international and cosmopolitan city, where thousands of people do business on an international scale every day. French-English bilingualism is very common.
  • Quebec’s second largest linguistic group, the English-speaking community, is concentrated in the Montreal area, the Eastern Townships and the Ottawa River Valley.
  • There is also a significant number of people from many other backgrounds, mainly in Montreal and, to a lesser extent, in and around Quebec City, Hull and Sherbrooke.

The contribution of immigration and cultural diversity

  • In addition to the arrival of the French and English during the 17th and 18th centuries, Quebec has experienced several waves of immigration since the 19th century. The Irish Catholics who immigrated during the second half of the 19th century helped shape the face of many regions in Quebec.
  • At the turn of the 20th century, most immigrants were from Europe. According to the 1911 census, in addition to the Irish, there were approximately 8,000 people who had come from Germany. In the 1920s, immigrants began arriving from Eastern Europe. In 1931, the Jewish community already numbered 60,000, and there were some 25,000 Italians, 10,000 Poles and 1,000 Germans. Ethnic, cultural and religious diversity is an integral part of present day Quebec (MRCI, Newcomer’s Kit, 2001).

The differences between the information transmitted by CIC and by the MRCI are not as significant as they might appear. In each case, there is much emphasis on the diversity of the population. For its part, CIC is cautious with respect to information about linguistic realities both outside and within Quebec. On the other hand, the MRCI highlights the presence of both French and English. Indeed, where the MRCI refers to the experience and advice of other immigrants, it points to the importance of “mastering the English language, especially if you want to live in Montreal” (MRCI, Newcomer’s Kit, 2001). The federal information does not focus on the presence of an English-speaking community in Quebec and speaks little about the province’s pluralistic reality.

Discussion/Policy Implications

The Throne Speech opening the 37th Parliament on January 30, 2001, states unequivocally that “Canada’s linguistic duality is fundamental to our Canadian identity and is a key element of our vibrant society.”

Immigration plays an important role in modifying the demographic character of Canada and of its official language communities and is thus critical to the promotion of their vitality. Governments must clearly recognize this relationship and adopt immigration measures that are consistent with the commitment to support the vitality of the official language communities. A framework or set of guidelines should be developed that describes the elements that contribute to community vitality and suggests initiatives that reinforce this objective.

As well, in recognition of our linguistic duality, modifications to the existing point structure for immigrant admission should place significant value on the ability to speak an official language and strongly support knowledge of both official languages.

Federal-provincial agreements in the area of immigration, as shown in the case of the Canada-Quebec Immigration Accord, can have a profound impact on the selection and recruitment of immigrants. It is therefore vital that the provincial authorities be sensitive to those official language minority communities that wish to attract immigrants in support of community vitality. Such agreements should not therefore exempt either the federal or provincial authorities from the federal government’s commitments to official language communities. CIC should work closely with those provincial governments that recently signed immigration agreements to ensure that the needs of official language communities are satisfied in this domain.

And, given the importance of CIC action plans relative to Part VII of the OLA for official language communities, they should be strengthened with a set of well-targeted measures; they should respond to proposals made by the communities and, where possible, be developed in conjunction with the minority communities.

Information is vital not only for the recruitment of immigrants but also for their successful settlement and integration, and there needs to be a review of some of the documentation that is distributed overseas. More emphasis is needed on the commitment to linguistic duality and the contribution and presence of official language minority communities. Greater harmonization in the information sent to potential immigrants by federal and Quebec authorities is a goal that should be pursued by the representatives of the departments concerned.



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