The federal government wants immigrants to provide upfront evidence that they're fluent in one of Canada's two official languages when they submit citizenship applications.
Ottawa is requesting comments on its proposal to require prospective immigrants to prove they have a Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4, in either English or French.
A notice says the proposed change would not increase the language level required for citizenship but would provide officials and judges with “objective evidence of an applicant's language ability.”
Current citizenship regulations require applicants to make and understand basic spoken statements and questions in past, present and future tenses.
However, the Canada Immigration Service website acknowledges language abilities have been assessed by citizenship officials “inconsistently.”
Language capabilities are currently assessed through a multiple-choice written test which also checks applicants' knowledge of Canada and citizenship responsibilities.
“The written test is an inadequate proxy for assessing language as it does not adequately assess listening and speaking skills, which are the essential language skills for effective communication with fellow Canadians and for effective integration,” says the notice.
Applicants are referred for an interview with a citizenship judge if they fail the written test or if their speaking or listening abilities are flagged by citizenship officials.
The notice calls the process inefficient and says it contributes to processing backlogs.
The proposed regulations aim to strengthen the “integration of newcomers by improving language outcomes and encouraging their full participation in Canadian society,” says the notice.
It would also streamline the application process and reduce administrative burdens, it says.
“Furthermore, requiring evidence of language ability would provide citizenship judges, who are the decision-makers on citizenship applications, with additional objective evidence on which to base their decisions.”
People have 30 days to comment on the proposed regulatory changes.