Canada Immigration Minister announces language vouchers – Will they work?

16 Oct

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney, announced a pilot project today in which the government of Canada will hand out 2000 language vouchers to new immigrants who settle in Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia.

The provinces were chosen to reflect their sizes (small, medium and large) and because these provinces have agreed to be a part of the pilot project. The government of Quebec administers its own immigrant settlement language programs.

The Minister was specifically asked why the pilot program is being launched. Below is the transcript of the Q&A:

Question: Why has there been such reluctance on the part of newcomers to take advantage of language training and class availability?

Jason Kenney: I haven’t heard a really good answer to that question. I have asked it myself many times. I think partly, the – you know, many people who come are focused obviously on getting started in their jobs, in settling their families. Sometimes people typically will work two or three jobs and they don’t have a lot of time to go to language class, which is why we need to find innovative ways. Like one of the ideas here is that by empowering the consumer, they can therefore shop around the different centers providing language training. Hopefully those centers will provide more and better hours, more convenient locations, will do more to provide programs that are really relevant to the language needs that people have. I really believe as a Conservative in market solutions and I think this is creating hopefully a marketplace for language training so people will get better services, more competition, better hours and I think therefore a higher level of uptake.

Part of it is also though just lack of awareness, like a lot of people just don’t know and that is one of the reasons we are doing this. We are going to send these certificates directly – these vouchers directly to people. They will get it in the mail and it is going to have like an ostensible value and I think if someone has a certificate that has a face value, like 500 hours of free language training, that will – they will be more likely to take that up than just like looking through the yellow pages for a settlement organization.

There is no doubt that English and/or French language skills greatly assist new immigrants to settle in Canada. It seems to me that if the vouchers lead to more language skill acquisition by newcomers, it may be a good thing for all. It will be interesting to see how the program rolls out and how it’s effectiveness is measured.


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