FRANCOPRESSE – To kick start the economic recovery, the federal government wants to welcome 1.2 million permanent residents to Canada over three years with a target of 4.4% of Francophones outside Quebec. Within the Francophone community, we are wondering about the feasibility of this plan: how to attract French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec’s borders, and how to retain them on a lasting basis?
Inès Lombardo – Francopresse
This week in the country, hundreds of virtual activities celebrate immigration as part of the 8e National Francophone Immigration Week which takes place under the theme “My Francophone Color”. This year, the reflection is centered on the fight against racism.
Coordinated by the Federation of Francophone and Acadian Communities (FCFA) with the support of the Réseaux en immigration francophone (RIF) at the regional level, this national week aims each year to reaffirm diversity and inclusion within Francophone and Acadian communities.
This time it is also an opportunity to look at the Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023 developed by the federal government and released on Friday, October 30. It provides for the reception of 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023.
As indicated in the Francophone immigration strategy federal government, 4.4% of immigrants who settle elsewhere than in Quebec must be able to express themselves in French.
“A permanent resident is a person who has obtained permanent resident status by immigrant to Canada, but who is not yet canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries. A person who is in Canada on a temporary basis, such as an international student or temporary foreign worker, is not not a permanent resident ”. (Source: IRCC)
Still far from the target
For Denis Simard, president of the Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise (ACF), the target of 4.4% of Francophone immigrants outside Quebec is ambitious, but achievable.
“National targets are always ready to increase the number of francophone immigrants. Despite this, in Saskatchewan, we are still far from the fixed rates, ”warns the president of the ACF.
In 2019, the province received 144 new permanent residents French-speaking. A very low figure which, if it increases, will be a game-changer for the province, hopes Denis Simard.
Make information accessible in French
In Alberta, Evelyne Kemajou, Executive Director of the Immigrant Association Portal (PIA), urges the provincial government to “create a dynamic environment through affirmed communication campaigns to include French-speaking newcomers, without distinction of country”.
Arrived from Cameroon in 2008, she explains that she is still seen as an “Afrofrancophone“ within the two communities. “While I feel French-speaking above all,” she emphasizes.
According to her, one of the conditions sine qua non for immigrants to settle in Alberta is updating and outreach services in French to include more Francophone newcomers.
Evelyne Kemajou stresses that if the information they need to settle down is not available in French when they arrive, the risk increases that they will decide to move to another province better equipped at this level.
Avoid the “double standard” treatment
The director of the PIA is more suspicious of the target of welcoming 4.4% of French-speaking permanent residents outside Quebec by 2023.
In 2019, Alberta welcomed 596 French-speaking permanent residents, or less than 2% of the total number received in the province.
Evelyne Kemajou estimates that the announced target of 4.4% will be attainable if the Canadian government “deploys equal means in all French-speaking countries“; the director of the PIA regrets that every year, since 2003, the office of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) at the Canadian Embassy in France organizes the annual forum on mobility Destination Canada in France rather than in French-speaking African countries. This forum is an opportunity to recruit massively for Franco-Canadian organizations.
“If we want to seek out Francophones, we have to do it everywhere with the same means and the same treatment,” comments Evelyne Kemajou.
Systemic barriers that must be brought down to attract more Francophones in minority situations, according to the director of the PIA.
On October 28, Minister Mendicino announced the granting of additional points to francophones and bilinguals who use the Express Entry system. Bilingual candidates will receive more points and have their chances of immigrating to Canada increased compared to candidates who speak only one of the two official languages. Evelyne Kemajou sees it as false good news: according to her, “it’s another form of exclusion of Francophones”.
On his guard about the announcements, Denis Simard prefers to remain optimistic. The additional score granted to French-speaking and bilingual candidates in theExpress entry, whose mission is to manage the demands of skilled immigrants who wish to settle permanently in Canada, is one of the factors that give him hope.
In both Alberta and Saskatchewan, discussions between the federal and provincial governments have been initiated to implement the Immigration Plan and coordinate work at the different levels of government. The reception of new arrivals in the midst of the pandemic is one of the questions that remain unanswered.