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Thursday, April 14th 2016 - Question Period - Linguistic Duality

Official Languages

Linguistic Duality

Hon. Rose-May Poirier: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Currently, immigrants between the ages of 18 and 65 must know one of the country's two official languages to obtain Canadian citizenship. The Liberal government announced plans to change that requirement to 18 to 55 years of age.

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages released a report in December 2014. This is what it says on page 27:

Several recent studies found that proficiency in the official languages is a key determinant in the integration of immigrants.

Even so, on April 12, Minister McCallum told the committee that his department has done no research or consultations to justify making this change. How can they say that this change will benefit newcomers when studies say the opposite?

[English]

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I will consult and return with information for the senator.

[Translation]

Senator Poirier: I would also like to point out that many Canadian citizens over 55 who are in good health can live for many more years. Given the needs in our communities across Canada, how can people benefit from the services they are entitled to, be that health care or just going to a convenience store or a restaurant, if they don't know one of our two official languages? I think this decision is unacceptable. I would therefore like the government to tell me how these people are supposed to live in this country for another 30 or 40 years if they don't speak one of Canada's official languages.

[English]

Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question and her supplementary, and I will return with an appropriate answer.

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Rose-May Poirier on April 14, 2016)

The Government proposes to return the age range of those required to meet language and knowledge requirements for citizenship back to where it was before 2015 — to those aged 18-54 from the current larger age range of 14-64. This will remove a potential barrier to citizenship for applicants in both the younger and older age groups. For minor applicants, learning English or French and having an adequate knowledge of Canada is already achieved through schooling in Canada. For the older age group (55-64), language acquisition and knowledge of Canada will continue to be supported through a wide variety of integration services available to them.

(Revised response to question raised by the Honourable Rose-May Poirier on April 14, 2016)

The Government proposes to return the age range of those required to meet language and knowledge requirements for citizenship back to where it was before 2015 — to those aged 18-54 from the current larger age range of 14-64. This will remove a potential barrier to citizenship for applicants in both the younger and older age groups. For minor applicants, learning English or French and having an adequate knowledge of Canada is already achieved through schooling in Canada. For the older age group (55-64), language acquisition and knowledge of Canada will continue to be supported through a wide variety of integration services available to them.

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