News: Demography and Immigration

What’s new in immigration?

The issue of immigration has generated much debate in the last few weeks, and I don’t think I’ve provided you with an update on the subject in a while.

I was recently invited to give the closing remarks at the forum of the Central-Southwestern Francophone Immigration Support Network, and I believe that the message I delivered was clear. The province of Ontario cannot achieve its Francophone immigration target without the federal government’s leadership and commitment. In fact, the two levels of government have signed an agreement, and this is a step in the right direction. As part of the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, a specific Annex on Francophone immigration is under development with a goal of unveiling the annex next March and which, I hope I can believe, will clearly state that the 5% target for Francophone immigration to Ontario will be incorporated into all categories of federal and provincial immigration programs.

One of the objectives listed in Annex A to the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement is that the governments want “To increase the number of French-Speaking Immigrants to Ontario.” This annex is specific to the Provincial Nominee Program, which gives the province an important role in selecting its immigrants on the basis of its labour market needs.

The Provincial Nominee Program lets the provinces create sub-classes based on their needs. This is what Ontario did when it created its Express Entry French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream, which is for French-speaking skilled workers who are proficient in English and want to live and work permanently in Ontario. This stream enables the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program to nominate individuals who have the required education, skilled work experience, language ability, and other characteristics to help them settle successfully in Ontario and integrate into the province’s labour market and communities. Applicants must, of course, be eligible for the federal Express Entry pool.

The agreement between the two levels of government provides for a number of evaluation and accountability measures. This is an excellent opportunity for the Commissioner’s Office to monitor the efforts and initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration of Ontario (MCI) to achieve its target, and to ask the Ministry questions about it.


What’s happening at MCI?

We are continuing to work with the Ministry. A hot topic is the U.S. government’s recent announcement that it was terminating the Temporary Protected Status granted to many immigrants, including Haitians, in the United States. Many Francophone community leaders have stated that the new flow of immigrants would be an opportunity for Ontario to pursue its Francophone immigration target. I certainly plan to pay close attention to this issue over the next few months. That said, it’s important to remember that the rules regarding refugee claimants continue to apply and that many of them do not satisfy all the refugee criteria.

So while we understand that the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration is ready to support an influx of Haitian refugee claimants should one materialize in Ontario, the ministry emphasizes that entry into the country is clearly defined by federal legislation and criteria; and that prospective refugee claimants need to be mindful of the legal means for entering the country.

There will be many important discussions in 2018. Of particular interest to me is the establishment of a pilot project called Destination Ontario francophone in Algeria and Morocco. It’s a promising step. In March 2018, Ontario will host the second Ministerial Forum on Francophone Immigration  to follow up on the one held recently in Moncton.

A member of the investigations team, Élisabeth Arcila, travelled to Timmins to attend the provincial forum of the Francophone Immigration Support Networks. Francophone organizations made a number of observations. They complained that Anglophone organizations were not referring newcomers to Francophone networks. It would also appear that we are missing opportunities to provide proper orientation for French-speaking newcomers when they arrive at Canadian airports.

There is good news from the Mobilité francophone program. Some 955 applications for residence have been approved. In the Express Entry pool, about 3.9% of those invited to apply for permanent residence are French-speaking. In addition, MCI has a new team responsible for Francophone immigration, internal coordination and coordination of the federal-provincial relationship for the purposes of developing and implementing the announced measures.

There are a lot of new developments concerning immigration, but much follow-up will have to be done over the next few months and we look forward to continuing to follow these developments closely.

Today, we’re dissecting the statistics

It’s finally here – the day we’ll be able to examine the first statistics from the 2016 Census. Our team has been studying the figures in detail since this morning so that we can prepare a brief overview of the data. Here are some of the statistics that drew my attention.

Linguistic diversity
The figures don’t lie: 7.7 million people (22% of the Canadian population) reported an immigrant mother tongue. There is no denying that linguistic diversity is growing in Canada. The proportion of the population reporting a third language as their mother tongue increased from 21.3% in 2011 to 22.9% in 2016. A third language is a language other than English or French, which means that non-official languages are growing rapidly in Canada as a whole. As a logical consequence of this trend, the proportion of people who speak more than one language at home rose from 17.5% in 2011 to 19.4% in 2016.

Mother tongue still declining?
According to the data published this morning, the number of Canadians reporting either English or French as their mother tongue is down slightly from 2011. In 2016, 78.9% of the Canadian population had one or both official languages as their mother tongue, compared with 80.2% in 2011 and 82.4% in 2001. In other words, the proportion has been declining since 2001. What does this mean? Yes, linguistic diversity has increased, which could certainly account for part of the trend, but it would be really interesting to dig deeper and identify the other key factors.

A record high for English-French bilingualism!
As we have just celebrated our 150th anniversary, I’m very pleased to see that the linguistic duality is burgeoning, attaining a record 18% in 2016. It’s true that this increase comes from the province of Quebec, but we also see increases in most other provinces and territories as well. In Ontario, the proportion rose from 11% to 11.2%.

French at home
It would appear that we are tending to speak French at home less often. This is reflected in all of the figures for Canada, including Quebec. The proportion of the Canadian population using French at home was 23.3% in 2016, compared with 23.8% in 2011.

On another note, the demographic weight of Canadians outside Quebec who can carry on a conversation in French remained steady in 2016 (10.2% compared with 10.3% in 2011). It is worth noting that the actual number increased by nearly 160,000. It is interesting that these data differ when you look at the figures based on the entire country (including Quebec): the proportion was down slightly (from 30.1% to 29.8%), while the absolute number continued to climb.

What about Francophones outside Quebec?
Another important point. Even though the number of Francophones outside Quebec was up by 14,000 compared with 2011, the proportion declined slightly from 4% in 2011 to 3.8% in 2016 (1,021,310), mainly because of  immigration. Naturally, these trends vary from province to province.

Nevertheless, we see that the number of people in Ontario whose first official language spoken is French was up more than 6,000 (6,795) from 2011, which is a decline from 4.3% to 4.1%. The growth in absolute terms was not accompanied by a percentage increase because of the continued growth of Ontario’s population, due in large part to immigration.

Inclusive Definition of Francophone (IDF)
The data published today do not take the IDF variables into account. As previously noted, this approach, which has been used to count Ontario’s Francophone population since June 2009, is one of the province’s most ambitious measures. This new inclusive definition of “Francophones” reflects the new diversity of Franco-Ontarians, regardless of their place of birth, ethnic background or religion.

In 2011, based on the IDF, the Francophone population was 611,500, or 4.8% of Ontario’s total population. Based on today’s numbers, it is more than likely the new figures based on the IDF from the Ministry of Francophone Affairs will probably see an increase in the number of Francophones in Ontario.

Our infographic
Over the next few days, we will be examining all of the other relevant statistics so that we can provide you with a clearer picture of the use of French in Ontario. Our well-known infographic will be updated to reflect the new data from the 2016 Census as soon as the IDF data become available. In the meantime, you can view the current version on our website.

The new International Mobility Program stream: A promising initiative

Yesterday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced the introduction of a new International Mobility Program stream. I’m really delighted with this initiative, which is designed to attract Francophone skilled workers to Canada and encourage them to settle outside Quebec. I would also like to congratulate the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada (FCFA) for its many lobbying efforts to obtain what can be regarded as the return of the Francophone Significant Benefit program, discontinued by the government in 2014.

Scheduled to launch on June 1, the new stream is excellent news for all of Canada’s Francophone communities and particularly for Ontario, which already has the largest Francophone population outside Quebec. In summary, employers will not have to conduct a labour market impact assessment for certain types of jobs, which will speed up the hiring process. I firmly believe that this will not only help bring in highly skilled French-speaking and bilingual workers but also assist the provincial government in attaining the 5% target that it set for Francophone immigration in 2012.

In the joint report entitled Time to Act for the Future of Francophone Communities: Redressing the Immigration Imbalance that my federal colleague Graham Fraser and I published in November 2014, we made the following recommendation to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration: “Develop long-term tools and incentives for Canadian employers to assist in the recruitment and selection of French-speaking and bilingual workers outside Quebec, thus allowing Francophone communities to address past shortfalls and catch up in terms of their levels of immigration.” In my view, the new International Mobility Program stream is a promising way of achieving this goal.

An inclusive welcome for French-speaking Syrian refugees

Canada is preparing to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees. Of this number, 10,000 are expected to settle in Ontario, including 4,000 by the end of the year. I would like to congratulate our governments on their undeniable leadership in this never-ending crisis, which is claiming more victims every day. On the national, provincial and municipal levels, every effort is being made to prepare for the arrival of those destitute women, men and children.

Yesterday, a coalition of almost 30 Francophone organizations published an appeal for cooperation to facilitate the intake and integration of newcomers who need French-language services and support. The coalition called for the establishment of a seamless process to identify and take charge of French-speaking Syrian refugees. It urged that they be identified in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and continue receiving effective, competent French-language support when they arrive in Ontario.

The Office of the French Language Services Commissioner supports this approach initiated by Passerelle-I.D.É, a community organization that helps immigrants get settled in their new environment. I would add that it is critical for French-speaking Syrian refugees to be informed, both before their departure and upon their arrival in Canada, not only that there are Francophone host communities but also that French-language programs and services are available to them. My federal counterpart, Graham Fraser, and I made recommendations to this effect in the joint report on immigration that we published in November 2014.

People who flee their country, who cross seas and oceans to start a new life, have suffered through ordeals that are, in many cases, unspeakable. One way to ease the transition to their new society is to show openness and inclusiveness. For the Francophones among them, that could mean welcoming them in their own language. In Ontario, which already has more than 600,000 French-speaking residents, we have the resources and the capacity to do so. The coalition’s initiative clearly shows that Ontario’s Francophone community also has unwavering solidarity and determination.

Taking Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women

December 6, 1989. A date that has unfortunately gone down in history. Our history. Including mine. Hard to believe that 25 years ago, I was a law student at the University of Ottawa, and it was the day before an exam in public international law (obviously, I don’t remember the date or subject of any of my other exams). It wasn’t until I listened to the news on Radio-Canada the next morning that I learned of the horror. I must tell you that for the previous four years, I had been a student at the Université de Montréal and, more importantly, I was living in residence there. I had dinner very regularly at the École polytechnique cafeteria, because the food there was surprisingly good, varied and, above all, inexpensive. Over those years, I also got to know some of the Polytechnique’s regular students pretty well. Hearing that such a massacre had occurred was beyond comprehension. But hearing that it was in Montréal, in a location that I knew so well, I was absolutely stunned. But that was nothing compared with the shock of finding out that no matter what the murderer was called, he spinelessly killed a number of women, young women studying in a field heavily dominated by men.

Needless to say, the halls outside the exam room were filled with a combination of tears and angry words. We wondered if we should ask for the exam to postponed, because no one was able to concentrate. The only thing that seemed important was to console our female colleagues and reassure them as best we could.

Many things changed following that shattering event. First, the incident cruelly made it clear that the much sought-after equality of the sexes had not been achieved. Because that person had targeted women. Just women. He made victims of a whole society. But the fact remains that he deliberately and knowingly targeted women. For a young man who grew up believing, wrongly, that the quest for equality between men and women was more or less on the right track, well, let’s just say it was not so much a cold shower as an icy one. I think it was then that I realized I had an obligation not only to be more sympathetic to the more than legitimate aspirations of more than half the world’s population but also to ensure that my actions were consistent with the fact that I had become a feminist. In fact, I still find it hard to believe that people refuse to consider themselves feminists, especially in 2014, here in Canada.

Some years ago, I met the mother of a girl who is now our daughter’s best friend at school. The woman is a civil engineer by profession. Considering her age, late thirties, I cannot help thinking that she must be a member of the cohorts of young women who went into engineering in the years following the tragedy. And it feels good to think that.

Quite recently, I had the privilege of giving the opening address at the “États Généraux 2014*”, organized by Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes* (AOcVF), on the theme of the current status of sexual assault, spousal violence and the development of French-language services in Ontario. The goals of the conference were to foster coordination, prepare the next generation, inform the ministries of the sector’s needs and the Franco-Ontarian community’s recommendations, and establish a work plan for the next few years. We should acknowledge that their timing, even though the event requires extraordinary preparations, is outstanding, as the event coincided with the national discussion that recently resumed in a hurry (with a capital H).

It is often said that the best legal arguments are the ones you make afterwards, and the same is true for some speeches: after you sit down and listen to others, you feel as if you’ve missed a great opportunity. I think that my speech focused too much on my day-to-day work and failed to emphasize the special opportunity for participants, mostly women but also a few men, to make concrete, practical suggestions on the directions that governments and community organizations should take over the next 10 years to further curb the afflictions of sexual assault and violence against women.

Because these evils still exist and are definitely with us. The organizers commissioned researchers Marie-Luce Garceau and Ghislaine Sirois to produce a report entitled “Éliminer la violence faite aux femmes en Ontario français : une tâche ardue*” [eliminating violence against women in French Ontario: an arduous task]. This first part of this superb study, for anyone who is the least bit interested in the subject, contains a review of the 2004 estates general. The second part of the study provides a comprehensive picture of the areas of intervention and the improvement and evolution of French-language services in every region and describes the means introduced to improve the quality of those services. The third part provides a clear explanation, supported by statistics, of sexual assault and its barriers, the entire question of spousal violence and its barriers, and a range of common issues. The study ends with recommendations for further discussion and some possible solutions.

We are now in the midst of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which runs from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day. To quote Julie Béchard, president of AOcVF, “We have to think about the actions that we can take individually and collectively to eliminate violence against women.”

Today I am the father of a young girl. Naturally, like every parent in the world, I want her to be happy and healthy and, especially, to be free in her choices. All of her choices. To be able to choose how she in turn will make a difference for the people she loves, for her community, for her region and for her country. But to be free to make her choices in complete safety, she must be on an equal footing with the male gender within our society.

I understand today that I have to do much more than just say I’m a feminist. Words have to be followed by actions, every day and collectively, as Ms. Béchard pointed out. I have to be an engaged feminist, as a man, as a father and as an individual living in society.

I would like to congratulate all those women who work day after day, often with very few resources, yet find a way to help the many women who are victims of spousal violence and sexual assault. Thank you for making such a crucial difference in the lives of all those women and their children. On another note, I know – or at least I hope – that all fathers of young girls think as I do now. So I would also like to encourage all fathers of young boys to ask themselves how they can make sure that their children are sufficiently aware of the importance that must be attached to the issues associated with gender equality. Perhaps someday, together, we will succeed in curbing all that spousal violence and sexual assault.

*Website in French only

The Challenge of Immigrating to Minority Communities

This week, I have talked a lot about Francophone immigration. First with the release of a joint report highlighting the need for the federal and provincial governments to include a Francophone perspective in their immigration policies and programs. Immigration is an area of shared jurisdiction between the federal government and the provinces, which means that the various levels of government must work together to facilitate progress.

This joint report titled Time to Act for the Future of Francophone Communities: Redressing the Immigration Imbalance, paints a picture of immigration to Francophone communities, examines the current situation and presents a pan-Canadian analysis. The report also provides a series of recommendations for both levels of government.

The road to successful integration for these men and women with a variety of life stories and backgrounds is often encumbered with challenges. Prior to their arrival, many prospective French‐speaking immigrants know little about the linguistic situation in Canada, incorrectly believing that the country is completely bilingual.

When they arrive, newcomers are sometimes referred to English or bilingual settlement services that know little or nothing about Francophone communities and institutions. We cannot expect them to be aware of services available in French or the presence of Francophone communities and institutions in their new region.

It is important to ensure that before their arrival and upon their arrival, those immigrants are made aware that they can not only obtain service in French from the federal and provincial governments, but also live in French, educate their children in French and obtain community assistance in French.

This is why we recommend that before French‐speaking newcomers leave their home countries and upon their arrival in Canada, they are made aware of the existence of Francophone communities, the potential that these communities represent for welcoming and integrating them as well as the settlement programs and services available to them in French.

In this report, we have elaborated eight recommendations, primarily to the federal government, but also to the government of Ontario. These recommendations deal with: support for the French-speaking immigrants through Francophone institutions and organizations; information and resources for French-speaking newcomers; cooperation with the provinces; incentives for employers to recruit and select Francophone and bilingual workers and; accountability.

The following day, I spoke on a panel organised by the Language Rights Support Programwith my counterparts from New-Brunswick and Ottawa which provided an overview of immigration issues in minority official-language communities. At this conference, I explained the importance of immigration to Francophone communities. In fact, because of lower birth rates and an aging populationCanada has seen its population decline for some time now.

Francophone communities are not only experiencing significantly lower birth rates and higher rates of population aging, but they are also being affected by intergenerational linguistic shifts to English, weakening their demographic vitality over time.

I also explained our need for immigration to ensure the continuity of French-language services. For example, we will need more nurses to take care of our aging population, and more early childhood educators, and teachers of French and many other subjects.

That is why the issue of immigration to Francophone minority communities is so important.  As I wrote in my last annual report, immigration is a priority issue on which my Office intends to keep getting involved and play an active role.