The Need to Establish Transparent Accountability Mechanisms for Francophone Immigration
In my 2011-2012 Annual Report, I recommended that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration set up an advisory committee to guide the Ministry’s efforts related to the Francophone immigration file and use a consultative and interministerial approach to develop a strategy for welcoming Francophone newcomers, providing them with language training and integrating them into the labour market. This recommendation aligns perfectly with the government’s new priority of having, for the first time, an immigration strategy with a 5% target for Francophone immigrants.
Nevertheless, the Ministry stated that it had no intention of establishing a separate Francophone advisory committee to guide its efforts related to Francophone immigration in Ontario, focusing instead on the creation of an annual Ministers’ Forum on immigration that will publish a report each year.
Even though the government has indicated its willingness to work with all the parties concerned in implementing the strategy, some questions remain unanswered for the moment. It is still not clear how the Ministry intends to specifically involve the Francophone stakeholders and take the community’s needs and priorities into account so as to effectively determine the development of programs and services for selecting, welcoming, training and integrating Francophone newcomers.
A provincial responsibility, integration often, perhaps always, requires access to the labour market for newcomers. However, that access is often obstructed and delayed by a series of requirements that are specific to Francophone professionals educated elsewhere. As a result, the Commissioner’s Office has received a number of complaints from newcomers from Quebec as well as French-speaking countries. All the complainants were critical of the fact that the organizations regulating their professions provided no service in French and, in particular, that all of their documents (academic transcripts, diplomas, credentials and various types of certificates) had to be translated from French to English before their files could be reviewed. This is yet another barrier for Francophone professionals in the process of obtaining a licence to practise their profession. This issue is not glossed over in the government’s immigration strategy.
In its strategy, the government recognizes the importance of integrating immigrants promptly into the province’s economy. To that end, a number of potential solutions are advanced, including the introduction of a unified settlement services system to help immigrants get the assistance they need. Another suggestion is to improve the recognition of foreign credentials. All these approaches are steps in the right direction.
However, it is important to ensure that immigration experts working in the field are fully involved from the outset in designing the Francophone component of the government’s strategy so that programs and services that are fine-tuned and customized to meet the needs of Francophone newcomers are developed and delivered.
Lastly, as stated in my 2012-2013 Annual Report, in my view, the Ministry must establish transparent accountability mechanisms for Francophone immigration so that it can report tangible results in achieving the objectives set in the annual progress report produced by the Ministers’ Forum. This is a file that I intend to monitor closely.