A happy ending: Welcoming services for Francophone immigrants at Pearson Airport

Following a request for proposals issued by the federal government on June 18, 2018, to select a new Francophone agency to provide French-language services to immigrants arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, the long-awaited official announcement has just been made: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has given the Centre Francophone de Toronto the contract, starting in March 2019, to provide guidance to immigrants on where to get assistance in finding their first job or a school for their children, and to address the special needs of Francophone newcomers.

After about 10 years during which these needs have been neglected, we can expect a substantive improvement in the settlement and integration processes for Francophone immigrants, with the provision of support and guidance in their first hours on Ontarian soil after getting off the plane at Pearson.

Some 2,500 Francophone newcomers arrive at Pearson International Airport every year, which is significant. This is a big responsibility for the future of the Francophonie, particularly in Ontario, as I noted in my latest annual report, in view of the demographic issues facing Francophones over the next 10 years.  It is expected that newcomers will receive all the information they need to make their move a success, whether they are settling in Toronto, Sudbury, Windsor, elsewhere in Ontario, or in another part of Canada.

The announcement made by IRCC was just one of several positive developments for National Francophone Immigration Week.

La Cité, one of Ontario’s two public French-language colleges, will be the primary point of contact for Francophone newcomers starting in January 2019, and four regional partners will provide province-specific settlement services under an $11 million five-year collaborative partnership between French-language settlement service providers in keeping with a genuine Francophone Integration Pathway. We are told that in the coming weeks, as many as 14 communities across Canada will be selected as part of the Welcoming Francophone Communities initiative to create a space where French-speaking newcomers will feel welcome. We hope that three of these welcoming communities will be selected in Ontario, but we will see what the federal government  ultimately decides. It is important, now more than ever, that our governments align their efforts to benefit from a pooling of strategies, means of action and resources.

Last but not least was the announcement of the addition of a second French-language testing agency for economic immigrants, which is a very positive step because it will make testing more accessible in terms of locations and dates. It may even encourage bilingual people to take their test in French. We can also hope that a bit of competition between service providers will allow for  the costs of the tests to be lowered. People have been requesting this for a number of years. In addition, this month will see the launch of an expression-of-interest process to obtain proposals from organizations interested in delivering language training for Francophone immigrants and allophone newcomers who have declared French as their official language of preference, in Francophone minority communities.

Providing Francophone newcomers with better welcoming process, guidance, support and information services so that they can in turn contribute to the vigour and vitality of Ontario’s Francophone communities is something to look forward to!


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