Two minutes of politics, April 23

- April 23rd, 2012

Temporary foreign workers - should they be tested on their English?

Should temporary workers from foreign countries applying to stay in Canada as permanent residents and eventually citizens take language tests? Well, isn’t that an interesting question…

As we reported over the weekend, as of this July low-skilled workers will be required to pass English reading, writing, speaking and listening tests if they want to obtain or renew their visa or become permanent residents of Canada. We’re talking seasonal farm workers, people who work in the construction trades or in fast food and hospitality. The test takes three hours, and it costs $255.

Is this unfair? Well… it depends.

It does seem like a harsh test to pass for low-skilled workers who simply want to come up here a few months to pick berries or run horses through their paces or wash dishes in a restaurant. After all, it’s not like the strawberries care what language they’re being plucked in.

But it’s not just about the job, is it. See, a lot of these workers hope very much to be allowed to stay here, and eventually bring their families with them. Working those low-skilled, temporary jobs is a step towards moving here permanently. So it should be treated accordingly. Becoming a permanent resident and eventually a citizen of Canada comes with a lot of benefits in the form of social programs. We simply cannot afford to have too many people move here who can’t really contribute because they lack basic language skills. So we need to test people.

If we didn’t have generous social programs, I’d let just about everybody in, except criminals and terrorists. I wouldn’t test for language skills or anything else. Everybody would be welcome to try to make it in Canada, but they couldn’t just stay here and live at the public’s expense because there would be no programs for them.

And that, I think, would be fair.

Categories: Two minutes of politics

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