Canada: Ottawa drops English exam for immigrants

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Jun 5 14:51:20 UTC 2008

Ottawa drops English exam

Move on immigrant test follows Star story

Jun 04, 2008 04:30 AM
Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Immigration Reporter

Ottawa has dropped its idea of making all immigrants take a rigorous
British-made language test to get into the country. "They realized the
ludicrousness of it," Alex Stojicevic, chair of the immigration
section of the Canadian Bar Association, said yesterday.
"The optics of it were terrible. Telling Americans they need a
language test to come to Canada makes us look silly." Stojicevic wrote
to Immigration Minister Diane Finley three times to object to the rule
change and Monday night got a call from Leah Olson, Finley's senior
policy adviser, with the news the immigration lawyers had won. The
Star published a story Monday about the three-hour International
English Language Testing System exam created at the University of
Cambridge in England. Immigration officials championed its
impartiality and efficiency, but language experts objected to its
academic tone and un-Canadian content.

The ministry proposed all immigrants, without exemption, take the
three-hour International English Language Testing System exam – or a
French equivalent – already used by Britain and Australia to judge how
well newcomers speak English. A mandatory test at one of hundreds of
testing centres around the world would make the system fairer, quicker
and more efficient, the government said when it proposed the changes
in April. Immigration lawyers had wanted exemptions for native English
speakers or lower pass marks for tradespeople. "It was just a simple
proposal. It's not moving forward," was all Finley press secretary Tim
Vail would say.

That means the status quo remains and prospective immigrants can
produce their own documents to prove how well they speak English, or
take the IELTS test. If the government wants a fair and efficient
test, Carleton University Professor Janna Fox of the School of
Linguistics has a plan ready to go. "A team of Canadian experts could
quickly come up with a practical, efficient, economical and Canadian
solution" that visa offices could use around the world, she said. "It
isn't as if we don't have a long history of excellent test
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