The leaders of Canada’s provinces and territories have agreed to reach a target of 5% French-speaking immigrants outside the province of Quebec. This target follows the objective of the federal government that, by 2018, francophone newcomers will represent at least 4% of all economic immigrants who settle outside Quebec. The provincial and territorial Premiers issued a joint statement on the matter at a Council of the Federation held in Whitehorse, Yukon in late July. This marks the first time that the 13 Premiers have together endorsed an immigration target for French speaking immigrants looking to settle in Canada.
Settlement outside Quebec
Quebec is often the first place for French Speaking people when starting out on their Canadian immigration objectives. The rest of Canada, however, also has a sizeable French speaking population of over one million individuals, representing around 4% of the total population outside of Quebec. The government of Canada, as well as the Premiers, want to maintain and build on these vibrant communities.
In its year-end Express Entry report, the federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) noted that, in 2015, 2% of candidates issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence under the Express Entry immigration selection system were French speaking, though they only represented 1% of candidates in the Express Entry pool. IRCC stated that it is currently exploring ways to increase the amount of French-speaking candidates interested in applying to come to Canada through Express Entry.
Provinces are already attracting French speakers
While the statement issued at the Council is aspirational, there are already in existence a range of Canadian immigration options that may be particularly attractive to individuals with French proficiency.
For example, the French-Speaking Skilled Worker stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) allows Express Entry candidates with advanced-intermediate French ability (Canadian Language Benchmark 7) to obtain an enhanced OINP provincial nomination certificate. With this, the candidate may receive 600 additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points and an ITA at a subsequent draw from the pool. Candidates who have previously been exposed to French may, with a bit of additional effort and revision, reach adequate-intermediate proficiency and potentially benefit from this Canadian immigration option.
All Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allow candidates and applicants to submit test results confirming French ability for PNP streams in which language ability is a factor. The French language ability is deemed to be no less valuable than English ability under many PNP streams.
While the federal objective for French speaking immigration is 4% of economic immigrants settling outside Quebec by 2018, Premiers have consistently called for a goal of 5%. Provincial and territorial representatives are expected to meet with federal authorities in the spring of 2017 to discuss an action plan for increasing the numbers of French speakers settling outside Quebec. A preliminary meeting is expected for October.