The Canadian citizenship test has been previously testing two things: the applicants’ knowledge of Canada (history, government, judicial system, voting, symbols and so on), and their language abilities. The government thought that if the applicants could understand and answer all the questions, then their language skills were sufficient to become Canadian citizens. If they failed the test, then they appeared in front of a citizenship judge who then assessed further their language skills, among other things.
But assessing people’s language skills through a written test or through a citizenship judge assessment was a subjective way to determine people’s overall language abilities. The test for example only tested people reading skills.
Some changes have been made in the way the government will now test people’s language skills. The Canadian citizenship will now be a little harder and more expensive to get.
Unless citizenship applicants have a degree from a French or English institution, they must now prove, outside of the Canadian citizenship test, that they can communicate in either French or English, the two official languages of Canada. So they will have to either pass a language test or participate in language classes that are officially approved.
The cost of demonstrating such language skills is not cheap. For example, one of the government-recognized tests, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), costs between $265 and $285 to take.
This program will come at a cost to the government as well. Even though there will be some significant savings by reducing the work of citizenship judges (who won’t have to assess the applicants’ language skills anymore), there will be a loss of $1.7-million a year for the government.
The goal of this new amendment to the Canadian citizenship process is to make the language assessment more “objective”, and to increase the language skills of newcomers. The level of the language skill required will still be the same, only the way in which applicants prove it will be different. This amendment should be in effect by fall 2012.
This new amendment should encourage newcomers to take more language courses and improve their overall language skills (speaking, listening, writing and reading). Newcomers should have more job opportunities if they have a better understanding of English or French, and maybe more interaction outside their own community. Becoming a Canadian citizen comes with privileges, but also responsibilities. Being able to communicate in one of the official language seems to have become more of a responsibility in the eyes of the Canadian government. Citizenship applicants now have to prove objectively their overall language skills of English or French, on top of proving their knowledge of Canada through the Canadian citizenship test.