Immigrant Language Training for Integration: Entrenching Linguistic and Social Inequalities

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Eve HAQUE, York University, Canada
Canadian census data reveals that in 2016 over 20% of the population had a non-official (that is not English or French) first language and that Canada admitted over 271,000 new immigrants, the highest level since 2010. These two facts dovetail in Canada’s integration strategy which is based on a national multilevel program of immigrant language training.

The open advocacy of integration for immigrants is exemplified in political statements, such as those made by Jason Kenney (previous Minister Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, 2008-2013) where he comments on what integration means: “It means making sure that people who arrive in Canada are able as quickly as possible to have competency in one of our two official languages as a pathway to economic and social integration.” This common framing of integration is reflected in how the state resources are allocated for processes of integration for newcomers. From 2005 on, the federal government tripled immigrant settlement funding and most of these funds were allocated for official language adult immigrant language training programs (mainly for English).

In this paper, I want to explore how program learners, teachers and administrators interviewed at 11 different immigrant language training programs across Ontario understand this imperative for ‘integration’ via language training. I want to argue that it is clear that the government’s increased emphasis on official language training as the path to successful integration is in fact the commodification and narrowing of conceptions of linguistic interaction into an intimate concern of neoliberalizing self-responsibility. Specifically, couching the question of integration narrowly as one of official language proficiency belies the deeply racialized nature of the Canadian labour market as well as of citizenship and immigration policy.