Newly obtained statistics reveal that the latest version of Canada’s citizenship test may be adding to newcomers’ difficulties in the resettlement process rather than helping them to succeed.
The test, which was the object of a major overhaul in 2010, is one of the final steps in the immigration process, and its successful completion allows newcomers the right to carry Canadian passports and to vote. The recent changes elevated the passing scores and increased the level of difficulty. Immigrants are tested on language skills and history, as well as their understanding of Canadian values.
However, data from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration is showing that the test is harder for some groups than for others, depending on which nations they are coming from.
Immigrants from English-speaking nations such as the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, have proven to do much better on the test compared to people from places such as Afghanistan. Furthermore, the overall failure rate has jumped dramatically from 4 percent in 2009 to approximately 15 percent just two years later.
Critics are concerned that the tests are geared toward certain, more “preferable” types of immigrants – a type that is determined by policy makers who may be acting more on private interests than the public good.
“The question is, what is the function of these tests?” questions politics professor Phil Triadafilopoulos, an immigration and integration expert at the University of Toronto. “They play a gatekeeper role and they create, quite literally, a boundary or a barrier to people who are keen and interested in becoming Canadian citizens.”
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stands by the amended test, saying that this version places a much-needed emphasis on Canadian history and military. He says that the test is not intentionally geared toward English-speakers and that newcomers should be given more credit for their own learning capabilities.
There remain many resettlement organizations across the country offering preparatory classes for the test. Most of these groups have increased their focus on language skills since the new tests came into effect.
Source: Globe and Mail