Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and dear colleagues.
I am pleased to be here with my officials to participate in your study of the Roadmap for Official Languages in Canada.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the committee members for having inviting me to appear here today. As I said, I am accompanied by Peter Sylvester, the Associate Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Peter is also CIC's official languages champion — and Corinne Prince St-Amand, Director General, Integration and FCRO.
In 2006, the government — in collaboration with representatives from francophone minority communities — established a target to increase the percentage of French-speaking immigrants to those communities to 4.4% of the total number of immigrants settling in Canada outside of Quebec by 2023.
As part of the 2008-2013 Roadmap objectives, our goal was to reach an interim target of 1.8% of the total number of permanent residents settling outside Quebec by 2013. And we managed to achieve this target, two years ahead of schedule. Since 2005, the number of French-speaking permanent residents in Canada increased by almost 40%. This is a major achievement.
The significant progress we have made to date has allowed us to revise our recruitment target to 4% out of the total number of economic immigrants settling outside Quebec, to be reached by 2018, and we are confident that we will meet our original target of 4.4% by 2023 ahead of schedule. We will achieve this target as the result of an increased collaborative effort among all our federal partners, other levels of government, and stakeholders.
Chairman, as my colleagues here today are well aware, the government is in the process of implementing transformational changes to ensure the immigration system works in Canada's best interests, attracting immigrants with the skills we need, who can integrate into our labour market quickly, and work at their skill level shortly after their arrival in Canada.
We believe these improvements will have a very positive effect on Canada's official language minority communities.
Time doesn't permit me to go through all of the important changes we are making, but I'd like to focus on one key change in particular. That is the movement towards what I call the meta reform, following the example of Australia and New Zealand, with the adoption of an expression of interest system, which will subsume most of our economic immigration streams. It will allow for Canadian employers, provinces and territories, and perhaps community groups, to select skilled immigrants from a pool of pre-qualified applicants who we are confident have the human capital to integrate successfully.
Under the current federal skilled worker program, also known as the point system, applicants apply based on the objective points grid, which we've just made some significant changes to, by the way. Once they receive permanent residence—what used to be called landed immigrant status—they can choose to settle, obviously, wherever they like in Canada. That's the mobility rights.
Efforts are usually made by governments and stakeholders reactively after they arrive to try to get them to settle in an official language community. With the new expression of interest system, which we plan to have in place by the end of next year, employers and provinces will be able to more effectively recruit immigrants to official language communities across the country by directly choosing applicants with the language skills and human capital they need from the pool.
In addition, our government has increased the number of immigrants chosen by the provinces through the provincial nominee program by 500%, from about 8,000 a year to around 40,000 this year.
This is important, Chairman. In the past, my predecessors from different parties expressed great frustration at the hugely disproportionate number of immigrants who settled, often in ethnic enclaves, in the three big metropolitan areas, rather than settling in regions in Canada, including rural Canada, where there were often better employment opportunities.
I'm pleased to tell you that as a result of our shift in weight from the skilled worker program to provincial selection through these provincial nominee programs, we've seen a dramatic improvement in the geographic distribution of immigrants across Canada. There has been a tripling of immigrants to the Prairies, a doubling to Atlantic Canada, and more newcomers going to the interior of B.C. rather than the greater Vancouver region. The number of immigrants settling per annum in Toronto is down by over 25%.
I think that's all positive, and this presages where we hope to go with the expression of interest system, which we also hope will include or partner with provinces so they can select out of that pool.
This is very important because when you're trying to get a francophone immigrant to go to St. Boniface or Saint-Léonard, frankly, if they're just coming in through the old points grid, chances are they won't go to such places. But if local community groups or employers in those smaller minority language communities can recruit them out of the pool, they're much more likely to settle in such places that need demographic reinforcement.
Mr. Chair, I would also like to discuss another successful way that we have managed to attract more French-speaking new comers: the Destination Canada Job Fair. We have been operating this event for almost 10 years. It has become especially popular in the past five years. Last year, in fact, there was a record high attendance for the fair in Paris and Brussels. More than 80 employers posted more than 1,000 jobs. Of more than 20,000 interested candidates, nearly 5,000 had skills employers sought and were selected to participate.
We are expecting similar success at this year's Destination Canada Job Fair, which will be held in Paris, Brussels and Tunis in November. Through the job fair, employers may hire candidates who are eligible to immigrate to Canada on a permanent basis. They may also hire temporary foreign workers in francophone minority communities if they satisfy criteria established to assist official language minority communities, or if they are unable to find French-speaking Canadians to fill positions, while ensuring the integrity of our immigration system. Of course, I must continuously emphasize that this program is based upon the principle that Canadian applicants must be considered for a job before foreign nationals.
This is not the entire story, Chairman. As we bring more official language minority immigrants into Canada, it's equally important that we make sure, once they get here, that they integrate into their new communities and that they succeed.
To that end, my ministry continues to focus on providing a variety of settlement services, including free language training, job search training, orientation services, mentorship programs, internship programs, and the like.
In fact, since 2006 our government has tripled settlement funding from about $200 million a year outside of Quebec, to $600 million this year. Quebec's funding is based on its own separate formula.
In recent years, we have significantly increased the number of settlement services in francophone minority communities. Between 2009 and 2012, we increased the number of points of service for French-speaking newcomers across Canada by almost 70%, from just over 100 to about 170. These are now located in 24 cities across Canada, outside Quebec.
Just recently, we released Welcome to Canada, a guide to help newcomers to settle in Canada. The French version of the guide can act as a map to help French-speaking immigrants settle in their new country, and can also act as a resource for communities welcoming French-speaking newcomers.
Moving forward, we remain focused on ensuring that we are serving the needs of newcomers and the communities that welcome them.
That is why, between 2008 and 2011, CIC funded more than 50 research projects focusing on access to support services for official language minority communities. This research has contributed to a better understanding of the needs of French-speaking newcomers and the challenges they face in integrating into their new communities.
I would like to pause for a minute here to point out that the federal government has a separate immigration arrangement with Quebec under the Canada-Quebec Accord. In theory, Quebec selects immigrants for that province and determines how settlement funding is distributed. I use the expression in theory because 90% of immigrants registered under Quebec's immigrant investor program settle elsewhere than Quebec, particularly in British Columbia. It would be useful to study the issue, because in our opinion it makes no sense for Quebec to be promoting an immigration program that allows permanent residents to immediately move to other provinces.
We work closely with the government of Quebec in immigration, as well as the issue of official language minorities.
The federal government has funded research that has helped us to define retention issues and the needs of English-speaking immigrants in Quebec. This research could improve the reception and integration of immigrants in official language minority communities across Canada.
Mr. Chairman, I know your committee is always looking out for the interests of official language minorities of both languages in all parts of the country. But when it comes to immigration, it gets a little tricky, because most of the power in immigration selection and settlement is devolved to the Government of Quebec. The question of attracting anglophone immigrants to Quebec or supporting them directly through settlement services is much more complex than it is in the rest of the country, where we make the selection choices and fund the services directly.
I'll start wrapping up, Mr. Chairman. The government recently unveiled a new road map for official languages. The road map identifies three pillars, with which you're very familiar. As the Prime Minister has said in the context of immigration, our official languages are a crucial anchor point between newcomers and established Canadians.
Under the Roadmap for Official Languages, the government will be investing $149.5 million in official language initiatives related to immigration over the next five years.
Extensive research consistently shows that official language ability is one of the most effective pathways to integration into Canadian society for immigrants to Canada. By this, I mean not only economic integration, but of course social and cultural integration.
Because of this, the government is committed to promoting the benefits of Canada's official languages and investing in language training for newcomers.
Mr. Chairman, in my remarks I have tried to give you an overview of some of our most recent initiatives in immigration, of how they relate to the Official Languages Act, and of the significant progress we have made in increasing the number of immigrants in official language minority communities. I admit that there is more work to do. We remain committed to further progress and look forward to your questions and suggestions in this respect.
Thank you very much.