Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Language Test for Immigrants – It’s About Time

Canada is the best place on earth to live. We really do have it good here – we enjoy the freedoms of a democratic society, and for the most part we are pretty well respected by the most nations globally.

That love affair other nations have with this country has been a big problem here. We have been a haven for those who want to leave their country. Which in many ways is what makes this country so great.

Unlike other countries, we warmly welcome others here. But because of our freedom, we have failed to provide safeguards to ensure those who were born here don’t become second-class citizens, feeling left out among all the other nationalities calling Canada home.

We were the only country on the planet, where it didn’t matter if you didn’t read or speak either official language, you could still somehow get landed immigrant status, eventually getting official citizenship status, and living here for ever and ever.

We’re probably the only country in the world where that used to be possible – but no longer. Finally, our politicians are seeing the errors of their ways.

Our Canadian culture and values have suffered many years over, because we were a growing country of segregated people – each only living in their microcosms of their homeland.

Finally, the federal government has got off it’s butt, and created a language test for new arrivals to this great land. This language test will be offered in either official language (English or French) and those wishing to lay down their hat and call this great country home, must pass it.

It’s about time.

I was born here, raised here, and I still call this great country home. But over the years, I have often wondered who’s country I am in while walking down the street, taking a bus, or even meeting clients in an office. Far too many times, I have been made to feel like an outsider in my own country, simply because those all around me are speaking languages which aren’t native to this land.

Far too many places have signs up in their own language, but not in mine. Far too many people will ignore you, even snub you with evil grimaces, because you don’t speak their language – in your own country.

It’s about time our government protected this great land, by forcing those who come here to actually be here, rather than just setting up a mirror image of their country here.

It isn’t just a matter of national pride, or being Canadian, but has been an increasing safety concern too.

Could you even imagine driving a car in another country, but not being able to read the street signs? What about those warnings on food labels about allergies? When someone calls in any other language but English or French to 9-1-1 for an emergency, their call is routed to AT&T’s international translation offices New York City for translation. This transfer may be instantaneous, but the time it takes to translate the call, and then pass that translated information onto the emergency personal could cost someone their life.

It’s about time our government stopped being afraid of being politically incorrect, and did the right thing.

By implementing a language test for immigrants, they are doing just that – the right thing.

And it’s about time.

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