Francophone presence in Sask. needs promotion: advisory report

Francophone presence in Sask. needs promotion: advisory report

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“Members feel the ministry is not doing enough to encourage the arrival and retention of bilingual immigrants.”

Fransaskois flags fly on the Albert Memorial Bridge on Albert Street on February 28, 2019 for March, the month of the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, a celebration of French culture and language. Photo by BRANDON HARDER /Regina Leader-Post article content

According to a recent report, the province’s Advisory Committee on Francophone Affairs is not successfully supporting Saskatchewan’s current immigration programs for the “ever-shrinking” French-speaking community.

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Michel Dubé, chair of the committee, said the committee met and included several Francophone stakeholders and government officials working in the field of immigration in 2022.

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Finally, the compiled report made four recommendations to the Department of Immigration and Vocational Training.

“The recommendations are intended to guide the government in improving and expanding the means of maintaining the demographic weight of Francophones in Saskatchewan and ensuring their vitality,” Dubé writes in the introduction.

Saskatchewan’s French-speaking population is declining, the committee found. Census data shows that the number of Saskatchewan residents who speak French as their first language has more than halved since 1961 and continues to gradually decline, now accounting for 1.4 percent of the total population.

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The committee pointed to a declining number of arriving Francophone immigrants coupled with a lack of settlement services offered in the province as “key challenges”.

“Francophone communities in minority areas, such as Saskatchewan, are particularly in need of immigration,” the report says.

“Members believe the Department is not doing enough to encourage the arrival and retention of bilingual immigrants.”

The report found that the province does not put enough effort into promoting Saskatchewan in the Francophone countries when it comes to immigration and job placement work, instead focusing primarily on the Anglophone countries.

In examining retention, the committee also found that newly arrived Francophone immigrants are often left without connection to French services and the existing Fransaskois community as a resource for resettlement.

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The Service d’accueil et d’inclusion francophone (SAIF-SK) organization is not a recognized immigration gateway through the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nomination Program (SINP), and customers are rarely referred to French-speaking services.

“Very few newcomers will be aware of the existence of a francophone community offering services in French, which could have offered them a better integration experience,” says the report.

Approximately 70 percent of immigrants who settle in Saskatchewan arrive through SINP, making it a “major channel” for new arrivals. The committee said it does not believe SINP is “helping to meet the critical needs” of Francophones in Saskatchewan.

SINP now awards extra points to bilingual candidates during the application process, but the committee said this will not have “a significant impact on increasing the number of admitted Francophones”.

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The committee’s first recommendation called for more work to promote the province in francophone countries. The second called for a clearer focus on French services for new residents, including an indication that candidates can use French as their primary language when applying for permanent residency.

New customers should receive forms in French and be referred to SAIF-SK as an available resource, the committee said.

A third recommendation calls for the adoption of a francophone immigration destination for the province and the addition of a bilingual immigration officer to direct services and liaisons with French-speaking organizations.

The final recommendation asked the province to consider increasing funding for French-language services to meet retention and promotion goals.

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