Job Language Discrimination Against Canadian-Born De-values Canadian Citizenship
Both of my parents are immigrants to Canada and I appreciate Canada very much. However, as a Canadian-born, post-secondary student living in Vancouver for the past few years, I have been frustrated by a particular negative effect of Canada’s continuing high immigration intake : job discrimination on the basis of language.
Many Canadians have recently heard of the Chinese coal mining companies that want to bring miners from Mainland China to fill mining jobs in B.C. Supposedly, that is because the companies cannot find Canadians with the technical skills to do the jobs. Most Canadians consider that excuse to be outrageous, but it is only a small part of a problem. Businesses in many parts of Metro Vancouver want to hire only people who have the skill to speak Mandarin.
While seeking jobs to support my college studies, I have encountered many job postings that discourage me, as an average Canadian, from even applying to. Specifically, the job postings state that applicants are required to speak certain non-official languages (other than English or French), even though the jobs are not actually in government translation services. To make ads seem fair, employers sometimes disguise the “requirement” as “an asset “. Yet it is obvious that the “asset” is a “requirement” for the job.
What is the value of Canadian citizenship if Canadian-born who speak English or French are told that they need the languages of recent immigrants in order to get many jobs? What value does our citizenship have if our own politicians do nothing to protect us from such job discrimination?
The cause of the job discrimination is obviously the inflow of large numbers of immigrants, many of whom speak Mandarin and many of whom have grown arrogant and have developed a contempt for Canada for not defending itself. Since Mandarin is a common case, a quick search of a popular job web site reveals just some of the local jobs requiring Mandarin fluency : esthetician, optician, chef, retail, dental reception, chauffeur, paralegal, welder. For further examples, go to the following sites to see how many jobs require Mandarin : www.kijiji.ca , www.craigslist.org , www.VancouverJobShop.ca
Of course, some might argue that the requirement to speak Mandarin, even in non-translation jobs, is just the result of local demographics, and that it is the right of businesses to demand this language skill. After all, some argue, businesses are simply serving the interests of their customers. Unfortunately, this argument is flawed on several counts. The need for Mandarin speakers in non-translation jobs is the result of Canada foolishly allowing a high immigration intake and Canada failing to demand that immigrants have significant proficiency in English or French.
As a result, there are too many immigrants here in Metro Vancouver who cannot speak English well enough to be served effectively in English. This has had the effect of many Chinese business owners requiring their employees to speak Chinese languages and thus limiting or denying jobs to Canadian-born and to immigrants from non-Mandarin-speaking countries. It has also made the economy less flexible and less competitive. Furthermore, it has increased race-based feelings by isolating individuals along language lines. Finally, it has facilitated race-based hiring by employers who want to skirt employment laws and to discriminate against Canadian-born on the basis of race.
It is not my goal to blame Mandarin speakers for any kind of conspiracy against non-Mandarin speakers. Other employers who do not speak Canada’s official languages are making similar language demands for their jobs. I believe that hiring discrimination based on language is a real problem in Vancouver. I would say that one of the most serious injuries it has done to Canada is to discourage a sense of shared prosperity and purpose.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has recently introduced measures to require future immigrants to have much greater proficiency in English or French. Time will tell if that will help to prevent future problems. However, the current problems (that have been caused by the inflow of huge numbers of recent immigrants) remain, are very serious and have to be solved.
Here are three solutions to the current predicament:
(1) Add language discrimination to the existing employment discrimination categories (such as gender, sexuality, race, etc.) which employers can be prosecuted for.
(2) Deny employers the power to advertise that a non-official language is an “asset” or “requirement” for jobs unless these are government translation jobs in a true sense, as defined by careful legislation.
(3) Lower the immigration rate dramatically so that immigrants have to socialize much more with Canadian-born and thus acquire Canada’s official languages.
My conclusion : Shared language and prosperity bring a sense of community and peace. The purpose of official languages is to allow everyone to have a level playing field in life in this country, regardless of where one was born. Such a playing field does not exist now.
Jan Kowalski is a student who lives in Metro Vancouver.