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Migrating through the eye of a needle

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  • Teaching English to non-English speakers is a challenging but rewarding profession. Wanting to learn more than English, Tagalog and Spanish, I can relate to what my students are going through while navigating the often confusing and inconsistent grammar structures of the world`s official language. Just recently, I taught an elderly woman from Croatia who is a Canadian citizen, but cannot speak or read English, but she is on leave from a work-related injury. I asked her about her situation and she said that Worksafe BC recommended that she take English classes while she was on respite. Asked why she didn`t know English, she said she worked in her Croatian community, thus, she did not have a need to learn English to come, work and live in Canada.

    How different it is to be Filipino and not have the same immigration privileges.

    When my husband and I were applying to migrate to Canada, we were asked to prove our English proficiency by taking the IELTS, and cough up Php20,000 each at that time, to take the test. We sent a letter to Canadian immigration and told them that we did not need to prove our efficiency because the Philippines` lingua franca is Filipino AND English, plus I had a Master`s Degree in English. The CIC accepted our proof of English proficiency, but when we got here, I was still asked by the BC College of Teachers to take the English exam to prove I can communicate efficiently in English.

    Arriving in Canada, while waiting for our immigration papers to be processed, we waited with a family from Pakistan, two brothers with their mother, and only one brother spoke English.

    At my daughter`s first school, she was put in the ESL program because, the principal explained, her surname was foreign, and that we were newly landed. I explained to the principal that my daughter went to an international school in the Philippines, where only English was spoken, and that the ESL funds given to her were better off to be given to a child who really needed it. In a few months after my daughter was taken off the ESL program, and she represented her school in the CanWest CanSpell Spelling Regional Finals, where only 70 schools out of 4,000 in BC were chosen to compete. And she did it for two years!

    What`s my point?

    It seems that the requirements to migrate to Canada differ from one country to another, in particular the Philippines and the rest of the world. What bothers me much is why. I had assumed that all people go through the same processes like everyone else, only to find out that our family’s five-year wait was another family from China’s six-month wait, and most of them can’t even speak English and need the signs in Richmond to be written in characters for them to understand it.

    A colleague at school said that she likes working and collaborate with Filipinos because we are easy to work with, we assimilate easily and we speak English even when among fellow Pinoys, when others who speak another language are around. Filipinos have also been hailed as highly employable because the fact that we can easily speak English and our skills are at par with other professionals, which is one of the requirements upon applying for migration points in the first place. Unfortunately, this is not recognized by the government, and we still need to go through the eye of a needle if we want to come and live and work in Canada. Our temporary foreign workers, despite their efficiency and competence, are tasked to go home upon termination of their contracts, and are only allowed to re-apply after four years of waiting.

    There has to be reason why it takes forever for Pinoys to be allowed to migrate to Canada, despite our obvious strengths, especially in the English language. The federal government, as well as our representatives in the Parliament and Senate (calling MLA Mable Elmore and Senator Enverga!) should seriously look into why there seems to be a bias towards the migration of the Filipinos, and why we have to go through a considerable amount of scrutiny, while the rest of the non-English speaking world pirouette through the open doors of  Canada.

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