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'Immigrants should be able to speak English or French'

Immigrants should be able to speak either English or French before seeking citizenship, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2009 15:37 IST

Immigrants should be able to speak either English or French before seeking citizenship, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said.

The immigration minister's calls for stricter language requirements come as the federal government is looking for ways to improve its programmes.

"Someone who has been here for 15 years and can't speak English or French is basically locking themselves out of the vast majority of jobs and is isolating themselves socially. That's a tragedy," Kenney said at an immigration conference in Calgary on Friday.

"I think we should look at ways where we can increase the requirements for linguistic competencies for immigrants and citizens."

Kenney said there are too many cases of people becoming Canadian citizens who can't speak either French or English -- despite rules in place requiring competence in either official language.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the premiers are working on a framework that could create a "straightforward pathway" to foreign-credential recognition, Kenney said.

The government is also shifting its focus away from promoting diversity to encouraging more integration of new Canadians.

"What we need is to be relaxed about our diversity, see it as a great strength, but also focus on the things that unite us as Canadians," Kenney said.