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In defence of a 'holistic approach' to immigration and integration

Concordia professor Chedly Belkhodja addresses the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages
April 2, 2014

The Senate Chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. | Photo by Intiaz Rahim (Flickr Creative Commons)

Chedly Belkhodja, a professor at Concordia and principal of its School of Community and Public Affairs, testified for Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages on March 31.

Belkhodja’s presentation focused on the impact of recent changes to the national immigration system on official language-minority communities, a subject he addresses in his research.

In recent years, Belkhodja has explored immigration and francophone communities outside of Quebec; he has also developed original research questions about the relationship between minority and majority communities, while taking immigration into account.

His fieldwork has illustrated the integration trajectories of newcomers in urban and rural areas, while simultaneously revealing a new identity that’s problematic in regards to the inscription of ethnic diversity discourse in the context of linguistic duality and a mostly homogenous narration of the francophone narrative.

This week, Belkhodja’s main message to the standing committee concerned the way in which francophone immigration is considered in discussions about the present reforms to Canada’s immigration system.

“It is crucial that francophone minority communities position themselves in relation to these profound changes, and that they be able to find their place in this evolving context,” he said. “There is thus an important need for research in this perspective in order to better assess the economic performance of francophone immigrants and the capacity of francophone minority communities to operate in this economic immigration paradigm.”

Chedly Belkhodja Chedly Belkhodja: “A more holistic approach to immigration and integration will be beneficial for society.”

According to Belkhodja, the impact of these reforms cannot be overstated.

“We now know that the introduction of the ‘Expression of Interest’ system by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, in January 2015, will have profound effects on the selection of economic immigrants.”

Belkhodja concluded by reminding the committee that a sound immigration system should consider not only short-term gains, but should look at the issue from a long-term perspective, bearing in mind ideas like nation-building and citizenship.

“A more holistic approach to immigration and integration will be beneficial for society in general,” he said.


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