Federal Government Needs to Rethink ESL Cuts at ACC
Photo: Assiniboine Community College
Mar 23, 2017
Like many Manitobans, I was saddened to learn of the federal government’s recent decision to reduce funding for English as a Second Language programs in the Brandon region at Assiniboine Community College (ACC).
The federal immigration department claims that the reduced funding is due to lower numbers of new immigrants accessing settlement services in Brandon over the past few years. They claim the demand for higher level language classes is down, while demand for basic language programming is up.
The basic language classes (Levels 1-4) are intended to provide new immigrants with what they need to help them get established in Canada. Level 4 is required to become a Canadian citizen. Those who wish to continue their education and attend university or college need to complete higher levels of ESL training (Canadian Language Benchmark levels 5-8).
ACC is one of the few places in the region to offer these higher levels of training. Their ESL programming, which only offers Level 5-8 training, began in 2008, funded by the federal government but funneled through the province. In 2013, the federal government assumed full responsibility for the program.
Under the proposed cuts, ACC will go from $730,000 in funding to $190,000 and enrollment will drop in these programs from 500 students to a maximum of 100. This will put eight people out of work and will have a drastic impact on the futures of many students who are waiting to get into programs like nursing or into various trades programs. Without these higher level language classes, they simply won’t meet the requirements to continue their education.
What makes the federal government’s decision even more puzzling is that ACC’s enrollment numbers paint a very different picture from what the federal immigration department calls “under-utilized capacity.” In fact, recent ACC figures show the demand has increased, with student registrations in the ESL program now at 503. That number has grown from 442 registrants in 2015-16 and 309 in 2012-13.
Meanwhile, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 832, which also offers higher level language classes for their members and their family in the region, says the majority of those currently enrolled in their English classes are at Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4 or higher.
Something doesn’t add up.
New Canadians rely on these programs both to meet requirements for citizenship, but also to meet requirements for higher education to try to get ahead. Without this kind of training, their employment future will likely be in minimum-wage jobs. Anyone trying to provide for a family on minimum wages knows how hard this can be.
At a time when our country is welcoming
thousands of refugees, our government should be working its hardest to give new
Canadians every opportunity to succeed in this country — not making it harder
for these families to thrive. I encourage the federal government to revisit its
decision to cut this funding at ACC, and to invest in the futures of new
Canadians in Brandon.
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