Fostering an integrated society through English language support for Canada’s newcomer population

In a news release from January 2023, the Government of Canada credited the nation’s pandemic recovery “in large part to [their] approach to immigration”. Statistics Canada’s 2021 census revealed that more than 90 percent of recent immigrants settled in a metropolitan area (urban centers with more than 100,000 residents), with Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver listed as the most popular locations.

The 2021 census also revealed that 41.8% of people living in Metro Vancouver were born outside of Canada.

For many within this group, acquiring permanent residency was the result of years spent in the immigration process in hopes of securing a better life for applicants and their children.

Ýet, integration remains a challenge for many as they struggle to adapt to the norms of their new environment, navigate its many systems, and compete for vital resources such as housing, and income. Various organizations and institutions offer their services to newcomers to help their settlement and integration. At Vancouver Community College – the province’s largest and oldest community college – newcomer support is currently extended through their LINC program.

VCC’s Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada

In 2014, VCC launched its current language support program, LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada). According to the VCC website, the program offers beginner to intermediate English speakers who are permanent residents and Convention Refugees Abroad the opportunity to learn English “while gaining knowledge about community resources for newcomers to Canada”. To enroll, prospective students must be over the age of 17 and are required to complete the Canadian Language Benchmarks Placement Test (CLBPT) to assess their English language skills.

Vancouver Community College offers the LINC program as one of more than 40 schools across Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and other areas in the province. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funds the LINC service and offers it through the National Settlement Program. According to the Government of Canada website, it aims to “[assist] immigrants and refugees to overcome barriers specific to the newcomer experience so that they can undertake their longer-term integration on a similar footing to other Canadians”, per the Government of Canada website.

Three times a year, VCC welcomes a cohort of new immigrants at their Broadway Campus for a three-month program with the aim of supporting them according to their unique goals.

“Every student in the VCC LINC program brings with them a unique story”, says Jen Hill, communications manger for VCC. “Some have strong language skills, some struggle with literacy issues, some want to get their Canadian citizenship, and others want to improve their employability skills. Our students are generally relatively new to Canada and come from various countries around the world. Lately, we have had a number of Ukrainian students studying under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program (CUAET) study with us.”

Through the LINC program, VCC delivers in-person and online classes covering topics including ‘Canadian Culture and social conventions’ and ‘Human Rights and the Law’.

“Within all topics grammar is embedded and shown in context” states the program website, “LINC classes recognize that learners have diverse needs, and students undergo needs assessment in their classes to determine what the most relevant and meaningful topics are for the group.”

At the end of the program, students receive a certificate of completion from the college.

Regardless of their aspirations, improving their language skills through the LINC program is a fundamental step that can hopefully lead to new opportunities.

“Some move to the English as an Additional Language (EAL) program for more English language skills, some take other LINC programs like Culinary or Hospitality as a next step to employment,” says Hill.

The growing need for language support

Between 1991, and 2021, the number of allophones (persons whose first language is not an official language) in Canada nearly doubled; in 2017, the IRCC reported that more than half 63% of refugees arrived with “no knowledge of an official language”; in 2022, Canada welcomed a historic number of newcomers; and by 2036, the Government of Canada estimates that immigrants will represent up to 30% of Canada’s population.

Research by the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, and the International Organization for Migration reveal that many of the barriers faced by Canadian newcomers are deepened by low language proficiencies. Common obstacles such as isolation, limited access to social and health-related services and support, and underemployment are linked to low language proficiency.

The impact of low proficiency in Canada’s official languages on newcomers is not new. In 2001, Health Canada identified language barriers as “the most significant barrier to initial contact with health services.”

As Canada’s immigrant population continues to grow, so does the demand for language and integration support that enables all newcomer classes to settle into – and contribute to – society at large.

For more information on Vancouver Community College’s LINC program, please visit:—language-instruction-for-newcomers-to-canada/

For general information about the LINC program, please find the information sheet at: