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Pembina Valley – EAL Classes Unavailable to Certain Immigrant Status Groups, Regional Connections Wants Policy Changed

November 12, 2019

Regional Connections officials have identified a gap in a policy change made a number of years ago, which continues to limit access to English classes throughout the Pembina Valley

Funding provided by the federal government only applies to permanent residents who want to enroll in English as an Additional Language (EAL) classes offered through the organization. This leaves persons with Canadian citizenship, even if they have never lived in Canada or have little English language ability, and temporary foreign workers unable to access the courses.

“We know there’s quite a few people who live here in the community who don’t meet that criteria, but need to and want to learn English,” said executive director Steve Reynolds, adding it can sometimes take up to three years to obtain permanent resident status.

The people who are now ineligible once made up around 40 percent of EAL students at Regional Connections.

“It has an impact on social life in the community and people’s ability to connect, to meet their neighbours and make friends, and get established socially, Reynolds said. “People are limited without that opportunity to improve their English skills.”

While the organization says provincial funding does exist that allows it to provide some English language programming that is not restricted to permanent residents, it is however limited and does not allow Regional Connections to provide classes to everyone who wants to enroll.

“We also hear about it quite regularly from employers,” he said, alluding to businesses looking to hire skilled workers who have a functional level of English.

Regional Connections would like to see EAL classes made available to any person seeking to learn English.

“We never try to turn people away. In the meantime, community volunteers are fantastic; we have a language buddy program and conversation groups. We do everything we can to help people and support people,” Reynolds said.

Steve Reynolds, executive director of Regional Connections. (File photo)

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