LINC to What?
by Karen Charnow Lior
In the last year there has been a drastic change in the way language training is delivered through federal government funding. In January of 1992, the federal government introduced Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada, LINC, and its complementary program, Labour Market Language Training, LMLT. Both initiatives mark a significant change in the policy direction of the federal government with respect to official languages instruction.
Before this policy was implemented, ESL language training was an integral part of many skills training programs. Combining skills training with language training and job search skills, such as resume writing and interview preparation, was an effective way of teaching language skills in an applicable, useful context. This training was delivered by community-based training programs often in partnership with school boards or colleges. The labour movement, public sector and community-based training deliverers and educators have long considered language training an essential bridge to job-related training. The policy changes have fundamentally altered the role of the federal government in the area of ESL programming with respect to purpose and program delivery.
From the late 1960s to 1990, the federal government funded, in Ontario, language training at the community colleges. This funding came primarily through Canada Employment and was directed to those destined for the labour market. In the program's early years, women, as well as immigrants identified as family-class immigrants and refugee claimants, were often excluded. One estimate is that "only 28% of immigrants received federally funded language training" through this program.
In Ontario, the federal programs in the community colleges trained many fewer learners than other federally funded community-based programs or provincially funded ESL classes offered by local school boards. The 1992 restructuring dramatically changed second language training delivery. The rationale was to make language training both more cost-effective and more accessible, which were legitimate concerns. The previous programs all catered to various populations but the delivery of language training was not well-coordinated nor equitably funded.