LINC, Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada, and its complementary program LMLT, Labour Market Language Training, have all but replaced the previously federally funded as well as many provincially funded ESL programs. Eighty percent of federal language training dollars have been shifted from Employment to Immigration in the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission. Basic Language training is now delivered as part of settlement and not as part of labour market training.
One of the central issues with this change is that LINC is not designed to help people access the labour market. Where the earlier federal programs were restricted to those deemed destined for the labour force, the new policy may effectively bar entry to either further training or employment.
One of the reasons for this exclusion is that initially Canadian citizens were not eligible for LINC. While citizens are supposedly "settled," many are not literate in English and need the language to find work. For example, women garment workers in job ghettos where they have only spoken their native language sometimes receive their citizenship without learning much English. Many are now laid off due to downsizing and economic "restructuring." They have found themselves ineligible for basic language training under LINC yet identify their lack of language skills as a major barrier to finding new employment. LINC LMLT also have no employment equity guidelines and thereby ignore the link between labour market programs, language training and employment equity priorities.
Learners in language training classes are primarily interested in obtaining and retaining meaningful employment. Immigrants have identified over and over again their need for language upgrading to enter professions they may already be qualified to practice. The separation of language training from skills training results in the need to provide more classes, costing more dollars, rather than the more cost-effective integrated programs that successfully placed people into the labour market. Money for employment training now must come from another source, creating more paperwork, more administration, more confusion and, ultimately, less and poorer quality training.
LINC, in Ontario, uses a central assessment system. The learners are recruited, sent to the assessors for placement in classes. The experience of LINC providers is that the assessments are often inaccurate and often allow the least possible amount of classroom time. Surveys tell of students sent to distant and isolated classes which they cannot attend since very little is provided in the form of transportation support. Others graduate before their places can be filled and classrooms sit empty at a time when there are hundreds of people on waiting lists for both skills and language training. At the same time, provincially funded (in Ontario) school board ESL classrooms are full or oversubscribed. In February 1993, the Scarborough Board, with 1500 ESL students, had a waiting list and shortage of space; LINC classes there closed due to lack of clients.