A Chinese immigrant and about 20 supporters held a protest at a P.E.I. government office Thursday seeking the return of a $20,000 deposit contingent on the man's proficiency in English.

'I think this dishonest government is a big cheat.' — Xuejun Ou

The protest began with just one man at the Business Development Office in Charlottetown, but he was soon joined by about 20 others.

Xuejun Ou came to the Island under the provincial nominee program, putting up $200,000 for the privilege of moving to P.E.I. The money went partly for investment in a local business, and $20,000 was a deposit to be returned when he became proficient in English. Ou believes he has passed the necessary tests.

"They must return my language deposit now," Ou told CBC News.

"I think this dishonest government is a big cheat. I am very angry."


Xuejun Ou believes the standards changed after he arrived. ((CBC))

The province has raised the required level of proficiency since he put his deposit down, he claimed.

Ou said last fall he was told he would get the money back if he reached a "Level 3" in tests measuring listening, speaking, reading and writing, and his results show he reached that.

The tests are administered by the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers. Executive director Kevin Arsenault said there has been some confusion around the tests. Holland College was previously responsible for the testing, but during that time some immigrants had their deposits returned by government officials with tests from the Association for Newcomers showing a Level 3 proficiency, when they shouldn't have.

"It takes a [Level 4] placement level to indicate that a 3 has been achieved," said Arsenault.

"It's the same as if you are going into Grade 4 — it means you've achieved Grade 3. If I'm sending you to Grade 3, that doesn't mean you've achieved Grade 3."


Kevin Arsenault admits some immigrants got their deposits back before they should have. ((CBC))

Arsenault said that Ou is very close to reaching the required English proficiency.

"We want people to be able to function in our society, who [can] carry on basic conversations and understand and not end up misreading safety signs and getting their head hurt at work sites or all those kinds of things," he said.

The association is now sending out letters in several languages to try to clarify the situation.