Some people immigrating to Canada will soon be required to undergo language tests to prove basic proficiency in English or French, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says.

Starting this July, a number of people immigrating under the provincial nominee program will face the language testing, Immigration Kenney announced Wednesday in Saskatoon.

"Speaking to Saskatchewan, this is an English-speaking society," Kenney said. "You can't succeed in a society if you don't have the capacity to communicate in it. And it's unfair, I think, to newcomers to make them believe otherwise."

The tests will be mandatory for those applying for semi- and low-skilled jobs and will assess listening, speaking, reading and writing abilities. The new requirement is one of a number of changes to the immigration system discussed in last month's federal budget.

In an interview Wednesday with CBC's Power & Politics host Evan Solomon, Kenney said all the data and research suggests language profiency is the "single most important factor" for immigrants in achieving economic success.


Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says it is unfair to expect newcomers to succeed in a society if they don't 'have the capacity to communicate in it.' (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

He said the federal government wants to make sure the provinces avoid the mistakes of some Western European nations struggling with isolated immigrant communities.

"A lot of these so-called ghettos, which are characterized by social exclusion and all sorts of problems, came about because those governments brought in people with low levels of education and little or no language proficiency," he told the CBC's Solomon.

Saskatchewan itself took in over 5,300 immigrants under the provincial nominee program in 2010.

With files from the CBC's Jill Smith and The Canadian Press