Evaluation of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program

1. Introduction

1.1. Background

A strategic goal of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is to support the settlement and integration of newcomers to Canada. Although settlement refers to the shorter-term transitional issues faced by newcomers, integration could be a life-long process of mutual accommodation between an individual and society. Among CIC’s settlement programs, Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) contributes to the key strategic objective of Citizenship and Immigration’s settlement program, that is, the successful integration of newcomers into society and promotion of Canadian citizenship.

LINC provides basic language training in English or French to facilitate social, cultural, economic and political integration into Canada. By developing linguistic communication skills, immigrants and refugees are better able to function in Canadian society and contribute to the economy.

To be eligible for the LINC program, applicants must be of legal school-leaving age and either a permanent resident of Canada or a protected person as defined in Section 95 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. They are placed at a level commensurate with their English/French language skills as assessed by certified assessors using tools based on Canadian Language Benchmarks. Service Providing Organizations (SPOs) such as schools, colleges, universities, libraries and community agencies deliver the programs. LINC is managed and delivered through contribution agreements, following a public call for proposals.

Administration of settlement programs varies across the country. Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia have their own language and settlement programs (these are excluded from this study). Alberta co-manages the service with the federal government; in the other provinces CIC manages settlement programs.

Four CIC regions currently administer settlement programs: a) the Prairies and Northern Territories Region, representing Alberta, Saskatchewan, NWT, and Nunavut; b) Ontario Region; c) Atlantic Region, representing Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick; d) BC/Yukon Region, representing the Yukon Territory. Regional offices act as a link between local CIC offices and the Operational Management and Co-ordination and Integration Branches at CIC National Headquarters.Footnote 1

In the regions/provinces/territories where CIC administers settlement programs, CIC local offices have direct and on-going contact with the service providers delivering settlement programs. One of the main responsibilities of local offices is to receive applications and prepare contribution agreements outlining CIC’s expectations of the service providers. As well, local offices monitor progress towards the objectives/targets laid out in the agreements.

1.2. LINC profile

A profile of LINC, including several key program elements, is presented belowFootnote 2. A more detailed profile is found in Appendix A.

From 2003 through 2008, an average of 36,800 clients per year were assessed for LINC training. Over the same period, an average of 52,500 clients per year had received training and roughly 19,900 clients completed at least one training course per year.

Table 1-1: Size of three LINC PopulationsFootnote 3, 2003-2008Footnote 4

LINC Populations 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Assessed Clients 38,394 37,897 35,346 35,820 34,509 36,814
Clients in training 51,182 52,534 51,914 50,936 53,348 55,286
Clients with completed training 21,102 20,992 19,941 18,740 19,489 19,162

Source: iCAMS and HARTs, CIC

Ontario accounts for the vast majority of the LINC client population. However, its share has declined since 2003 due to a decrease in the number of Ontario clients and an increase in the number of clients in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

Table 1-2: Share (%) of LINC Clients by Province

* Refers to clients with completed LINC training

Province* 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Atlantic Region 1.7 2.0 1.8 2.4 2.5 2.7
   Newfoundland 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.6 0.4 0.5
   Nova Scotia 0.8 0.9 0.8 1.2 1.2 1.6
   Prince Edward Island 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.1
   New Brunswick 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.6 0.5
Ontario 88.4 86.5 84.5 83.6 82.4 82.4
Saskatchewan 0.7 1.2 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.0
Alberta 9.2 10.3 12.4 12.8 13.7 14.0
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Source: iCAMS and , CIC

The LINC population is dominated by females, accounting for almost three-quarters of clients:

Figure 1-1: Average Annual Share (%) of LINC Clients by Gender, 2003-2008

Pie chart: Female, 72%; Male, 28%

Source: iCAMS and , CIC

Skilled workers (including spouses and dependants) account for the largest number of LINC clients each year, followed by family class immigrants, refugees, and other economic immigrants.

*Refers to clients with completed LINC training

Figure 1-2: Share (%) of LINC Clients by Immigrant Category, 2003-2008*

Graph (approximate values): Skill workers - 47.5% in year 2003, 44% in 2004, 44% in 2005, 41% in 2006, 38% in 2007, 35% in 2008; Family class - 30% in 2003, 32% in 2004, 31% in 2005, 33% in 2006, 34% in 2007, 34.5% in 2008; Refugees - 19% in 2003, 20.5% in 2004, 20% in 2005, 20% in 2006, 20.5% in 2007, 21% in 2008; Other Economic - 4% in 2003, 4% in 2004, 4.5% in 2005, 5% in 2006, 6% in 2007, 7% in 2008; Other/unknown - 1% in 2003, 1.5% in 2004, 2% in 2005, 3% in 2006, 3.5% in 2007, 3.5% in 2008

Source: iCAMS and , CIC

1.3. Evaluation objectives

The primary purpose of this evaluation was to examine program relevance, program management and delivery, and to conduct an assessment of the impact the LINC program. It assesses the extent to which LINC participants improved their language abilities and acquired knowledge of Canada and of Canadian civics, and examined the tools and methods used to deliver language instruction, as well as LINC promotional and outreach strategies, assessment tools, and barriers to program access.

Several lines of inquiry were used to evaluate the program: document review; a literature review; administrative data analysis; interviews with national, regional and local CIC officials; case studies of a random selection of LINC classes. Several surveys were administered to key program stakeholders and participants: all LINC SPOs, a random sample of LINC instructors, a random sample of LINC learners, a random selection of newcomers who did not take LINC and former LINC learners.

The evaluation compared the outcomes of LINC learners with a similar group of newcomers who have not taken LINC classes (the “comparison group”), using a quasi-experimental approach. The outcomes which relate to the objectives of learning English and learning about Canada were assessed through testing and a follow-up survey. To measure general English language proficiency at LINC program exit and thereby to observe possible gains attributable to LINC, the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) standardized assessment tool was used.

1.4. Structure of this report

The document is structured as follows. Chapter 2 presents the methodology used for the evaluation. Chapter 3 considers program relevance and design. Program management and delivery are covered in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 discusses impacts. Finally, Chapter 6 draws conclusions. Appendix A gives a statistical overview of the program. Appendix B discusses important methodological details beyond the basics presented in Chapter 2.

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