Archived - Notes for an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage
This page has been archived on the Web.
Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.
Ottawa, Ontario, November 28, 2013
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Mr. Chair, members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, good morning.
I appreciate this opportunity to address the Committee on a topic of great interest to all Canadians. Like you, I have certain concerns regarding the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.
The Olympic Games are always an extraordinary occasion for Canadians to join together and feel an immense sense of pride in our athletes. Sporting success on the world stage is never a random occurrence. Rather, success is the result of sacrifice and preparation made over many years by our athletes and their families, our coaches and our sport associations—with the support of federal institutions like Canadian Heritage as well as the private sector.
For our winter athletes to excel, as they did in Vancouver with 14 gold medals—the most of any country at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and the most ever for Canada—their focus must be rigid, their training intensive and their performance second to none.
Canadians have always been and continue to be inspired by our athletes' Olympic success. As Commissioner of Official Languages, I can take that one step further. I have also been singularly impressed at how bilingual our athletes are. It is amazing to hear an athlete—still panting after winning a medal—give interviews in both official languages.
Our official languages were a key element in the planning and delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games almost four years ago here on Canadian soil. My office's collaborative work with federal institutions and the organizing committee of the Vancouver Games led to a very successful event presented in both official languages—with the unfortunate exception of the cultural component of the opening ceremonies.
The invaluable lessons learned from this experience resulted in the production of a practical guide to promoting official languages for any organization hosting a major sporting event in Canada. This past summer, Canada Games organizers in Sherbrooke used the guide and were clearly successful in promoting both official languages during this national event—proof we have made great strides.
As far as the Sochi Olympics are concerned, the challenges are quite different. In 2010, it was not until the eve of the Games that a decision was made, making it possible for Canadians across the country to watch television coverage in French on CPAC. We are in a much better position this time around.
I was pleased to hear last year that CBC/Radio-Canada had won the contract to cover the Games, ensuring that Canadians will have access to coverage in both official languages. I personally congratulated Hubert Lacroix for this accomplishment.
As you know, English and French are the official languages of the International Olympic Committee. Earlier this year, the Francophonie named historian and Russia specialist Hélène Carrère d'Encausse as Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi. It will be her job to observe, both before and during the Games, how successful Russia has been on fulfilling the requirements of the International Olympic Committee.
I wish Russia the very best in meeting the challenge of hosting a successful event. Of course, commenting on the country's ability to provide services in English and French is well beyond my mandate.
The one area of concern for Canada will be to ensure that our athletes have access to the services they require in both official languages from their sport associations and from the Canadian Olympic Committee. My expectation is that this will be the case.
When our athletes are many miles from home and challenging themselves in highly competitive, suspense-filled environments—maybe the most challenging moments of their lives—we must ensure they have the information they need, the support they require and the last-minute coaching advice they can count on.
Although some of our sport associations have had language challenges in the past, challenges that were documented in a study by my predecessor, Dyane Adam, I have had no indication that there are particular issues for any of our athletes set to compete in Sochi.
I think that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are a remarkable opportunity for all Canadians, no matter what language we speak, to celebrate not only our athletic achievements but also the linguistic duality that enriches our country in so many ways. I look forward to watching the performance of our tremendous athletes as they make Canada proud in Sochi.
In closing, Mr. Chair, I thank you and your colleagues for the opportunity to appear before the committee this morning.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.