ARCHIVED - Vancouver, December 2, 2008

WarningThe Standard on Web Usability replaces this content. This content is archived because Common Look and Feel 2.0 Standards have been rescinded.

Archived Content

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.

Notes for a media statement on the occasion of the launch of the study
Raising our Game for Vancouver 2010: Towards a Canadian Model of
Linguistic Duality in International Sport

Graham Fraser – Commissioner of Official Languages

Check against delivery

Good morning.

Today, I am pleased to be launching the study Raising our Game for Vancouver 2010: Towards a Canadian Model of Linguistic Duality in International Sport.

Given the nature of my work as Commissioner of Official Languages, my interventions are often in response to a problem that has been identified within the federal government or federal institutions.

This study is different. It examines, from an official languages perspective, the preparations for the Olympic Winter Games that will be held here in Vancouver. The purpose of the study is to make recommendations to the Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games, to the City of Vancouver and to Canadian Heritage, while there is still time to make adjustments. I did not want simply to arrive at the scene after the Games saying “this is what they should have done.”

Such a study would not have been possible without the cooperation of VANOC and its CEO, as well as Canadian Heritage. Mr. Furlong’s commitment was apparent from my first meeting with him, and the eagerness of the team he has working with him has been striking. The study also shows that VANOC has developed a sound vision of linguistic duality that accurately reflects Canada’s character.

VANOC must now put in place the necessary resources in order to make this vision a reality next year: for the public, the athletes and the media from around the world. Only through a great deal of effort and attention to detail will VANOC succeed in making the Games truly bilingual.

Why is language so important in the context of these Olympic Games?

English and French are our two official languages, but they are also the official languages of the Olympic Movement. These two languages are spoken every day from coast to coast, as mother tongues and as second languages. It’s up to us to offer visitors a truly Canadian experience of the Olympic Winter Games, enhanced by the warmth of British Columbians, in the heart of one of the most majestic regions on the planet.

The 2010 Games are a golden opportunity for Canada to show an image of linguistic duality to the world and to showcase our success and pride in being a country with two official languages. The expectations are high, and we want to show ourselves at our best, from every angle.

My team and I have therefore looked at the state of VANOC’s preparation while considering several aspects:

  • bilingual services to the public;
  • bilingual services to the athletes, coaches, officials and other members of the delegations;
  • the reflection of Canada’s linguistic duality in the hosting of the Games.

The results of the study are encouraging. Collaboration agreements have been established with partners from the Canadian Francophonie, namely the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique, the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue and the governments of Quebec and New Brunswick. The relationship with Francophone communities is solid and fruitful. The linguistic aspect of the Games was taken into account throughout the planning process.

Organizing the Olympic Games is a colossal task, fraught with considerable obstacles. The study highlights some major challenges that need to be closely monitored, and proposes 18 measures to ensure that VANOC and Canadian Heritage can hit the ground running on February 12, 2010. These recommendations mainly address the recruitment of bilingual volunteers, simultaneous interpretation and translation services, and signage.

It is crucial that sufficient resources be devoted to translation and simultaneous interpretation services, especially since the need for these services will continue to grow as we approach the Games. VANOC must also develop an effective strategy for recruiting a high number of bilingual volunteers in British Columbia and in other parts of the country as well. Achieving critical mass is crucial to ensuring efficient bilingual service while also addressing needs in other languages.

This report is a snapshot of a work in progress. While it was being drafted, I had the opportunity to share ideas with Mr. Furlong on the challenges that my office has identified. I will let Mr. Furlong tell you what his organization has already done to follow up on the discussions that led to the drafting of this report. I want to acknowledge the work that has already been accomplished, and to stress that the steps taken thus far bode well for the future.

Other organizations besides VANOC are also responsible for ensuring the success of the Games in terms of quality service.

As an officer of the Canadian parliament, I have reviewed VANOC’s obligations in light of the Multiparty Agreement of which Canadian Heritage, as the federal government’s representative, is a signatory. This is why some of my recommendations are directed at Canadian Heritage’s Games Secretariat, which must work with the federal public service, and also at its provincial, municipal and community partners. Specifically, I ask the Secretariat to facilitate VANOC’s access to the resources of the federal government’s Translation Bureau.

My staff will continue to monitor progress on the Games’ preparations, so as to advise the Organizing Committee and the Games Secretariat. I will be reporting on the outcome after the Games. Our hope is that the 2010 Vancouver Games will be so successful that other Canadian cities will soon be chosen to host other Games down the road.

In the coming months, the Office of the Commissioner will undertake an awareness campaign within federal institutions, to encourage them to take the necessary steps to promote linguistic duality. Linguistic duality must be regarded as a fundamental Canadian value at the 2010 Games. It is also critical that everyone—athletes, their families, visitors, journalists, and so on—are given the opportunity to live the Games in the official language of their choice, particularly in their dealings with federal institutions.

I hope that the Organizing Committee, with the cooperation of its government, community and private partners, succeeds in delivering Games that fully respect the official languages of the Olympic Movement and of our country. The praise it would then receive from Canadians and from its many visitors would be most highly deserved.

Thank you.