ARCHIVED - 1. Introduction

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1.1 Objectives of the follow-up

As one of the most important international events hosted by Canada, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games provide a unique opportunity for Canada to promote its linguistic duality. The 2010 Games are Canada’s Games and hence should refl ect its two official languages. This is the context for the Commissioner’s sustained interest in the 2010 Games, and explains why the Commissioner made them a priority since the beginning of his term.

In December 2008, the Commissioner of Official Languages published the report, Raising our Game for Vancouver 2010: Towards a Canadian Model of Linguistic Duality in International Sport, on the level of preparedness of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) and Canadian Heritage, in terms of compliance with official languages requirements. In the same month, the Commissioner launched an awareness campaign with some 20 federal institutions in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver—institutions that will have a presence in the context of the Games. The purpose of the campaign, which ended in May 2009, was to foster discussions among federal institutions about the importance of integrating official languages into their planning for the 2010 Games.

The fi rst goal of this follow-up report is to discuss the progress made by VANOC and Canadian Heritage since the December 2008 study and define the strategic elements that still require serious attention from these two institutions in order to hold Olympic and Paralympic Games that fully reflect Canada’s linguistic duality. The next chapter presents the results of the data collected from VANOC and Canadian Heritage. This data is presented under the same themes and in the same sequence as in the study’s report published in December 2008. Secondly, this follow-up aims to examine in depth the issues raised during the awareness campaign, in order to better assess the level of the preparedness of the federal institutions that will play a leading role during the Games. The information in this report provides an overview of the evolution of the preparations as of summer 2009. The last chapter presents the results of the analysis of institutions serving the traveling public, those serving the public in the context of the Games, and those playing a role in the coordination of health and security services during the Games. It ends with an analysis of best practices and the challenges to overcome.

As mentioned on several occasions by the Commissioner of Official Languages, the 2010 Games in Vancouver and Whistler are an unparalleled opportunity for Canada to promote its identity, including linguistic duality, to the entire world.

1.2 Background

This follow-up report was conducted from June to August 2009, i.e. a little over six months before the Games take place. Although the Games are fast approaching, in most cases, VANOC, Canadian Heritage and federal institutions still have time to implement the corrective measures that are required. The parliamentary committees on official languages are also interested in the 2010 Games. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages adopted a motion on April 28, 2009, asking the Commissioner to provide regular updates on the respect and promotion of linguistic duality at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. In July 2009, the Commissioner sent his first update to the Committee. This report constitutes the second update to Parliament on the 2010 Games.

VANOC, like the federal government, is experiencing a more challenging reality due to the economic crisis across the country. In fact, VANOC’s revenue from sponsors and other sources is lower than expected. Within the federal government, additional investments have been announced to provide security at the 2010 Games and for certain events such as the Torch Relay, while a strategic review of government programs and expenditures is still ongoing. While being mindful of current conditions, the Commissioner wishes to point out that the economic crisis should not be used as a pretext, explaining why VANOC may be falling short of meeting its obligations under Annex A of the Multiparty Agreement2 or why institutions would not be respecting the Official Languages Act.

VANOC must therefore be creative and devote all efforts needed to meeting its official language requirements. These requirements are defined in Annex A of the Multiparty Agreement signed by the various Games partners, including the federal government and VANOC. As representative of the federal government, Canadian Heritage is responsible for supporting and monitoring VANOC’s activities, including those regarding official languages.

A number of federal institutions will play a key role in the Games. In fact, they will be providing services to the Canadian and international travellers who will be coming to Vancouver: security services at the Olympic sites and in the surrounding areas, coordination of government  activities in the case of an emergency, and regular government services in parks and at postal outlets for thousands of journalists, athletes and visitors who will be in Vancouver and Whistler to attend the Games. Vancouver 2010 will be an opportunity for the government, and federal institutions subject to the Official Languages Act, to take pride in highlighting linguistic duality while ensuring that the language rights of the public are respected during this international event.

The federal government’s presence and contribution to the Games, and therefore the investment of Canadians, are significant. The government is investing $1.2 billion, of which almost half is allocated to security. Canadian Heritage, which is responsible for the federal coordination framework, is contributing some $660 million, of which $290 million is for infrastructure, $55 million for legacy, and nearly $60 million for cultural events such as the opening and closing ceremonies and the Torch Relay.

Grand Témoin

In the report by the Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the Beijing Games, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin states that “[he] is especially confident about the use of the French language and the role accorded to la Francophonie during the Vancouver Games. Since Canada is an officially bilingual country, nobody would understand if French were to take a back seat [translation] .”

1.3 Legislative context

Part IV of the Official Languages Act and its regulations require that federal institutions communicate with and provide services to the public in the two official languages as required. Part VII of the Act requires that federal institutions take positive measures to foster the development of official language communities and that they promote English and French in Canadian society. The Office of the Commissioner took these parts of the Act into account in its analysis.

Annex A of the Multiparty Agreement specifi es the requirements regarding Canada’s official languages with which VANOC must comply. Thus, federal institutions, including Canadian Heritage, must comply with the Act, and VANOC must comply with the Agreement. Furthermore, since Canadian Heritage is responsible for the federal coordination framework, it must ensure that VANOC meets the requirements under Annex A.


2. Annex A of the Multiparty Agreement for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games sets out the requirements that VANOC agreed to meet so that its many services to the public are provided in both official languages. This agreement was signed by all the Games partners and is attached as Appendix 2 of this report.

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