Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 63

Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Official Languages

2009-10 Annual Report of Commissioner

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: In early 2010, Canada welcomed the whole world to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. British Columbia was proud to host this event. Unfortunately, we have one black mark. We hosted the world well but we let down Canadians. Our duality, French and English, was not reflected at the Games. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages received 46 complaints regarding the Vancouver Games of which 38 were specifically about the lack of French during the opening ceremony. The office of the commissioner determined, after investigation, that these 38 complaints related to the violations of Part VII of the Official Languages Act, the law of our land.

Canadian Heritage had negotiated an agreement prior to the Games with the Vancouver Organizing Committee that contained an official languages clause. In his 2009-10 report, the commissioner deplored the fact that the clause was not more explicit regarding the reflection of Canada’s linguistic duality.

Why was the language clause not more specific regarding the committee’s responsibility on linguistic duality?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I remember addressing this issue many times prior to the Olympics and Paralympics taking place in Vancouver and also, I believe, just following the Olympics.

As honourable senators know, and as the Minister of Canadian Heritage stated, the opening ceremony was under the responsibility of VANOC and the Olympic organization. There was disappointment at the lack of both official languages in that ceremony.

Having said that, all facilities that were under the direct control of the federal government fully recognized and adhered to the Official Languages Act. Honourable senators will recall that the Commissioner of Official Languages, Mr. Graham Fraser, went to Vancouver specifically and spent the whole time during the Olympics assessing how well the Official Languages Act was being respected and implemented. Honourable senators will recall that he gave the federal government in all of its roles in the Olympics high marks and reported that the Government of Canada had met completely its obligations to the Official Languages Act.

Senator Jaffer: Moving forward, will the minister’s government ensure that all future contribution agreements relating to Canada’s linguistic duality will be more explicit regarding both the presence and proper representation of both our official languages?

Senator LeBreton: As I said in answer to all of the questions today, honourable senators, the government fully supports, implements and recognizes absolutely Canada’s Official Languages Act.

With regard to the honourable senator’s specific question, since there does not appear to be an Olympics or a major international event upcoming in the near future, I can only surmise that the experience of the Olympics in February would cause the government, if we were ever in such a situation again, to remind organizers of these committees that we have an Official Languages Act in this country and it is their duty to respect that act.

Senator Comeau: We hope we will still be government at that time.