Ottawa sees 'risk' in Pan Am Games meeting French requirements
As Toronto gets set to host the Pan Am Games next year, the federal government is paying close attention to the way that organizers are respecting obligations they have to the country’s French-speaking community.
CBC News has obtained a government memo that reveals Canada’s heritage ministry is concerned there is a "risk" that the Pan Am Games may not fully meet official language requirements that have been laid out for it.
That document, from last July, also says that the federal agency Sport Canada is monitoring the issue.
On Tuesday, Sport Canada told CBC News in an email that the Pan Am Games have met their official language responsibilities thus far. It said it is working with the games to ensure that continues.
In 2010, the Vancouver Games were criticized for a lack of French content.
But Ontario’s French-language commissioner, Francois Boileau, told CBC News that he hopes that the Pan Am Games won’t make the same mistake.
Boileau has been working with Pan Am organizers for the past two years.
"If you don’t plan ahead, then of course, there will be problems," he said.
But when CBC News asked Michael Chan, the provincial cabinet minister overseeing the Pan Am Games, he was unable to say exactly what’s being done to meet the official language requirements.
"I’m in charge of the Pan Am Games," Chan said, noting that he is not informed of all of the "nitty gritty" details.
Chan said he could consult with a deputy minister to obtain more information about the issue.
The Games’ organizing committee says it has a senior manager making sure that French will be on full display, including opening ceremonies will be produced by Cirque du Soleil.
Louise Gavreau, the Pan Am Games' senior manager for official languages, told CBC News that she has been working "diligently" to ensure that Francophones are served adequately.
"I have been working personally with Canadian Heritage and Sport Canada on a robust, official languages plan and policy to engage francophones across the country," she said.
Gavreau said that includes ensuring that francophones have access to all the information they need, whether that pertains to volunteer, employment or procurement opportunities.
With a report from the CBC's Genevieve Tomney