Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages

Issue 11 - Evidence, February 12, 2007


OTTAWA, Monday, February 12, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages met this day at 4:05 p.m. to study, and to report from time to time, on the application of the Official Languages Act and the Regulations and directives made under it, within those institutions subject to the act, and to consider a draft report.

Senator Maria Chaput (Chairman) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Dear colleagues and guests, good afternoon and welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages. My name is Maria Chaput, I am the chairman of this committee, and I come from Manitoba.

Before giving the floor over to our witnesses, allow me to introduce to you the other members of this committee. To my right sits Senator Claudette Tardif from Alberta and, to my left, Senator Gerald Comeau from Nova Scotia.

Today we continue our study on the application of the Official Languages Act. More specifically, our committee is currently examining the consideration given to official languages in the organization of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

[English]

Today, we have representatives of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, whom we have invited to appear before us to discuss the consideration of the official languages in the organization of the 2010 Paralympic Games.

[Translation]

Here to represent the Canadian Paralympic Committee, we have Phil Newton, Director of Communications, as well as Sophie Castonguay, Manager, Communications. Welcome.

[English]

You have 10 to 12 minutes to make your opening statement; then it will be followed by questions from the senators. The floor is yours.

Phil Newton, Director of Communications, Canadian Paralympic Committee: Thank you for this opportunity to present to you today. Using both official languages is an important aspect in the presentation of our cause, so it is a pleasure to be able to talk about it with you today.

To talk about the Canadian Paralympic movement in its broadest aspect, I would say that we seek a victory for human dignity and worth on behalf of the segment of the population that, thanks to the support of the Government of Canada, will not be left behind. We take this role very seriously; and we recognize that in order to do this effectively, we have to do it in both official languages. Right off the top, let me assure you that we do not do this simply because it is a statute. We do it because it is an imperative.

I will give you a bit of our history. The movement began immediately after the Second World War when a physician who fled Nazi-occupied Germany to England, Ludwig Gutman, developed a program of rehabilitation using sports for soldiers who were returning home with grave injuries. He saw sports as a key aspect of therapy for these people in relation to their physical and mental health. Since that time, a full-fledged global movement has developed under the auspices of the International Paralympic Committee, which sanctions the Canadian Paralympic Committee in the same way the International Olympic Committee sanctions the Canadian Olympic Committee. We work within that auspice.

Canada is a leader in the Paralympic community. We do not just win medals; we are a leader in moving the aims of the movement forward in Canada and in the world. In Vancouver, Canada has already set new marks in terms of parity with the Olympic Games by raising the flags together — the movement is presented as the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is an undertaking on behalf of our athletes, but also on behalf of everyone in Canada who may have a disability of one sort or another. It is always my pleasure to remind people that we all will be disabled one day. This is not just about people in wheelchairs.

Our scope is essentially related to bringing the team forward for the games, but we are a movement-based organization in that we see the work we do on behalf of people with physical disabilities in Canada as something that has a wide social impact.

The organization is divided into three divisions: a team division, which is high performance, focused on mounting the teams and bringing them to the games; a development division, which is focused on the grassroots development of sports in Canada for people with disabilities — whether it is for recreational or competitive purposes; and the communications division, which serves to gain visibility.

A key difference to bear in mind between the Olympic and Paralympic Games is that the visibility for the Olympic Games is something the communications division manages. For Paralympic sport, it is something that we have to create. It is not at the top of the agenda for any news agency in Canada, so we have to work hard to get it there. The Government of Canada has been an intrinsic factor in raising the visibility of Paralympic sport in Canada, and we are truly grateful for that. It has been a mounting commitment over the years as well, and Sport Canada is an intrinsic sponsor of our organization. Also, we are sponsored by a number of private-sector organizations — and I can say happily that our sponsorship is growing. The movement is in better shape now than it has ever been in Canada. We are looking forward to the 2010 games as a key moment because it will be the first Paralympic Games in Canada.

In respect of mounting the games, we are a partner on the 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee, with one member on the board of VANOC. As well, the CPC communications team is partnered with the VANOC communications team.

We have our own policy in respect of languages, which means that the CPC is bilingual in that all communications are presented in both official languages and all team management is in both official languages. Many members of our team are from French-speaking Canada. Some of the leading names in world Paralympic sport, such as Chantal Peticlerc, are from French Canada. The CPC presents immediately in both officials languages. We do not prepare a news release in one language and wait three days for a translation. Rather, they are presented simultaneously.

We do this as an imperative, not just because we have to do this. In terms of the awareness, visibility and leadership on the part of the media, French Canada is far ahead of the rest of Canada in its recognition of Paralympic sport. It is the key market and key audience for the development of Paralympic sport in Canada. French Canada demands what we have to offer more than the rest of Canada demands. In terms of the recognition that will be achieved at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver, I would suggest that the awareness in French Canada will occur not simply because of the official language policy but because of the motivation and interest of the people who live in French Canada.

Ms. Sophie Castonguay is responsible for French-language communications within the Canadian Paralympic Committee. We take the matter seriously enough to assign the responsibilities centred within the communications division to one person. Ms. Castonguay looks after communications externally and internally for the website and for the all-important team communications because we offer all of our services to the team in both official languages.

[Translation]

Sophie Castonguay, Manager, Communications, Canadian Paralympic Committee: Madam Chair, with respect to the Paralympic Games, and the fact that athletes are the very essence of the Canadian team, it is our pleasure to provide services to coaches and athletes in both official languages. Even the volunteers and the people working within the Canadian team are bilingual.

When it is impossible for us to find a bilingual person, we make sure that the team is bilingual and that support is available in both official languages. An athlete or a coach may request information or services in the language of his or her choice. That is something we have always insisted upon doing and I believe athletes are well served.

Of course, there is always room for improvement and experience allows us to make improvements. With respect to the 2010 Games in Canada, the two official languages are French and English. So we are sure that everything will be taking place in French and in English.

I would like to make a small comment, having read your material. I read that French and English are the two official languages of the Olympic Games. When it comes to the Paralympic Games, because the organization is completely different, it does not have to give commentary on the Games in French, English and the language of the country. So, it would be English and the language spoken in the country.

For instance in Beijing, commentators must make presentations in English and probably Mandarin. In Canada, for the 2010 Games it will not be a problem. The two official languages being French and English, results will obviously be posted in both languages. That was the comment I wanted to make because these are two different organizations.

Because I am a francophone and responsible for this program, I supervise communications. And as Mr. Newton stated, everything we do must be done in both official languages.

Regarding representation on the team, Quebec is really leading the way in Canada when it comes to the Paralympic Movement; francophone athletes comprise between 20 and 25 per cent of the Canadian team, which is a lot.

Senator Tardif: We are delighted to have you before our committee. I had the great pleasure of knowing Ms. Petitclerc, who was a student at the University of Alberta's faculté Saint-Jean for several years when I was dean of that faculty.

I would like to come back to the distinction you make between the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and the official languages requirement. You say that these are completely separate organizations. Does that mean that as an organization you are not required to respect the official languages?

[English]

Mr. Newton: Of course, we do here in Canada, but Ms. Castonguay's point was that the official language of the International Paralympic Committee is English, unlike the International Olympic Committee, which stipulates that French and English are the official languages.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: These distinctions are made at the international level.

Mr. Newton: Yes.

Senator Tardif: What is your mandate in Canada?

[English]

Mr. Newton: Our mandate — our internal policy and the policy of the Paralympic Games are in both official languages.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: Is your website in French?

[English]

Mr. Newton: Yes, we have two complete websites, one in English and one in French.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: Is it a bilingual site?

[English]

Mr. Newton: The viewer has the choice at the CPC home page of going to the English site or to the French site.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: When you say you provide full communication services, you mean that everything is done in both official languages at the same time. What services are available to athletes in both languages?

Ms. Castonguay: Everything that is in the public domain, which is brochures, signs, promotional tools and advertising campaigns. This also applies to everything for the media, such as press releases and the media information guide. Since the website is a public communications tool, it is completely bilingual.

It is our policy to distribute information in both languages at the same time, not in one of the languages two days later. For example, a press release will be sent out in French and in English so that the information is available in both languages at the same time.

Senator Tardif: What percentage of your staff is bilingual?

[English]

Mr. Newton: I would say it is more than half.

[Translation]

Ms. Castonguay: If your definition of a bilingual person is someone who can speak both French and English or understand and answer questions, I would say that 8 or 10 of our 12 employees are bilingual.

The Chairman: For further clarification, I would like to ask another question following on the one put by Senator Tardif. You both represent the Canadian Paralympic Committee. If I understand correctly, the website of the Canadian Paralympic Committee is available in Canada's two official languages, and the reason the International Paralympic Committee does not have a website in Canada's two official languages is that it is an international body — the language used is English.

Ms. Castonguay: Exactly.

The Chairman: If we think back to the Paralympic Games in Turin, my question is what is the official language in Turin?

Ms. Castonguay: Italian

[English]

Mr. Newton: English and Italian.

[Translation]

The Chairman: So there would have been very little French used at the Games in Turin.

[English]

Mr. Newton: It was limited except for Canada.

The Chairman: Could you explain what you mean by that?

Mr. Newton: All our communications back to Canada were in both French and English.

[Translation]

Ms. Castonguay: Within the organizing committee, the host country must communicate in English and in the official language of the country in question. So in the case of Turin, the languages used were English and Italian.

The Chairman: Ms. Lise Bissonnette, a Grand Témoin de la Francophonie, appeared before the committee to talk about the Olympic Games. Should there not also be a Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the Paralympic Games?

Ms. Castonguay: I know that Ms. Bissonnette's study was about the Olympic Games. Within the IOC, the official languages are English, French and the language of the host country. No study has been done about the official languages of the International Paralympic Committee, because it is clearly stated in the constitution of that committee that English is the language used, as well as German, because the office is located in Germany. Internal communications are in German. However, the choice to use another language is based on a decision made by the organizing committee when it organizes the Games in its country. In the case of Beijing, the languages will be English and Mandarin, for example. That is why there are two different organizations, the IOC and the IPC. Each has a different constitution.

The Chairman: Your explanation is clear. Thank you very much.

Senator Champagne: It is very unfortunate that there is such a great difference between the IOC and the IPC because, in fact, the IPC is after all — I was about to say a branch — a result of the Olympics Games. Unfortunately, they did not choose to keep French and English as the two official languages, as did the Olympic Games, including, of course, the language of the host country. Perhaps Mr. Newton could tell us where we should go to suggest gently but firmly to the IPC that they should make sure that French is reinstated as a language regularly used by the Paralympic Games as well as the Olympic Games.

[English]

Mr. Newton: In other words, to achieve the parallelism of both the games. Sir Philip Craven is the President of the International Paralympic Committee and Xavier Gonzalez is the CEO. They are in Bonn, Germany.

This is history and tradition at work. I do not want to speak on behalf of IPC, but will just give you a hint. The Olympic movement was closely related in its development with France, and therefore French became implanted in the Olympic movement.

Senator Champagne: It is also the fact that, in those years especially, French was spoken on every continent. French was the second language in Russia and in Brazil.

Mr. Newton: That is right. The development of the IPC, however, was later, during the 1960s and 1970s. It chose English as its working language, with the understanding that the languages of the host countries would also be applied. There is no obstacle at all because of this language issue with IPC to the presentation of the games in both official languages in Canada. They are our official languages and therefore the games will be presented in our official languages.

Senator Champagne: How about the televising of the games? Even though on the field the languages will more than likely be English and Mandarin, will it be possible to see those games on a French network?

Mr. Newton: Absolutely — if Radio-Canada buys the broadcasting rights and attends the games.

I will explain that mechanism to you. The International Paralympic Committee sells broadcasting rights to the Paralympic Games in the same way as the International Olympic Committee sells broadcasting rights in the Olympic Games. It is a competition among the countries around the world of who will purchase the rights and present them.

In Canada, it has historically always been the CBC and Radio-Canada. I am presenting a brief to the commission reviewing Canadian Broadcasting Corporation saying that they should continue that, in that it is a very good role for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to play. My argument will be that amateur sport in general, and the Paralympics in particular, should be covered by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation because the social mandate that it also serves is imbedded in and manifests the support of the federal government, and because in the marketplace few of the commercial stations will recognize the market that exists for Paralympic sport, even though around the world, particularly in Europe, there are professional leagues now playing. In France on a Saturday afternoon, you will see wheelchair basketball or blind cycling presented in an exciting fashion. This is real sports, and it is really exciting. There is absolutely no concession to be made to the disability of the people involved. In fact, it is about ability. You forget the disabilities within 30 seconds of watching a performance.

Senator Champagne: In Quebec, with Chantal Petitclerc and André Viger, we are very much aware of how exciting it can be. Just make sure you keep those athletes happy by speaking to them in the language of their choice.

Mr. Newton: On that score, taking care of the athletes is absolutely critical to the success of the team. The language issue is critical. How can you take care of them if you do not talk to them in the language that they speak? That is understood.

[Translation]

Ms. Castonguay: The country that buys the television rights for the 2010 Olympic Games will also obtain, in the package deal, the broadcasting rights for the Winter Paralympic Games, without paying anything extra. This is not the case for the 2008 Games, nor was it the case for the previous Games. The CBC had to purchase the broadcasting rights for the Olympic Games and make another offer if it wanted to buy rights for the Paralympic Games.

Regarding Vancouver 2010, the consortium will get the broadcasting rights for the Paralympic Games for free. This is already taken care of; they do not have to pay anything extra. Then we will have to see the media coverage. However, as the Games will be held in Canada, and as our winter athletes always put on an excellent performance in these Games, I think that we will have very good media coverage. However, this is still being discussed with CTV and the consortium.

Senator Comeau: I think that when CTV appeared before our committee, we may have neglected to ask them about how they intend to cover the Paralympic Games. Perhaps we should invite them back to hear their answer, because it would be very important to make sure that both official languages are respected, since we want to view the Paralympic Games in French, insofar as possible.

I would like to know the mechanism through which people become Paralympic athletes. Do they begin by participating in regional Games, and do they go through successive competitions before coming to the Paralympic Games? In other words, how do they get to Vancouver?

[English]

Mr. Newton: It is a different sport in that the pathway to the Games and the sports are developed unevenly across the country. For instance, sledge hockey is well developed in Ontario and Western Quebec, and to a certain extent it is starting up in British Columbia in advance of the Games. However, we have a big hole in the middle that we would like to fill, particularly in the hockey-mad Prairies. Why it is not there is a good question.

In Quebec, there is high development in almost every aspect of Paralympic sport, and also in Ontario. As I said, British Columbia is probably third in the country, with Alberta probably fourth. There are also regional contests, both in the summer and in the winter.

Senator Comeau: I am trying to recall if I know of any Paralympian from Nova Scotia.

Mr. Newton: I am sure they are there.

Senator Comeau: Maybe that is an area that needs to be looked at, in order to be able to get good coverage across Canada, if our Olympians from Nova Scotia, for example, can join a club that would lead to their going to the Olympics.

Mr. Newton: In terms of the development of the sport, the key step that must be taken and the key legacy of 2010 that we are looking toward is the creation of a Paralympic sport system in Canada. We are working with Sport Canada to that effect. What I mean by that is a feeder system that goes from recreational or childhood play all the way to the podium. That does not exist right now.

The way the system does take place — and this is a good thing — is in terms of the leadership being provided by each national sport organization. Hockey Canada has a Paralympic or a sledge hockey arm. It is integrated, and this is good. This means that athletes are playing hockey, and coaches and players exchange. In terms of developing that system, as far as hockey is concerned, Hockey Canada is in a leadership roll, as is Alpine Canada for downhill skiing and Nordic Canada for cross-country skiing.

The system is well developed in some areas and nonexistent in others. A consistent application of the system across the country is important. We are travelling across the country to speak with provincial governments, because it is not just the federal government that must play a role in this.

As far as the coverage is concerned, CBC has played the leadership role so far. The transference to CTV is of some concern to us; however, the concern has been allayed by the fervent claims on the part of CTV executives that Vancouver will have the best Paralympic Games coverage ever. That is the message they are giving to us. I can only take them at their word. They seem to be very excited about the Games. They have also seen and speak about the excitement and uniqueness of the Paralympic Games. I am sure they have their marketing caps on when they talk that way, because there is a market for it. It is a question of convincing a lot of the sports community that there is a market for this.

Our biggest challenge as a media organization is to convince sport reporters to go to the Games. Once they get there, the same thing happens: They fall in love. However, sometimes they must be dragged.

Senator Comeau: One of the things we find is that when people speak about official languages, quite often they refer to Quebec as being the home of the French and the rest of Canada as being the home of the English. Do you have a sensitivity approach — specifically, that there are some francophones outside of Quebec?

Mr. Newton: That is borne out not just in the way we carry out our media or communications responsibilities but the fact that many of our francophone athletes come from places other than Quebec. We have francophone Metis from Saskatchewan and francophones who are now living in British Columbia. Our team reflects Canada, and athletes come from all over the country.

Senator Comeau: You are a partner with VANOC. You have been in partnership with the Canadian Olympics over many years, so I imagine the working relationship has been quite good.

Mr. Newton: We share offices.

Senator Comeau: Have you found that up to now the VANOC group has been working out well?

Mr. Newton: Absolutely. Unlike any previous organizing committee, they have taken steps on behalf of the Paralympic movement that have broken new ground in terms of the parity of the Paralympic Games with the Olympic Games. For instance, they refer to themselves as the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which is extremely important, because they are two different fish altogether.

In terms of official languages, everything that has been done and everything they do is in both official languages. The working relationship is excellent. It is developing actually right now, as we go along, because we are still in the formative stages and they are focussed primarily on construction right now. As we get closer to the Games, our relationships will become more and more intimate, until we are actually there on the ground.

Senator Comeau: Obviously, you will need volunteers? Are you in the process of rounding up volunteers from both linguistic communities? Are the volunteers are coming onside?

Mr. Newton: Absolutely. It is interesting. We work very closely with the National Sport Organizations, or NSOs. We have a whole list of things we are trying to get them to do — because of their differences. They are like different planets; they have different capabilities. Some of them do not have a communications division, and we are trying to get each organization to have its own. We are trying to ensure that each organization is fluently bilingual. Once this is done, we have a farm team of volunteers right there, because we are developing people who are familiar with the team members within the communications divisions of the NSOs who are also bilingual. That is essentially our farm team.

By the time we get to 2010, it probably will not be complete, and so we will be looking externally, as we have done in the past. Long before the Games, about eight to 10 months prior, we do a call for volunteers, and we usually have those posts filled six months before the Games and have the volunteers actually working with us, going to the team orientations and doing everything in preparation for the Games.

Senator Murray: To follow up on Senator Comeau's questions about the cooperation between your organization, and in the case of VANOC, on the international level, does the IPC have representatives on the IOC board, for example?

Mr. Newton: I am not certain of that. Yes, they must because there is funding back and forth between the two, and there are fund-sharing agreements.

Senator Murray: The IPC is not looked upon, is it, as an offshoot?

Mr. Newton: Not at all. It is an independent organization with its own history and charter; it has a completely different sense of purpose. We have the social element as part of our mandate, and it is completely different.

Senator Murray: But the Games go on in the same time?

Mr. Newton: Same venue, yes. The Paralympic Games take place 10 days after the Olympic Games, in the same venues. You have, even more exciting, I think, blind skiers going down the downhill run, the same downhill runs as Olympic skiers use.

Senator Murray: It is wonderful and does so much to demythologize and demystify the whole image of what is handicapped and what is not.

Mr. Newton: Exactly. That is the beaming message of all of this. Yes, it is exciting, and, yes, it is sport.

Senator Murray: How many countries will be represented at the Paralympic Games?

Ms. Castonguay: In Turin, there were about 40 countries.

[Translation]

Ms. Castonguay: This is much less than for the Summer Games.

Senator Murray: How many months?

Ms. Castonguay: One hundred and forty countries had registered in Athens, but only between 130 and 140 countries were really represented at the Games. There should be 40 countries at the Winter Games.

[English]

Senator Murray: And how many sports at the Paralympic Games?

Mr. Newton: How many games have you been to, Sophie?

Ms. Castonguay: Two games.

[Translation]

The program of the Summer Games has 19 sports whereas the program of the Winter Games has four sports and five competitions. The cross-country skiing competitions and the biathlon are called Nordic skiing. The five disciplines are alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, the biathlon, sledge hockey and wheelchair curling, that had its beginning in Turin in March 2006.

Senator Murray: How many athletes are there?

Ms. Castonguay: For the Turin team, I think that there were 35 athletes and two guides. One guide was for alpine skiing. Blind skiers ski with a guide. We have a blind skier accompanied by his guide for alpine skiing and cross-country skiing. Guides also receive medals.

Senator Murray: You mentioned 35 athletes from Canada. But all in all, how many athletes are there for the 40 countries on the list?

Ms. Castonguay: About 500 athletes in all. These Games are much smaller than the Summer Games. The main reasons for which there are fewer athletes at the Paralympic Winter Games are that winter can create problems for certain persons in wheelchairs who find it difficult to leave their homes or to get to the ski slopes, there is a lack of accessibility to the club house and the bathrooms, and the equipment is costly. These are reasons of a social nature. Thirty-five may seem like a small figure, but sports in Canada are beginning to develop more on a local and recreational basis.

In Quebec alone, there are now 23 ski centres with adapted equipment. Thus, someone in a wheelchair can ski with their children and grandchildren, rent equipment and hire a coach or a monitor.

Senator Champagne: That is what the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec does.

Ms. Castonguay: Precisely. She donates a lot of money for purchasing equipment. A few years ago, only one or two alpine skiing resorts had such equipment. Currently, there are 23 resorts in Quebec with the proper equipment. This is a vast improvement.

Senator Murray: Among the 40 countries represented in the competitions, do you know how many francophone countries there will be?

Ms. Castonguay: This is a good question. I know that France will be because it has a very large team and they are very good at Nordic skiing. I am just going by memory. I cannot really say.

Senator Murray: African countries might not come to the Winter Games.

Ms. Castonguay: That is the point.

Senator Murray: Do African countries attend the Summer Games?

Ms. Castonguay: They do.

[English]

Mr. Newton: There are a couple of issues related to that. The Paralympic Games is still growing and differentiating. What I mean by that is that it has learned how to set up the competition so that it is more competitive. Also, there is the development of more sports. For instance, in summer, rowing, which is potentially a perfect sport for a person with a disability, could come in. In winter, bobsledding and the luge, and perhaps snowboarding and speed skating, are all sports where there could be new Paralympic entries. On the summer side, our team has 150 to 200 athletes, Canadians. There are a couple of thousand athletes overall from the world.

I want to give you a sense of how it works and what the IPC does in terms of developing the sport around the world. Developing countries, of course, have a much more difficult time than developed countries in funding and mounting a Paralympic team.

Exchange of equipment and expertise will be directed toward developing nations. Africa is definitely there. With regard to your question about French, the Summer Olympic Games will have far more francophone athletes than the Winter Olympics. The former French colonies will be well represented.

Senator Murray: How are all these financed?

Mr. Newton: It is up to each individual nation to finance them. Some development work is done by the IPC in terms of fostering, but the IPC is not by any stretch of the imagination as wealthy as the international Olympic organization.

Senator Murray: In terms of hosting the games in Vancouver, how is that financed?

Mr. Newton: It is a combination of federal, provincial and corporate sponsorship, with lashings of money from the Olympic Committee. In other words, they bring in a hefty amount, but they get to say how the games will be run as a result, in terms of the management of the games.

Senator Murray: Is that of the Paralympic Games?

Mr. Newton: No, not of the Paralympic Games, of the Olympics. Remember that the venues and the construction of Paralympic Games are the Olympic venues and construction.

Senator Murray: This is a little bit off the language issue — I will not push it too far — but do you have relationships with other organizations and policy-makers that represent handicapped people in this country?

Mr. Newton: Absolutely. It runs across the whole spectrum. Our membership, generally speaking, consists of the sports organizations and the organizations that represent people with disabilities in Canada. That is the membership of the Canadian Paralympic Committee. It is a member-driven organization with a board elected by that membership.

Senator Murray: Are you involved to some extent in consideration of and recommendation concerning the policy of governments as they affect these people and their different departments?

Mr. Newton: Yes. Our mandate crosses over health, fitness and persons with disabilities, and all of the aspects of government that deal with those issues.

Senator Murray: In terms of the Games themselves, and of athletes coming from all these countries, have you experienced or do you expect to experience any problems with the Canadian immigration authorities?

Mr. Newton: It has not been an issue that we have addressed. That is probably more of a VANOC concern than ours because our central responsibility is the Canadian team as opposed to actually mounting the Games.

Senator Murray: VANOC will be concerned with the athletes coming in from other countries, not your organization in particular?

Mr. Newton: That is right.

Senator Murray: I have pushed that as far as I should. There are areas that I would like to go into some time, but I do not think this is the occasion or that these are the witnesses.

Mr. Newton: We would welcome talking to you at any time.

Senator Murray: I would like that. Thank you.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: Besides the Canadian Paralympic Committee, there are other national sports organizations. You said that the Canadian Paralympic Committee was fully bilingual and that services were provided in both official languages. Do our national sports organizations also provide services in both official languages, and if so, which ones are they?

[English]

Mr. Newton: I am glad you asked that question, because I am engaged in a communications strategy right now to awaken the national sports organizations to the need to conduct this aggressive promotion of Paralympic sport. The sports are integrated so there are communications divisions that often work hard managing the interests that would come, say, to Hockey Canada about amateur hockey and not aggressively promoting their Paralympic side. I probably should not have used Hockey Canada because they do. I will not point fingers at individual organizations.

It is important to examine the quality of francophone communications because I would say it is their policy to communicate to francophones, but if you dig deeper and ask whether they produce simultaneous press releases you will be getting at some issues on which I should like to see them improve their output. As anyone who deals with the media knows, a news release presented two days after the news is not worth the paper on which it is written. If the French copy is coming out two days after the news because of translation problems or a lack of capability, then you have a difficulty on the French side.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: This confirms my thoughts about certain national sports organizations that do not provide services in both official languages, especially when it comes to communication. Are there people who could work with the athletes?

[English]

Mr. Newton: It would vary completely by the organization. As I said, they are very different cultures, with different histories and levels of funding. Some are richer than others.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: Thus, there could be great differences between national sports organizations with regard to their commitment to bilingualism, even if they are headed by the fully bilingual Canadian Paralympic Committee?

[English]

Mr. Newton: That is right. To understand our relationship with the national sports organizations, they have responsibility for the development of the team within the individual area of the sport. We have very little to do with them other than persuasion or influence. We do not have direct leverage to influence them. We are the owners of the team in strict terms only for the two weeks of the games. In other words, we assemble the team, equip them, transport them and stage their performance at the games. The national sports organizations are the ones who conduct the World Cups and all of the events that go on between the games. There is a separation there. We must work in a cooperative fashion with them.

Another element — and this is in terms of their funding — is that they often have different sponsors. We have to go through careful negotiations in terms of visibility of those organizations so that there are no sponsorship conflicts in terms of promoting them. In other words, we are often between the Games having to stand in the shadows while Alpine Canada or Athletics Canada comes to the fore with a completely different set of sponsors, because if we are seen there our sponsors will conflict with theirs. That is the reality of the situation in terms of how much influence we can have.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: For instance, would the sponsors not necessarily demand that signs be posted in both official languages?

[English]

Mr. Newton: Not necessarily — some of them would; some of them would not. I am not certain about looking across the field. Certainly, our sponsors demand and appreciate the fact that everything we do is in both official languages.

[Translation]

Senator Tardif: This is not the case for national sports organizations that hold competitions at both the national and international levels.

Ms. Castonguay: Every federation and every organization has a different policy regarding bilingualism. If they had a written official languages policy, this might motivate them to offer more services in both official languages.

Senator Tardif: I have noticed that there is a policy for handicapped athletes in 2006, but this policy says nothing about official language requirements. This is unfortunate.

The Chairman: I have a comment about Senator Tardif's last question. Sponsors are important because they contribute large sums of money that the athletes need for participating in the Games. Therefore, if a sponsor only advertises in English, there is no problem. If we had a big sponsor from Quebec, would that sponsor be able to advertise only in French? Is it up to the sponsor to decide, or does the policy apply in different ways?

[English]

Mr. Newton: That is a good question because our policy, of course, is officially in both official languages; however, we have sponsors who are national with the Quebec branch. For instance, Rona is one of our sponsors, and they have Rona in Quebec and the rest of Canada with their own marketing programs.

We do not have much influence at all over how the sponsors market themselves. It is their decision entirely. The involvement we have in that would be to coordinate the involvement of athletes or offer suggestions on how to present Paralympic sport to get the best benefits out of it. In terms of their decisions about their marketing programs, we are not asked nor are we part of it.

[Translation]

The Chairman: I want to thank you both. You answered our questions very well and I, for one, learned many things today, not necessarily what I would have liked to hear, but those are the facts.

[English]

Mr. Newton: It is our pleasure. Thank you very much.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Let us suspend the meeting for a few minutes and then we will continue our work in camera.

The committee continued in camera.