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Watchdog probes lack of French at Olympics

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | 11:01 PM ET

Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser said Tuesday his office has received several complaints that the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics didn't include enough French.Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser said Tuesday his office has received several complaints that the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics didn't include enough French. (CBC)

The office of Canada's watchdog for official languages is investigating several complaints that there wasn't enough French in the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Due to the confidential nature of the investigation process, details of the complaints cannot be made public, Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser told CBC's Power & Politics Tuesday.

However, "one of the things that the complaints are expressing is the desire that the process of resolving these complaints will result in improvements in the closing ceremonies," Fraser said.

The issue highlights two quite divergent views of what constitutes linguistic duality in this country, he added.

"One view is that … the French language should be like the Victorian attitude towards children — seen but not heard and the other is that … for a language to fully live, it has to be spoken and heard."

The debate also raises the question of whether including both languages in ceremonies should be done out of obligation or because it represents how Canadians perceive themselves, Fraser said.

"We have seen some interesting comments from Anglophones saying that the presence of French in ceremonies is an important way in which they see the country."

Fraser said his office receives about 1,000 complaints a year that are dealt with in various ways, in part depending on what the complainant wants to see happen.

"There can be a formal process, which can lead to institutions being taken before the courts or there can be facilitated process of resolving the complaint which does not involve that same formal procedure."

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