There is plenty of French at the Vancouver Olympics
Walking around downtown Vancouver yesterday I was thinking many things. I was thinking it just might be Canada’s most beautiful city. I was asking myslef if Vancouver was the first city to hold the Winter Olympics in the middle of summer. I was thinking that if I was a crackhead I would also prefer to live in Vancouver than, say, Thunder Bay. I also thought about Pamela Anderson a lot, but the fact that she is from Vancouver was only a pretext.
One thing I wasn’t thinking is : “This is a bilingual city.”
Montréal’s federalist media, Québec’s Premier Jean Charest, the Liberal Party of Canada’s Denis Coderre, the federal commissioner for official languages Graham Fraser, the Heritage minister James Moore are pissed off at Vancouver for not appropriately showcasing Canada only officially approved branding as a billingual/multicultural country during last Friday’s opening ceremonies.
“I am so proud to be a Canadian! It is with great pride that I realized that the organizers of the Vancouver Olympics truly understand the real Canada!”, wrote Réjean Tremblay–in English!–in La Presse. ”I am so proud that I had to put some of my emotions in writing in this country’s “superior language” so that the bosses at VANOC would be proud of me.”
See… I don’t get that.
God forbid Vancouver should present itself to the world as what it is: one of the great Pacific cities like Singapore and Hong Kong and San Francisco, born of the fateful meeting of Asia and Great-Britain, of wandering Brits, Punjabis, Cantoneses, Hans, Scots and Malays. A city where English is the common language.
Why do Canadians always feel the need to pretend we’re all living in northern Ontario, hunting moose and speaking bilingual under four feet of snow? Over two thirds of Canadians live on the Pacific Coast and in the Great Lakes area! French and snowstorms are as foreign to the culture of Canadians in Vancouver and Toronto as bullfighting yet English Canadians always seem obligated to pretend they’re living in Kapuskasing!
You hear French all the time in Vancouver. Walking the city yesterday I heard French spoken by squeegee punks on Granville and very chic Haitian ladies on the waterfront. Some fluently French-speaking Anglo hipster on Commercial was able to explain to me how to purchase a six-pack. I even talked French with a Sécurité du Québec police officer on loan to the RCMP.
But I also heard just as much Japanese, Cantonese and Punjabi. I also heard kids who’s roots could have been anywhere in the world speaking English to each other. That’s what Vancouver is: a multicoloured (the concept incorrectly expressed as multicultural in Canadian English) city where people are educated and work in the commonly agreed upon language of English.
Kind of like the society the people of Québec have been trying to build for the last 40 years, except that because it’s being done in English instead of French, British-Columbia it is considered “normal”…
Vancouver is an English-speaking City and its Olympic Games and cermonies reflect that fact. If anything, it’s the Asian aspect of BC culture that is absent from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic branding, not the French language.
Now, let’s just hope that if and when Québec City get’s to host it’s own Olympic games in 2022, the French language will be as visible as English in Vancouver…