Mr. Speaker, in regard to the organization of the 21st Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler in 2010, we are asked today in our role as parliamentarians to take an additional step toward the establishment of clear, specific rules applying to all companies that wish to take part in this celebration. As the Bloc critic for sports, I would like to add my voice to all the others debating C-47, An Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, introduced last March by the Minister of Industry.
I would like to say, first, that this bill will enable the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, usually called VANOC, to comply with the requirements of the International Olympic Committee or IOC, with which it has a contract. In order to abide by the rules in the Olympic Charter, VANOC must agree to take appropriate steps to adequately protect the Olympic words and symbols, failing which it could be subject to IOC sanctions. Chapter 1 of the Olympic Charter states that “IOC approval of Olympic emblems may be withdrawn unless the NOCs concerned take all possible steps to protect their Olympic emblems and inform the IOC of such protection”.
The current Trade-marks Act already protects Olympic and Paralympic marks against fraudulent uses, but in view of the considerable contribution from private partners, VANOC would like the House to pass more narrowly focused legal protection in order to reassure all its partners and the IOC. Parliament already passed similar legislation at the time of the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976. In addition, other host countries over the last few years have met the requirements of the Olympic movement by passing legislation to protect Olympic marks. This was done in the cases of the Sydney games in 2000 and the future summer games to be held in London in 2012.
If used wisely, the new legislation will not infringe on the rights of citizens and athletic associations that want to join in the Olympic spirit but will help companies that commit large amounts of money to the Olympic adventure to protect their investment. In order to ensure that it will still be possible in the future to hold similar events, it is important to establish a climate of confidence that encourages sponsors to become involved.
Bill C-47 deals, therefore, with counterfeiters and unauthorized use of the fame or popularity of an event, something that experts call “ambush marketing.”
The main sponsors of the Vancouver Games support the early adoption of this bill, since ambush marketing is a form of parasitism allowing an advertiser to try to associate itself with an event or simply to take advantage of some of the advertising surrounding an event without really taking part in it. By facilitating legal remedies for hijacked Olympic and Paralympic marks, the bill will enable VANOC to guarantee exclusive rights to the authorized sponsors and thus contribute to the funding of the event. In other words, as I said earlier, this bill will assure the companies who are becoming partners in the games that their investment will be respected, and also give VANOC additional leverage to raise sufficient funds.
Although we support this bill out of respect for the players in Quebec’s and Canada’s sports community, I wish to say that we also want to support the small business owners who, without meaning any harm, wish to celebrate the holding of the games in their region. Accordingly I would remind the House that VANOC undertook to use this legislation as minimally as possible, exercising judgment and fairness. Exceptions are also provided for in some cases so as not to hurt companies that may have begun using a term linked to the Olympics prior to January 1998, and the act itself will be valid for only a limited time, that is, it will cease to apply, as provided in clauses 13 and 15, on December 31, 2010.
VANOC also intends to undertake a campaign to educate people about the Olympic mark and it will define clear guidelines pertaining to use of the mark, while encouraging communities to play an active part in the games so that all the potential players in this project, citizens, large corporations, associations and small business owners, feel included in the event and become fully involved in it.
Protecting Olympic and Paralympic marks—including all names, phrases, marks, logos and designs relating to the Olympic movement—guarantees that only authorized sponsors will be able to use them. As a result, no person or business will be able to appropriate them without contributing to the financial support of the games. It is very important to understand that, out of an operating budget totalling $1.7 billion for the Vancouver Games, commercial partners contribute approximately $725 million. Thus, according to VANOC:
Revenue from sponsors and licensees is critical to the successful staging of the 2010 Winter Games, increased funding for Canadian athletes, and sport and cultural legacies for all Canadians.
I would like to take a moment to examine that quotation. The sport and cultural legacy of the Vancouver Games referred to by VANOC also means that we have to give thought to respect for bilingualism, both in the preparations for the games and during the games themselves. I would remind the House that, in October 2005, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Government of Quebec and VANOC in order to promote linguistic duality and the specificity of Quebec's culture and identity. This agreement also provides that the Government of Quebec will support VANOC in its efforts to guarantee the presence of French at all stages of the games, which is also required pursuant to the Olympic charter, since the two official languages of the Olympic movement are French and English.
I would point out that, despite that agreement, in a report tabled in February 2007 entitled Reflecting Canada's Linguistic Duality at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: A Golden Opportunity, the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages stated:
—there are still a number of challenges to ensuring the full and fair consideration of the two official languages at the 2010 Games. The committee feels that concrete and immediate action must be taken to guarantee compliance with linguistic criteria in the selection of host cities, in the provision of adequate funding for French-language organizations in setting up projects for the 2010 Games, in the representation of French-language communities in VANOC and in the cultural celebrations associated with the Games, in the broadcasting of the Games to the entire English and French audience and regarding bilingual signage outside the host cities.
Although VANOC is committed to respecting both official languages, it still has to take the necessary measures in order to keep that commitment. One of the key problems concerns the televised broadcast of the events. We must absolutely ensure that the television viewers are respected, by asking the responsible broadcasters to assure the French and English audiences equal coverage of the events.
These games provide Quebec and Canadian athletes an opportunity to measure what they are made of, their talent, their strengths and their perseverance. For the spectators as well, whether they are attending the competitions or watching them with interest on television, the Olympic Games are important. During this international event they will see themselves in the athletes representing them, they will identify with their challenges and victories and they will be inspired. This sense of identification and pride is achieved by respecting French and its development.
Respecting bilingualism in Vancouver is especially important. Although French has official language status within the Olympic Movement, this status did not stop it from declining on a number of levels during the last games. As Grand Témoin de la Francophonie for the Turin Olympic Games, Lise Bissonnette said, “We should be telling cities which make a bid to stage the Olympics that they must make commitments set in stone when it comes to official languages, and they will have to demonstrate how they intend to meet these commitments”. For now, it is deplorable that the linguistic duality of the cities making a bid to host the games is not considered, whether within the International Olympic Committee or the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Looking beyond the confines of the Olympics, the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages also deplore, in their report, the fact that French and English are not accorded the same status in the Canadian sports system. For example, although Canada's sports policy provides for some measures to support bilingualism, this is not the case for the policy on sport for persons with a disability. According to all the witnesses convened by the committee, a great deal of work remains to be done to ensure that athletes are provided services and support mechanisms in both official languages equally.
Also according to the committee's report, Sport Canada acknowledges that there is still much to be done to ensure that francophone athletes have equitable access to high performance sport. Worse yet, in a study published in 2000, former official languages commissioner Dyane Adam stated that the shortcomings of the Canadian sports system with regard to language were detrimental to the overall development of francophone athletes.
If, on a daily basis, the French language is used improperly or neglected in the Canadian sports world, we must be even more vigilant in order to ensure that it is given its due at the Vancouver Games. Ultimately, French must be integrated into the development of Canada's Olympic philosophy.
According to the Olympic Charter, olympism is a philosophy of life exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. Olympism is more than just an attitude, it is a way of life, a mindset passed from generation to generation. The Vancouver Games will serve to promote sport and develop athletes. The young athletes whom I recently encouraged at the Canada Games were inspired by those who came before them and, in turn, will inspire those competing in 2010.
As well, every year, the Quebec Games make a not insignificant contribution to development of the Olympic spirit. Sports-Québec and everyone who contributes to organizing this great coming together are motivated by a desire to pass on the values of Olympianism to young people. This sporting event, an innovative initiative on the part of Quebec, helps to encourage the emergence of the sports elite of tomorrow. The young athletes who participate are, like the Olympians, motivated by an exceptional desire to surpass their limits. They put all their heart, the best of themselves, into every competition. For them, these championships are the Olympics, on their own scale. These meetings are often where they find the motivation they need to pursue their efforts and achieve ever higher objectives.
Because these games are an important step on the road that leads to the Olympiads, I also want to thank the volunteers who commit themselves body and soul to events such as these, and I am not forgetting the host cities, which put vast storehouses of energy into carrying out their mission. Here, I am thinking particularly of the RCM L'Assomption, which hosted the Winter Games last March, and the city of Sept-Îles, where the 43rd finals of the Quebec Games will be held from August 3 to August 11 of this year. In fact, I will take this opportunity to issue an invitation to everyone who would like to come and witness the vitality and enthusiasm that are the hallmark of the next generation of Quebec athletes
When I think about the Olympic spirit, a few names immediately spring to mind. For the Hamelins who live in Sainte-Julie in my riding, speedskating is more than a sport, it is a fundamental part of family life. Everyone in Quebec is now familiar with Charles Hamelin, who won silver in Milan last March at the short-track speedskating world championships. A few days later, he won the world team championships in the same event. Charles also left his mark in Turin in 2006. It seems that before long the name of his brother François will be equally familiar to sports fans in Quebec.
At the 2006 Soirée des lauréats montréalais, François, who already held the national junior 1000 metre record, was named most promising athlete, while the father of these two champions, Yves Hamelin, was named development trainer of the year. The two brothers started skating at a very young age and have benefited from the wise counsel of their father. This invaluable spirit of emulation is the spirit that the Olympic Movement seeks to promote.
Along the same line, the successes experienced today by Charles Hamelin, François-Louis Tremblay, Olivier Jean and Kalyna Roberge, to name just a few, are not unlike the past successes of the great skater Marc Gagnon, who was recently inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame. Gagnon, a four-time world champion and two-time silver medalist, and a member of the Canadian team since the age of 15, ended his prolific career after the Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002, where he became the most decorated Winter Olympics athlete in the history of Quebec and Canada. After participating in three Games and winning five Olympic medals, three of them gold, he overtook Gaétan Boucher, another iconic figure in Quebec sport. Perhaps even more than the impressive number of titles and medals he collected, it is Marc Gagnon’s energy and personality that made him one of the leading Quebec athletes of recent years. It is that spirit that he has passed on to the next generation, so that they can, in a way, carry on the Olympic lineage.
In other disciplines as well, this lineage is very clear. If Alexandre Despaties, a triple god medal winner at the Grand Prix de Montréal just a few weeks ago, is now one of the most highly regarded Olympic hopefuls in Quebec, it is because others have shown him the way. Sylvie Bernier’s victory at the Los Angeles Olympics, in 1984, is linked to the success of Despaties, who recently was presented with an international award as best diver in the world, in recognition of his performance in the past four years.
The Olympic spirit is very much alive in the Quebec sports community. Among the people who exemplify this ideal in a very striking way, I would also like to mention the great wheelchair racing champion, Chantal Petitclerc. Since 1992, Chantal Petitclerc has won 16 Paralympic and one Olympic medal. She is the holder of several world records and continues to campaign for recognition of her sport as an official Olympic event. Since 1995, she has been the spokesperson for Défi sportif des athlètes handicapés, which this year included nearly 3,000 competitors. In addition to being an exceptional athlete, Chantal Petitclerc has a gift for expressing the passion that motivates her, so that she is a much sought-after speaker. She was recently included among the list of most-admired personalities in Quebec not only because of her success in sports but also for her glowing personality. Strength, courage, tenacity, balance, and good humour: Chantal Petitclerc is, outside the sporting arena, an incredible source of inspiration.
Before concluding, allow me to salute Christiane Ayotte and her entire team of researchers who tirelessly devote their efforts to overcoming the devious methods of those individuals for whom gold justifies any means and who do not hesitate to put the health of young people at risk in their search for super-human performances. Thanks to their laboratory police work, the great striving for excellence, in the spirit of the Olympic motto, “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”, can be carried out in a healthier manner.
While couch potatoes are increasingly taking the step to a more active life, we must provide an opportunity for everyone, on a daily basis, to draw inspiration from the examples of courage and perseverance of our athletes. For that reason, we must give VANOC all the necessary legislative tools for completing the colossal task of holding a modern Olympiad, where financial and commercial interests must be blended as closely as possible with environmental, social and, of course, sporting success.
You will, therefore, understand why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-47 in principle at second reading and we will listen with great pleasure to the witnesses who are called before the Industry committee in order to learn more.