Many francophones were offended by the lack of French at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, but anglophones should have been too. It’s easy to point the finger at La Belle Province when it does some anti-Canadian, anti-anglo things, but the Olympics’ opening ceremony last year should have highlighted the best of the country from east to west and everything in between.
In his new book, Vancouver Organizing Committee CEO John Furlong said there would have been more French at the opening ceremonies if Gilles Vigneault had allowed them to use his song “Mon pays,” an unofficial sovereigntist anthem.
Of course, that pathetic excuse gives plenty for members of the Parti QuÃ©bÃ©cois to guffaw at. Culture minister Christine St-Pierre called Furlong’s comments “juvenile and naive.”
The PQ is hard to please, though. The Olympics were a year ago, and short of building a time machine for an opening ceremony do-over, there is not much else VANOC can do other than apologize.
Vancouver was voted as the host city for the Winter Olympics back in 2003, giving VANOC about seven years to come up with something incredible that would represent the culture of all of Canada.
But who is most at fault here? Is it VANOC for thinking Vigneault, a known Quebec nationalist, would let them use his song? Is it Vigneault for not allowing them to use “Mon pays?” Is it the Parti QuÃ©bÃ©cois, who probably would not be satisfied even if the entire Olympic Games were exclusively in French?
VANOC should have planned better. Language has always been a hot-button issue in this country, where we have not one, but two official languages. VANOC got Garou to sing Jean-Pierre Ferland’s “Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin.” As a back-up plan to a Quebec nationalist anthem, that was a little weak. Furlong said there was a big production planned with Vigneault’s song that would have represented Quebec perfectly. So when rights to the song weren’t granted, those plans were just dropped?
Vigneault had the right to forbid VANOC from using his song. He told Le Devoir that organizers apparently wanted to only use parts of it and Vigneault did not feel they would be doing the song justice. But other reasons he gave for not allowing VANOC to use his song were down right rude, unpatriotic and shameful. The CBC reported that he told organizers he did not want his song performed in a place where the Canadian flag would be flown or anywhere that suggested Canada included Quebec. Politically, he is entitled to his opinion, but geographically, Quebec is still a part of Canada, and somewhere down the line there will need to be some cooperation and give-and-take on both sides for us to have at least some unity.
Members of the PQ seem as though they are trying hard to instigate a language war with the rest of Canada. The two Olympic weeks united the entire country like no political event had in years, yet politicians are trying to create a divide between the people. Whether you are from RosemÃ¨re like Alexandre Bilodeau or from Calgary like Christine Nesbitt, when a Canadian wins a gold medal, he or she wins it for Canada. Not Quebec or Alberta, or any other province or city they identify with most.
The Olympics should be about sports and Canadian athletes and even though the expensive and controversial “Own the podium” program was funded in part by taxpayer dollars, politics have no place in these celebrations.