YVR Official Languages Action Plan
- Message from Tamara Vrooman
- Official Languages Program
- Services in the Terminal
- Communications with the Public
- Action Plan
Message from Tamara Vrooman
President & CEO
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is a diverse global hub and premier gateway between Canada and the world. As such, we’re focused on delivering a positive and welcoming experience for our passengers, visitors and community. This includes ensuring that we reflect a true sense of place throughout our terminals, consistently representing our Canadian culture and protocol at every touchpoint, and making certain that our passengers can easily navigate their journey through YVR.
While we welcome many travellers who speak languages beyond English and French, Canada’s official languages enjoy special status in our airport. We are proud of YVR’s role in supporting bilingualism in Canada. The values set forth in Canada’s Official Languages Act—linguistic duality, respect for diversity, inclusion—are deeply important to us. We believe that respecting the language rights of our customers is a crucial part of delivering an outstanding customer experience.
The primary goal of our multi-year Official Languages Action Plan is to help ensure that passengers, visitors and our community are able to access services and information in both official languages, 24/7 at YVR. We will continue to prioritize ensuring that our public-facing signage and communications are bilingual, and that all customers receive an active offer and excellent service in their preferred official language. At the same time, we believe our Action Plan will serve as a springboard for building awareness and excitement around linguistic duality at YVR.
As YVR continues to grow and evolve in service of our community and the economy that supports it, our Official Languages Program will grow with us to ensure we are meeting our commitments while adapting to our ever-changing operating environment as we connect British Columbia to the world.
President & CEO
Vancouver Airport Authority
In 1992, Vancouver Airport Authority took over management of YVR from Transport Canada. To ensure this transition would not diminish the language rights of Canadians visiting and using YVR, the federal government enacted legislation to ensure that Vancouver Airport Authority would be subject to certain provisions of the Official Languages Act. As a result, even though the Airport Authority is a non-share capital private corporation, when it comes to communicating with and providing services to travelers using our airport, we are subject to the same expectation of bilingualism that would apply if we were a federal institution.
However, unlike other institutions and agencies subject to the Official Languages Act, we do not receive government funding to meet our official languages obligations. Our Official Languages Program, like all other aspects of our operations (including health and safety, security, environmental management, maintenance, and customer service), is funded by our revenues.
While Vancouver Airport Authority has always had to make difficult decisions when it comes to allocating resources, that challenge has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to have a significant impact on the aviation industry. We recognize that our obligation to respect the language rights of Canadians is heightened, not diminished, during this crisis. Ensuring the safety and security of everyone at YVR continues to be our top priority, and we understand that this cannot be achieved unless we continue to invest in and focus on our Official Languages Program. For example, in early 2021, we hired a bilingual Communications Specialist to enhance our ability to communicate with the public in both official languages.
We recognize that our role in providing accurate and timely information to Canadians has never more important, especially considering YVR’s role in ensuring safe travel and in partnering with government and local agencies to assist in the provision of COVID-19 tests and vaccines in the community.
Finally, we wish to note that while we hope this Action Plan will help us to meet our legal obligations under the Official Languages Act, we are approaching official languages with a “mission mandate” rather than a “compliance mandate”. We are committed to supporting linguistic duality and protecting the language rights of Canadians – carrying out that work is our privilege. To that end, we welcome your feedback regarding our Official Languages Program. Your comments will help us to continuously improve and to shape our road map going forward.
Official Languages Program
Services in the Terminal
YVR welcomes millions of passengers each year and often provides the first and last impression of British Columbia and Canada. Those passengers interact with a range of stakeholders while at the airport. The Official Languages Act requires us to ensure that people receiving services at our airport can do so in the official language of their choice, regardless of whether they are dealing with:
- an Airport Authority employee or volunteer (such as one of our Customer Relations Representatives or “Green Coat” volunteers);
- a service provider contracted by YVR; or
- a business partner operating at YVR pursuant to a lease or license agreement (such as airlines and concessionaires).
The steps we currently take to ensure the availability of bilingual service at YVR are set out below.
- Customer service providers (regardless of whether they are employed/contracted by YVR or one of our business partners) are expected to use a bilingual greeting ("Hello/Bonjour”, also known as an active offer) to demonstrate that service is available in English and French.
- All YVR Customer Care counters include a welcome sign in both official languages.
- Customer service providers (regardless of whether they are employed/contracted by YVR or one of our business partners) are expected to provide service of equal quality in both official languages.
- Key phrase phonetic translation cards have been developed and distributed to customer service providers.
- Maps and other customer care public facing materials are produced in both official languages. This even includes items such as our coloring books.
- A daily roster is available that shows the various languages spoken by our customer care service providers, including showing their location in the terminal.
- Passengers have 24/7 access to translation services in more than 170 different languages via the 50 language line phones and 80 courtesy phones installed throughout the airport, including at every Customer Care counter. The Airport Authority also provides 24/7 free access to the language line to all our concessionaires and airline partners.
- Menu boards throughout the terminal buildings are displayed in both official languages.
- Televisions around the terminal alternate between French and English content.
- Our online parking booking system is available in French and English.
- Payment kiosks located at all YVR parking lots offer service in both official languages.
- Our agreements with concessionaires and airlines confirm that we require them to comply with the Official Languages Act.
- Our agreement with our contracted customer care provider addresses the need to provide services in both official languages and to make an “active offer” of bilingual service.
- Our agreement with our contracted customer care provider also directs the contractor to provide its staff with official languages training as well as French language training.
- In 2014, YVR developed a French language training course called “Allons-y”, which is now a mandatory part of our training curriculum for all new Green Coat volunteers.
- The Green Coat program has made bilingualism a priority in their recruitment of new volunteers. Four out of 12 new volunteers recruited in 2018 identified as bilingual. Eight out of 24 new volunteers recruited in 2019 identified as bilingual. Eight out of 20 new volunteers recruited in early 2020 identified as bilingual.
- While YVR temporarily suspended the Green Coat program between March 2020 and March 2021 due to COVID-19, we continued to provide virtual French language training to our Green Coat volunteers during this period to ensure they retained their French language skills.
- Our customer care contractor makes continuous efforts to recruit bilingual representatives—including by implementing a French employee referral program and attending bilingual job fairs twice a year.
Measuring our Performance:
- YVR conducts regular audits through a “mystery shop” program to ensure our contracted customer care staff providing customers with bilingual greetings.
- We conduct a quarterly customer experience survey in which we measure:
- Frequency of customers being greeted in both English and French at YVR Customer Care counters;
- Frequency of requests for service in French at YVR Customer Care counters; and
- Level of passenger satisfaction with French service at YVR Customer Care counters.
Communications with the Public
Our communications approach is grounded in providing open, honest and timely information to our many customers. This includes travellers, the general public, over 23,000 people who live and work on Sea Island, business partners, industry associations, local communities, government, indigenous peoples, charities and media.
Throughout the year, we provide multiple opportunities for our local communities to engage with YVR: at our Annual Public Meeting, local festivals and events, as well as through community notifications and formal consultation activities. While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in fewer in-person events, we continue to stay connected to our local community through online activities and communications.
Historically, our Official Languages Program has focused on providing bilingual communications to the travellers using our airport. Since we took over the management and operation of YVR in the early 1990s, we have been striving to ensure that our customers are able to receive key travel and wayfinding information in both official languages.
Communications in and around the Terminal
- Primary way-finding signage in the airport is available in both official languages.
- In our quarterly customer experience survey, we measure the level of passenger satisfaction with our bilingual wayfinding signage.
- YVR’s automated paging system provides paging in both official languages.
- Our sign language welcome video includes greetings in both American Sign Language and Quebec Sign Language.
- Since 2018, YVR has required all hoarding graphics and marketing materials produced and displayed in the terminal to be available in French and English.
- Signage relating to YVR’s permanent art collection is presented in both official languages.
- YVR’s website provides important information for the travelling public, such as arrival and departure information, airport wayfinding, construction-related information and urgent travel advisories, in French and English.
- In 2018, we began translating our Annual & Sustainability Report into both official languages.
- In early 2021, we hired a bilingual Communications Specialist to build our capacity to communicate with the public in both official languages.
- Also in 2021, YVR launched a French Twitter channel, which mirrors our English channel; Twitter is the primary method that YVR use for communicating real-time operational information, updates and breaking news.
- All video and graphics-based content shared on our digital channels includes bilingual captions.
YVR has made great strides in incorporating French and English into its operations through our existing Official Language Program. But we know there is more we can do. In 2018, we formed an Official Languages Working Group comprised of employees and leaders from across the organization and asked this group to review our existing Official Languages Program with a view to identifying opportunities to improve our approach. In evaluating our existing Program, the Working Group considered customer feedback relating to official languages, recommendations and guidance documents issued by the Treasury Board and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, and recent case law relating to language rights and the requirements of Official Languages Act.
Through that work, we identified four priority areas that will help us to enhance our current program and work with our many airport partners to continue delivering an outstanding customer experience in both official languages. Priority areas include:
Governance and Leadership
- Ensure that executives and senior management are leading by example
- Develop guidelines, directives and policies to ensure clear and consistent approach
- Ensure that executives receive updates on official languages matters and Action Plan progress
In-Terminal Service Delivery
- Improve consistency of bilingual greeting and availability of bilingual service in the terminal
- Support service providers and concessionaires in building their bilingual capacity
- Enhance official languages provisions in contracts with service providers, concessionaries, and airport partners
- Develop and implement systems for increased monitoring of bilingual greeting and bilingual service delivery in the terminal
Communications with the Public
- Phase out existing English-only YVR signage
- Ensure that new YVR signage and publications are bilingual by updating existing standards and guidelines
- Enhance bilingualism of online communications and in-terminal events
- Improve bilingual capacity of Airport Authority employees
- Improve Airport Authority employees’ awareness of YVR’s Official Languages Program
- Provide language opportunities and training to Airport Authority employees