Friday, October 09, 2009

Vancouver 2010 Olympics vs. Canadian conservative commentator's "white man's burden" lament

By Grace

Right now, there's a lot of media coverage on Chicago's failed 2016 Olympic bid and the unexpected political storm left in its wake. I'd like to draw attention to a more current sporting event - the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, which will begin in February of next year.

As a Canadian, a curler (I'm rooting for Kevin Martin to qualify for Team Canada, but that's an entirely different story), and as someone who's been working on and off for an official Olympic sponsor, I'm very excited. I even have my own little official mascot key chain (who doesn't love a fuzzy sasquatch wearing earmuffs?), and I'm eager to get my hands on some of the apparel (trapper hat, anyone?). Yes, I've caught Olympic fever and you can sense the enthusiasm growing in this country as we get closer to the games.

A few days ago, however, the Telegraph published this opinion piece by Rachel Marsden, who accuses Canada of not "
fighting to ensure that the immigrants of European descent are adequately represented" and "ignoring them completely".

Marsden states that without European colonialism, "[Vancouver], and indeed..., Canada, was pretty third-worldish until... Europeans arrived and started planning and building infrastructure and government," and that without them North America "would look somewhat like Africa".

I don't think I have the time to even delve into her astoundingly condescending and outdated colonialist mindset. The idea that Europeans improved every country they entered is largely erroneous and colonialism's very function was meant to exploit the land and resources of the native citizens whom they oppressed and denied civil rights. In many cases, it took years for former colonies to recover from their "improvements," and in a few countries, they're still rebuilding themselves.

In the article, Marsden takes issue with the Vancouver Olympic mascots, which are a sasquatch, a sea bear, and an animal guardian spirit, as well as the logo (an Inukshuk), all of which were inspired by traditional symbols of Canada's First Nations. She dismisses them as ridiculous on the basis that they're not European, or rather not Caucasian enough.

Racism? Dare I say white supremacy? Take your pick.

Can't we as Canadians be proud of and honour the First Nations aspect of our culture and heritage? Celebrating it doesn't necessarily mean the denigration or disrespect of our English and French background in the process. In fact they're as much a part of our traditions and history, just as Canadian as the "Europeans" are.

Europeans "forgotten" in Canada? Perhaps she's forgotten that our entire federal government is a British-based Parliamentary system. Or that our official languages are English and French. Or that we pride ourselves in our multiculturalism and cultural diversity here.

Anyhow, if Marsden is so concerned about the "European" influence being left out in the Olympics, she should worry no more. The official Team Canada uniforms were recently unveiled by the Hudson's Bay Company (incorporated by the British!) and are distinctly hoser chic. There are some complaints that the outfits are too stereotypically Canadian, but I like their vintage vibe. Throw in the ad, and I think it's representation enough:

Interestingly enough, there are no First Nations people in the clip, despite the fact that they played a key role in the fur trade. But, I digress.

Marsden, get over it and stop complaining. It's not very Canadian.

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