Visible Minorities Seek Representation In Closing Ceremony

Visible minorities seek representation in closing ceremony
Opening ceremony failed to reflect Canada's ethnic diversity and immigrant history, critics say, hoping for more when Games end Feb. 28

By Randy Shore,
Vancouver Sun
February 17, 2010

Canada's ethnic diversity and the role and history of visible minorities in Canadian culture were given short shrift in the 2010 Games opening ceremony, say leaders in some of the city's ethnic communities.

It is a mistake they don't care to see repeated in the closing ceremony. S.U.C.C.E. S.S. chairman Peter Kwok has joined Sukhi Sandhu in requesting a meeting with Vanoc officials to voice their displeasure and discuss ways that visible minorities can be more fairly represented in the ceremonies that will end the Games Feb. 28.

“Out of the last 13 torchbearers, not one visible minority?” Sandhu asked. “Come on.”

“We are proud Canadians,” Sandhu said. “The ceremony should be an accurate picture of Canada, with segments showing respect for first nations and a component for our founding fathers, English and French, and a third component that mentions the large contribution by immigrants from all over the world. That last chapter was omitted.”

The six-hour broadcast seen around the world by up to three billion people contained extensive first nations participation and represented Canada's regional diversity.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore was quick to criticize the ceremony for not including enough French language content and under-representing Quebec. Newspapers in La Belle Province gleefully printed Moore's complaints.

But Moore was not the only Canadian who saw gaps in the program.

“I was very impressed with the creativity of the ceremony and the amount of recognition that was given to the aboriginal community and to diversity with the aboriginal community,” said sociologist Indira Prahst, coordinator of Langara College's race and ethnic relations section. “However, as I saw other provinces' stories and Celtic culture emerge I thought a huge chapter was missing, a chapter that is characteristic of Canada today: A land of immigrants.

“Visible minorities were completely 'invisiblized,'” she said. More than half of Vancouver's population is considered visible minorities, she said. “It was very disturbing.”

Sandhu has written to Games CEO John Furlong and Vanoc chairman Rusty Goepel asking for a meeting to address their concerns.

“I almost immediately picked up in those ceremonies that multiculturalism was not represented at all,” Kwok said.

Kwok and Sandhu don't feel it is too late to right what they think is a slight to immigrants and visible minorities.

“We can't go back in time and redo the opening ceremony, but they could do something in the closing ceremony; it would show people what kind of community British Columbia and, in particular, Vancouver is,” said Kwok.

Vanoc officials did not immediately comment on the request.