Basically, an group promoting aboriginal culture in Canada filed a complaint against a member of the International Olympic Committee, Richard Pound. He made a remark, in French, that could be interpreted as calling First Nation's ancestor's "savages." The people filing the complaint are saying that it's actually the whole context of his sentence/point.
Pound's words translated in English, as reported in no2010:
“We must not forget that 400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages, with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European descent, while in China, we're talking about a 5,000-year-old civilization,” he said. In interviews with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Pound insisted the term sauvages carries a different meaning in French and English, and that he was using language of the era he was describing.
I am having a hard time finding all the facts out about this - I'm hoping a generous and knowledgable Canadian can point me in the right direction.
Pound's defense of this was the more frustrating part to me:
“I thought that in doing a 400-year-old picture, you use 400-year-old words,” he said. “If that hurts somebody today, I had no intention of doing that.”
“I used the term that was regularly used there by the Jesuits, in the Relations and all the other published material, ‘ les sauvages,' ” he said. “There was no intention of making any racist comments. But you know, as well as I know, what was going on here 400 years ago.”
This, to me, makes me lean toward thinking this guy is extremely ignorant. I mean, n -- r was regularly used to describe people of African descent in America 400 years ago as well as not that long ago. But I gaurantee you that if I use it to describe even the first black Americans ashore, few would view it as acceptable.
Yet I still am unsure what to think about this. I hate claims of racism when there is none - it makes fighting actual prejudice that much harder. But is this the kind of knowledge we want to be passing around? I don't think I'd be as undecided on this if it were an American making a comment in English. Cultural and linguistic differences out of the picture - this is a comment of ignorance. With them added, I just don't know enough about the differences in French/English and Canadian/American.
What do you think?