Within Nathan Kalman-Lamb’s article “A Portrait of This Country: Whiteness, Indigeneity, Multiculturalism and the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies”, he “examines how the performance of Canadian identity in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games opening ceremonies reflects the persistence of whiteness at the core of Canada’s multicultural identity” (Kalman-Lamb, 1). Written in 2012, published in TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, Kalman-Lamb argues that the incorporation of Canada’s Indigenous People was simply a matter of strategic planning. He continues that the narrative of the four host nations during the ceremony cast “Aboriginal people as the first multiculture, but also creates the impression that they are apart of a past that no longer exists” (Kalman-Lamb, 15). Kalman-Lamb dissects the history of the Canadian government with its Aboriginal Peoples and realized that Canada forced this social concept of ‘multiculturalism’ to deny the indigenous of their sovereignty. He notes how Prime Minister “Pierre Elliot Trudeau government’s 1969 White Paper, attempted to eliminate all legal distinctions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada” (Kalman-Lamb, 15). Specifically, by imposing executive, multicultural legislation, that legally equates the Indigenous with all other (im)migrants, then they are no longer respected or valued as a sovereign nation. By equating the Indigenous to every other Canadian, they are robbed of the legal protections and rights granted to them through their treaties.

This article helped me analyze the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics because it provided great background information on Canadian multiculturalism. Given the history of the Aboriginals and immigrants that make up Canada’s society, I was able to thoroughly understand the intentions of the performances performed. Kalman-Lamb’s article consists of lots of imagery to describe the performance scenes during the opening ceremonies. In comparison to Kalman-Lamb’s observation, I’ve suspected the need for the Indigenous presence during the ceremony to represent inclusivity. Upon first watching the ceremony, I felt in a way, uncomfortable with the performance of Canada’s Aboriginal. I’ve sensed this need for Canada wanting to ‘show off’ or put their ‘multicultural’ society on full display. I believe that this performance was at the expense of the Aboriginal. Aside from the fact that a great majority of the performers during the Native contribution visibly weren’t of any Native descent and that the ‘partnership’ depicted between the Natives and the European colonizers was inaccurately portrayed as peaceful and compliant, I was bothered by the fact that the Natives were only limited to the beginning segment of the ceremony. This observation here linked to Kalman-Lamb’s notion that “while Indigenous Canadians are clearly represented as the founding figures in the nation’s history, viewers are shown that they are not the endpoint of this history. Indigenous involvement is featured prominently at the beginning of the ceremonies but is almost entirely invisible at the end” (Kalman-Lamb, 17).


Works Cited:

Kalman-Lamb, Nathan. “‘A Portrait of This Country’: Whiteness, Indigeneity, Multiculturalism and the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies.” TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, no. 27, 2012, pp. 5-27,                               https://topia.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/topia/article/view/35266/32918. Accessed 7 March 2018.


One thought on “#EpicCanadianMulticulturalFail

  1. I find your emphasis on the history of Indigenous relations to be a very important piece in the analysis of the article and the ceremonies themselves. Your mention of the issue of the “White Paper” legislation passed 1969 speaks to the idea that, while multiculturalism may seem like a more 21st century topic, the foundations of the inequalities Kalman-Lamb discusses can be traced much farther back. The false depiction of the history between Natives and white Canadians throughout the ceremonies emphasizes the disconnect between how Canada may seem and how Canada actually operates. Also, I think your analysis relates very well with other issues of multiculturalism and Indigenous rights that are visible in multiple countries, particularly the U.S.

    I believe your claim that these ceremonies does not portray the hostility that has been inflicted against Natives throughout history opens up an entirely new body of questions regarding how Olympic opening ceremonies should be carried out, in general. How can opening ceremonies accurately encompass the entirety of a country’s history, while also maintaining the welcoming and uplifting vibe that the Olympic Games are meant to represent? I imagine that any display of violence against Natives, no matter how historically accurate, would be frowned upon as a focal point in such showings. Yet, either way, criticism will ensue. This point of conflict is immensely complex. Also, I question how the ceremonial announcers’ introduction of Indigenous populations as “host nations” contrasts the governmental policies you claim intends to detract from that status.

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