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Does British Columbia Only Want White Tourists?

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In the weeks leading up to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC), Tourism British Columbia released a new commercial it spent millions of dollars on in order to promote tourism in the province. The fact that most of the world already knew the 2010 winter Olympics were being held there apparently was not enough. The commercial features notable Canadians Michael J. Fox, Sarah McLachlan, Ryan Reynolds, Kim Cattrall, Steve Nash, and Eric McCormack; what it doesn't feature is much ethnic diversity.

There are two versions: the 90-second and the 30-second version. The version most are likely familiar with is the 30-second version. I say that because it is the only version I have personally seen aired on Canadian TV; I wasn't aware the 90-second version even existed until I came across it while searching for the commercial on YouTube. In either case, it is clear the intended target amongst potential tourists are only those as white as the snow featured in the many expensive aerial shots.

You Gotta Be Here (30-second version)

Never mind the fact that all the celebrities featured are white, in this version of the commercial there is not a single tourist with a discernible race other than white to be found. There is a token nod to Aboriginal culture for literally a second towards the end, but that's about the only thing "ethnic" you're going to see in this version of the promo.

You Gotta Be Here (90-second version)

I think I spot a people of color (PoC) tourist at 00:01:07 (not the Asian chef, but the "tourist") but I have to admit, it could just be the lighting that makes his skin tone appear darker. Oh, look... there's an Asian child at 00:01:22. So other than a few flashes of Pacific Asian and Aboriginal culture, we have what could be two PoC amongst a sea of White faces.

What is Tourism British Columbia thinking? Is it that there are aren't PoC out there with money that are worth marketing to as well? Surely, they're not thinking that the only good tourist dollar is a White tourist's dollar, are they? We can't really know what their intention--conscious or subconscious--was in making obviously Caucasian-centric tourism ads, but the result is promo that exclusively targets Whites. Perhaps they didn't feel the need to tout BC's multiculturalism because they didn't feel it was in their interest to do so.

Canada is fairly well known for its multiculturalism; in fact, multiculturalism is protected in section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states "This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians." And while Canada does often do well by this declaration, it often has moments where it fails to truly live up to its reputation.

Despite the cultural diversity in urban centers such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, it is still a country where White is considered the norm and this attitude is systematically reflected in our institutions, our culture, our history, and our national self-image. In other words, we like to think of ourselves as a country that is very diverse and multicultural, but the truth is we are more ethnocentric than we want to admit. Canada usually jumps at the chance to put our multiculturalism on parade when the world is looking, but the rest of the time -- as this Tourism British Columbia ad exemplifies -- it's "white as usual."

Crossposted from Race-Talk.