Vancouver Olympic emblem comes under fire

Controversy is growing over the choice of emblem for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Controversy is growing among some native leaders over the choice of emblem for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

The emblem – a five-piece, multicoloured Inukshuk logo – was unveiled in Vancouver on Saturday night.

While Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Jose Kusugak both support the design, the former commissioner of Nunavut and at least two British Columbia native leaders are unhappy with it.

Peter Irniq, a former Nunavut commissioner, said Tuesday the emblem, called "Ilanaaq" (which means friendship in Inuktitut) should not be called an Inukshuk.

The Inukshuk is an Inuit symbol designed as a directional marker, signifying safety, hope and friendship. Irniq has built the stone figures throughout Canada and the United States.

He says every Inukshuk has a meaning and a reason why it was built in a certain location. He says building the figures should not be taken lightly.

"Inuit never build Inukshuk with head, legs and arms. I have seen Inukshuk built more recently – 100 years maybe by non-Inuit in Nunavut – with head, legs and arms. These are not called Inukshuk. These are called 'inunguat,' [meaning] imitation of man, imitation of a person," he told CBC.

Irniq says the Olympic committee should have consulted with the elders of Nunavut before they chose the design.

"Inukshuk is like survival. Inukshuks' important significance is survival. What we think about Inukshuk is what we think about the Canadian flag," said Irniq. "It is that important."

Lack of West Coast influence criticized

On Monday, two B.C. native leaders questioned why the emblem doesn't have more West Coast influence.

Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit said some native leaders were so upset with the logo they were prepared to walk out of the unveiling ceremony.

"First Nations in British Columbia helped sway the Olympic selection committee," John told the Canadian Press.

"One of the first important acts the [Vancouver 2010] committee did was kind of a slight on the support of First Nations."

Chief Stewart Philip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, was outspoken in his criticism.

"I can't help but notice the remarkable resemblance it has to Pac-Man," Philip told CP. Pac-Man is a video game character from the 1980s.

"The First Nations community at large is disappointed with the selection. The decision makers have decided not to reflect the First Nations and the Pacific region in the design of the logo."

Haida artist helped design logo

But Chief Gibby Jacob, a hereditary chief of the Squamish First Nation and a member of the Olympics' 2010 board of directors, defended the logo.

He said one of the judges, Dorothy Grant, is a designer and traditional Haida artist.

The winning design was chosen from 1,600 entries and was designed by Elena Rivera MacGregor of the Rivera Design group in Vancouver.