MP apologizes for 'Talking Eskimo' video

Anti-wheat board cartoon on David Anderson's website denounced as slur against Inuit people

posted on October 25, 2011

The backlash over the use of the phrase "You are talking Eskimo" in an animated video about the Canadian Wheat Board continued Tuesday.

Conservative MP David Anderson from Saskatchewan pulled down the video posted on his website as soon as he found out about the phrase — which has been widely condemned as inappropriate.

Anderson, parliamentary secretary for the Canadian Wheat Board, had posted the satirical video on his website to explain why some farmers are opposed to the board.

"None of us here or in Ottawa are in the business of offending people and so we certainly apologize to anyone that has offended," said Anderson while visiting a southern Alberta farm Tuesday.

The federal government's plan to end the wheat board's exclusive power to market Prairie wheat and grain passed second reading in the House of Commons on Monday.

"That legislation will give you Western Canadian farmers the same rights that are enjoyed by farmers across this country and around the world," Anderson told the gathered crowd.

The controversial video on Anderson's website portrayed a conversation between a fictional wheat board executive and a Saskatchewan farmer who wanted to sell his grain to a baker in Calgary.

"Slow down young man, you are talking Eskimo," the executive said three times when the farmer criticized the board's policy. "You cannot do those things in Saskatchewan."

Controversy discussed in the House

During question period on Tuesday, NDP MP Linda Duncan had asked for an apology over the video.

"Canadians were appalled yesterday to see a troubling video posted on the parliamentary secretary of agriculture's website. At the very least, insulting, and in the words of national Inuit leader Mary Simon a racist slur," she said.

Simon, the president of the Inuit Tapirisat Kanatami, said in a written statement that the comment is offensive to Inuit, has no place in public discussion and certainly no place on the website of an elected member of parliament.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz responded on behalf of Anderson, who was in Alberta at a farm south of Lethbridge speaking to anti-wheat board supporters.

"I can assure you the offending video has been removed, and I know the member would certainly apologize to anyone who finds that offensive," Ritz said.

Inuit find the word offensive

Karliin Aariak from Iqaluit says seeing the word Eskimo used in the context of the video is degrading. CBCIt's not just opposition MPs in Ottawa that are upset by the use of the word Eskimo.

Karliin Aariak is Inuit and lives in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut.

She was embarrassed and shocked to hear about the video.

"Seeing the video and hearing the word Eskimo being used in the context of this video is degrading to Inuit and is obviously putting us down as a people and making us sound as if we are stupid and should not be used," said Aariak.

The word Eskimo has not been used in Nunavut for years now. It was replaced by the politically correct word Inuit by its people.

This controversy is taking place amidst the ongoing debate over the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Anderson, a farmer who represents the riding of Cypress Hills-Grasslands, said his government plans to have the new rules governing the wheat board in place by August.