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Top court won't touch 'Kemosabe'

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    Friday, April 29, 2005 Top court won t touch Kemosabe By Rachel Boomer COURT - Hi ho, Silver: the Kemosabe case is over. The Supreme Court of Canada decided
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 29, 2005
      Friday, April 29, 2005
      Top court won't touch 'Kemosabe'
      By Rachel Boomer


      COURT - Hi ho, Silver: the Kemosabe case is over.

      The Supreme Court of Canada decided yesterday not to wade into the
      controversial Nova Scotia case, which debated whether the term "kemosabe" is
      offensive to natives.

      Mayann Francis, head of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, says that
      doesn't mean we should all declare open season on offensive nicknames.

      "Don't read into the decision that racial harassment in the workplace is
      fine," Francis warned yesterday.

      "People need to understand there are limits to insulting people, demeaning
      people with words that hurt."

      In October 1999, Dorothy Kateri Moore, a Membertou Mi'kmaq, was working as a
      clerk at the Play It Again Sports store in Sydney when her boss, Trevor
      Muller, referred to her as "kemosabe."

      He said it meant "trusted friend."

      An offended Moore complained to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

      A Mi'kmaq linguist told a commission board of inquiry that kemosabe probably
      originated from words meaning "sly" or "sneaky," and was offensive. Moore
      had asked Muller to use the word nitap instead, which is the Mi'kmaq word
      for "friend."

      A commission board of inquiry in February 2004 concluded that Moore hadn't
      told Muller she was offended by the term, and therefore he hadn't
      discriminated against her.

      In October, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld that decision, saying the
      term was not proven to be "notoriously offensive."

      Francis and human rights commission lawyer Ann Smith said they hoped the top
      court would give bosses and workers clear guidelines on what makes a word
      "notoriously offensive," in the same way courts have defined sexual
      harassment.

      The case attracted national attention, with some suggesting it was political
      correctness run amok. Francis said it's all about safeguarding workers'
      dignity and comfort.

      "It's not about one case or one word. It's about getting some sort of
      clarification that would have far-reaching effects on how people should
      behave in the workplace," Francis said.

      "We would think that employers want their employees to be productive (and)
      not to be subjected to racial slurs, or jokes, or things that make them
      uncomfortable."

      As is customary, the top court gave no reasons for its decision not to hear
      the case.

      Calls to Moore and Muller were not returned yesterday.

      rboomer@...
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