Stories from the 8th Fire production team.
As I write this, in early December 2011, a terrible crisis is shaking the Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat, located on the edge of James Bay, in northern Ontario. Ottawa has put the community under third party management, alleging that its housing crisis was caused, largely, by the community itself, because of its inability to manage funds given by the federal government. We are talking about tens of millions of dollars. This situation has prompted a national debate between the proponents and opponents of the Indian Act; a law enacted 150 years ago, yet still in place and determining the parameters of First Nation's life in this country.
Prejudices have re-ignited. Tensions are mounting. Once again, we hear the same old colonial platitudes. Aboriginal peoples have even appealed to the United Nations for intervention. This is the state of relations between Canada and Aboriginal peoples. This is where we are now.
There has never been any doubt that an agreement could and should be found to end the poverty, discrimination and conflicts that have damaged Aboriginal peoples over the course of our 500 year relationship. The will for a grand reconciliation exists still today.
It must be emphasized that Canada's honour is at play. The country's credibility depends on how it treats these first inhabitants, and whether it is according to the same rules of justice and equality that the rest of Canadians enjoy.
According to an Aboriginal prophecy, when this grand reconciliation takes place, this will be the day of the 8th fire. We at Radio Canada and CBC wanted to seek out the people who believe in this future and who are doing everything they can to achieve this peace. This has been the guiding ambition of our special series 8TH Fire: Aboriginal Peoples, Canada & the Way Forward on television, radio and the web. It was an enterprise which we undertook in collaboration with Aboriginal directors, producers and reporters across the whole of Canada.
Our teams from the CBC and Radio Canada sought out the new generation of Aboriginals - men and women anchored in their communities, but propelled by the necessity to change the status quo. Their ideas and actions contradict completely the discriminatory images and stereotypes that still prevail too widely in the country. Our search proved fruitful.
In the production of this series, we wanted to contribute, to the best of our abilities, to the efforts toward reconciliation which we observed happening throughout the country. We also wanted to project an image of what we are as a country today, but also, what we could be.
Jean Pelletier is the Senior Director, Information French Television (Radio-Canada).