Canada: The Story of Us

The making of Canada: The Story Of Us

10 hours. 50 stories. 75 historians. 80 prominent Canadians.

10 hours. 50 stories. 75 historians. 80 prominent Canadians.

On one day, crews shot scenes spanning 371 years: Samuel de Champlain enters into an alliance with the Wendat (1608), the storming of Juno beach (1944) and the arrival of the Vietnamese boat people (1979). (Canada: The Story of Us)

Canada: The Story of Us is an epic series that tells many of the stories that have shaped this nation — stories of unsung heroes and darker tales share the spotlight with well-known figures to offer a fresh perspective on Canadian history.

The show is not a comprehensive, linear account of Canada's history, but a 10-part look at some of the incredible people who helped make Canada the country it is today.

Epic shoots for an epic series

Canada: The Story of Us was shot mostly in and around Hamilton, Ontario in July 2016. Each day, film crews shot about 10 pages of script (10 minutes of screen time). CGI and additional footage were used to depict locations across the country.

Filming wasn't linear. On one day, crews shot scenes spanning 371 years: Samuel de Champlain (1608), the storming of Juno beach (1944) and the arrival of the Vietnamese boat people (1979).

(Canada: The Story of Us)
(Canada: The Story of Us)

Three of the stories from Canada: The Story of Us are also brought to life in 360 video.

These immersive VR experiences give you a chance to explore the worlds of Chief Maquinna, a young west coast chief who set the tone for the fur trade in the 1770s; Laura Secord, who braved wild animals, rough terrain and enemy soldiers to travel over 30 km to warn the British of a planned American attack in 1813; and two Canadian scientists who decoded the Nazi glide bomb during WWII.

Deciding which stories to tell

It would be impossible to tell all the stories that shaped Canada in one single television series. The production team had to decide on just 50 — a daunting task.

The first step: to look beyond history textbooks to find people whose contributions helped shape Canada.

The goal: to find exciting, untold first-person accounts of the stories you know and to find stories you've never heard before. Stories of people who had big ideas; who took risks; who innovated and effected change.

Seventy-five historians helped shape these stories, then an editorial team began an intense research process. They consulted primary and secondary sources and oral histories to learn as much as possible about the characters and context for each of the stories.

Many Canadian scholars and experts provided historical expertise, including:

  • Canadian historian John English
  • Indigenous Arts Scholar Gerald McMaster
  • Eldon Yellowhorn, Chair of First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University 
  • Margaret MacMillan, historian and professor at the University of Oxford 
  • Charlotte Gray, author and historian

Each episode of Canada: The Story of Us was built around a theme that reflects some of the key events in that period of history. The stories in each episode capture the characteristics of an era and show a slice of what Canada was like at the time.

For every episode, there are hundreds more stories that could have been included. In every corner of this country, there are local heroes, innovators and changemakers who have helped turn Canada into the country it is today.

History is complicated: Working with multiple histories

For many years, history belonged to those who recorded it.

Canada: The Story of Us dives deeper into these stories than your average history textbook. A broad range of voices were involved in the research and story selection: women, indigenous peoples, people of colour and other minority groups.

You'll hear from historians and academics, but you'll also hear from musicians, actors and other notable Canadians who share their perspectives and connections to our history.

The series includes stories of many Indigenous people who were instrumental in the creation of the Canada we know today. These stories are based on written materials, oral histories and interviews. While there is not one Indigenous scholar who can speak on behalf of all Indigenous people, Gerald McMaster, Indigenous Arts Scholar, was one of the primary consultants on the series.

Canada: The Story of Us is only one series in CBC's programming line up for Canada 150. Throughout 2017, we'll be sharing Canadian stories to understand the past, celebrate the present and embrace the future, including the perspectives of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, whose history extends far beyond these past 150 years.

This multiplatform programming offer will take all Canadians on a journey to somewhere they have never been before, while helping them discover a vision of Canada's future together.

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