CBC pulls Tommy Douglas movie

CBC Television has agreed to pull the movie <I>Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story</I> from all scheduled broadcasts in response to criticisms it was historically inaccurate.

CBC Television has agreed to pull the movie Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story from all scheduled broadcasts in response to criticisms it was historically inaccurate.

When the two-part miniseries ran in March, it received some good reviews but also criticisms from historians who said its portrayal of James Gardiner, premier of Saskatchewan in the late-1920s and mid-1930s, was inaccurate.

One example cited was the suggestion Gardiner drank alcohol, when in fact he was a teetotaller. In one scene, Gardiner berates miners in the 1931 Estevan coal strike in a broadcast to the province. However, historians say the speech never happened and Gardiner wasn't premier during the strike.

On Monday, members of the Gardiner family received an e-mail from CBC Television's executive vice-president Richard Stursberg.

He said CBC hired a historian who concluded the character created for the film does not reflect the historical record.

"In response, we are pulling Prairie Giant from all scheduled broadcasts and we have halted both home and educational sales," Stursberg said in the e-mail.

The mini-series could return someday, Stursberg said.

"Our hope is that we can find a solution that will address concerns regarding the characterization of Mr. Gardiner before resuming distribution."

Marg Gardiner, a grandchild, said she hopes things are now put right. One option that would work for her is simply taking her grandfather's name out of the movie, she said.

"What I care is that the historical record be corrected," she said.

The Saskatchewan government put $614,000 into the $8-million production that was largely shot in the province. Since the initial broadcast, the debate over inaccuracies in the movie has moved to the floor of the Saskatchewan legislature and to school boards around the province.

Last week, some trustees with the Prince Albert-area Saskatchewan Rivers School Division argued the movie shouldn't be shown to students. One trustee argued it was a free-speech issue and students shouldn't be prevented from seeing it.

The movie is out on DVD. On Monday, all the copies at the Regina Public Library had been signed out by library patrons.