CBC apologizes to those who 'felt misrepresented' by Canada: The Story of Us

CBC apologizes to those who "felt misrepresented" by the new miniseries Canada: The Story of Us, but says it won't update or correct any of the episodes.

CBC spokesperson says none of the episodes will be updated or corrected

Samuel de Champlain as depicted in Canada: The Story of Us. The public broadcaster has apologized to those who 'felt misrepresented' by the new miniseries, but won't be updating or correcting any of the episodes. (Bristow Global Media)

CBC is apologizing to those who "felt misrepresented" by the new miniseries Canada: The Story of Us, which was heavily criticized for snubbing Nova Scotia and slighting francophones, but it won't be updating or correcting any of the episodes.

The series depicts Quebec City as the site of the first permanent European settlement in 1608. However, Samuel de Champlain helped establish a year-round habitation in Port-Royal, N.S., three years earlier in 1605. Today, Port-Royal is a national historic site close to the modern-day town of Annapolis Royal, N.S.

Politicians in Quebec are also ticked off at how the series depicts francophones with clichés, with both the Liberal government and the Parti Québécois opposition there demanding an apology.

"We fully recognize that not everyone will agree with every perspective presented," Chuck Thompson, a spokesman for CBC, said in a statement. "Our intention was never to offend anyone or any group, nor diminish the importance of any of the stories that were not included."

Thompson said the broadcaster will host "live digital conversations" after the remaining episodes go to air so viewers can discuss and debate what they see. The statement also said the broadcasts will include viewpoints from emails, phone calls and social media posts that were made about the series.

"It's never easy to tell a country's history in just 10 hours," Thompson said of the 10-part series.

No plans for a prequel

In Nova Scotia, an apology had been requested in a letter signed by many notable politicians, including Premier Stephen McNeil. The letter was written by Bill MacDonald, mayor of Annapolis Royal, and sent to CBC president Hubert Lacroix.

MacDonald was one of the first to point out the problem, saying he felt the history was misrepresented.

But his letter also called for a new prequel episode to shed light on the province's role in Canadian history, something Thompson said won't be happening.

The miniseries is facing particular criticism for snubbing a small town in Nova Scotia and for its depiction of francophones. (Bristow Global Media)

Now MacDonald said he's willing to "set the record straight" without the help of the CBC. He has been in contact with a local filmmaker.

"I can't speak for the other signatories of the letter [to] Mr. Lacroix, but I certainly in talking to them in the very near future will be recommending to them that we produce our own prequel," he said, after hearing the CBC's apology.

"There's a story to be told and we need that story told and if CBC's not going to do that then we'll have to find some other way to do that."

The series also came up in Quebec's legislature last week, when the Parti Québécois blasted it during question period.

"With its cliches, its omissions, its bias, The Story of Us will do nothing to improve the knowledge of our history," said PQ member Stephane Bergeron. "On the contrary, it will foster offensive prejudice."

'Huge swaths of history' left out

Critics have been concerned the series will present a flawed view of history to students, as the public broadcaster is offering the miniseries to schools.

Julie Bristow, the series' executive producer, said that given the format of the show (50 stories over 10 episodes), they were forced to leave out "huge swaths of history."

"We recognize the notion of 'Us' in a nation as diverse as Canada is challenging. But we do strongly believe there is room in the national discourse for this kind of wide-ranging, 'popular' approach to our history," she said in a statement, co-signed by her primary consultants on the series. Seventy-five historians worked and contributed research for the show.

John Tutela and Laura Secord as depicted in Canada: The Story of Us. Julie Bristow, the series' executive producer, said that given the format of the show, they were forced to leave out 'huge swaths of history.' (Bristow Global Media)

Bristow said she understands people are upset and that it was not their intention to "cause offence or to place the historical importance of one group over another."

Earlier, Bristow's production company, Bristow Global Media, had said Port-Royal came up many times during research for the show, but it was decided to define permanence as a continuous, year-round population and settled on Champlain's 1608 settlement in what is now Quebec.

They noted the previous attempt at permanent settlement in Port-Royal was cut short in 1607.

The series, meant to mark Canada's 150th anniversary, airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET (9:30 NT) on CBC-TV.

With files from Jean Laroche, Anjuli Patil and The Canadian Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.