Colonization Road - a journey through Canada's relationship with Indigenous Peoples

A new documentary explores the origin of the network of streets that still exist across Canada.
Colonization Road airs on CBC-TV on January 26, 2017. (Supplied)

Have you ever driven down a street marked Colonization Road? Streets marked with this name still exist in many cities and towns across Canada.

Michelle St. John is the director or a new documentary, called Colonization Road, that aims to find out how these streets came to be.

"I thought it would be very obvious but I think a lot of people, they see the name and they think it's a metaphor or something," she said. 

St. John explained they were part of specific policies like the Public Lands Act, the Dominion Lands Policy and the Colonization Roads Act to assist in settlement of the country.
Actor, Michelle St. John makes her directorial debut with Colonization Road. (Provided)

Beginning of a journey

"There's a (colonization) road in Fort Frances where Ryan McMahon, who's our host, grew up," she explained. "We sort of follow him as he tries to unravel how this happened, why it happened and once we understand those things we start to look at the impact of colonization and how it's still going on."

St. John said she got the idea for the film when she visited the community in 2001 as part of a theatre group called Turtle Gals, with Jani Lauzon and  Monique Mojica.

"We were in the van being driven to the venue and Jani saw the street sign and we all jumped out of the van and took our photo standing in front of this street sign."

She said in talking with other people in the community she found that many didn't see the name as problematic.

"The racial tension that we'd been told about, do you think maybe this street is kind of the dividing line, the reason, the core of this tension in the community?"

Initially, St.John developed a theatre piece but it ultimately became a documentary film. She added a lot of people don't know about the roads, or their history.

"It really was a journey to uncover it," she said. "I hope that people walk away willing and open to have these very tough conversations that need to happen in this era of reconciliation."