Remember when the Chinese, Saudi Arabian, and Nigerian governments invaded Canada and occupied it and it seemed like they would never leave? Remember how every province and territory fell like dominoes even after heroic military struggles against them, and so the invaders jailed or killed our resistance leaders after labelling them terrorists and savages?
Remember how they made trillions of dollars in profit for the Chinese communist party, the Saudi monarchy, and the Nigerian government, by stealing our whole country, and then they mocked us for being poor?
Remember how they destroyed and outlawed all our cultural institutions, suppressed all our languages, forced us to take Mandarin, Arabic, and Yoruba names, and forcibly converted some of us to communism, Islam, or the Yoruba religion—and punished us if we stayed faithful to our own beliefs?
Remember how they sent all our children to their schools where they tortured, starved, and even raped thousands of them, where they tolerated up to a 50 per cent death rate for our kids they jailed there, and often didn’t inform us when our kids died and they buried them in unmarked graves?
Remember all the trauma and addiction we experienced and passed on because of what they did to us, and how even after all that horror, for over three decades they kidnapped 20,000 more of our children and sent them to live with Chinese, Saudi, and Nigerian families who were occupying our land, and prevented them from learning their heritage languages and cultures and even knowing their real families?
Well, of course you don’t remember any of that because that never happened. But that is exactly what English and French invaders did to the hundreds of Indigenous nations of what is now called Canada. And the rest of us whose families arrived later became settlers on all that conquered territory—the second-largest country on earth—which means our families collaborated with that colossally destructive regime, whether we knew it or not. Every dime of Canadian GDP since 1867 has arisen from the cultural and even physical genocide that we don’t even call genocide—we call it “confederation.”
But because we as settlers teach ourselves to see the people we’ve conquered as beneath us, we can sleep easily and pat ourselves on the back as being the politest and most civilised people on earth, especially as compared to those nasty Americans. Because if we did see First Nations people as being just like us, and if we reflected on how we would feel and what we would do if anyone had committed such crimes against us, we would never sing “O Canada” proudly again.
But hopefully, we would commit our lives to righting the wrongs that earn our society trillions of dollars and make us among the most comfortable people on the planet.
Well, regardless of our collaboration with genocide, many of the people our regime targeted survived and many have even thrived. Award-winning filmmaker Tasha Hubbard has created the startling new documentary Birth of a Family. It’s co-written by Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reporter Betty Ann Adam, about Adam’s successful uniting with her three siblings Rosalie, Esther, and Ben, decades after the Canadian government kidnapped them.
It’s not a re-union because while Betty Ann had met each of them, the rest had never been together before the remarkable week of filming when they toured Banff and stayed in the same cabin at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
The director and co-writer behind this unforgettable portrait of intergenerational pain and profound triumph is Tasha Hubbard. She’s an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. She won a Gemini and Golden Sheaf for writing and directing Two Worlds Colliding, and created the animated short Buffalo Calling which screened at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Her short hybrid documentary 7 Minutes won a Golden Sheaf Award in 2016. She’s a member of the Cree Nation, and researches and creates projects for Indigenous media on images of the buffalo and the experiences of Indigenous women and children. She also blogs for the Broadbent Institute.
On May 30, 2017, Tasha Hubbard spoke with me by Skype about her new National Film Board documentary. In this episode of MF GALAXY, we discuss:
Along the way, we discussed Write Magazine, which published an editorial that proposed a “cultural appropriation” writers prize to encourage people to write, in the editor’s words, what they did not know. I also mentioned a birthday party, which refers to a powerful sequence in the film. And Hubbard talked about being “raised away,” which means separated from one’s birth family.