“Afro Canada”, multi-ethnic since day one

“Canada has been a multi-ethnic country from the start,” the co-screenwriter and content producer reminds us.African Canada Judith Bres. The series broadcast on Radio-Canada wishes to encourage the public to observe our society with a fresh eye, from a decolonialized point of view, in order to reclaim this history which concerns all Canadians.

Since when has the Afro-descendant presence been proven? asks a speaker, Ali, from the first moments of the documentary. “There is no Canadian history without black history. Let’s not forget that Champlain arrived with Mathieu da Costa in 1605,” replied Judith Brès in an interview with To have to. If, even today, little information circulates about him, the free man Mathieu da Costa would indeed have landed in Port-Royal, Micmac land, as an interpreter for the navigator at the beginning of the XVIIe century. This black man may even have set foot on Canadian soil before that date, we learn in African Canada.

We first met historians, then we projected ourselves into these stories. We wanted to avoid giving a series of facts, to rather embody them, humanize them.

“We decided to do things differently with African Canada, which is an auteur film in the plural, a community film, says Henri Pardo, co-screenwriter and director of the documentary series. We look to the past to ensure an adequate future, because we are not only traumas. There is also resilience, perseverance, resistance, blackjoy, in this fight to have viable families. In this different way of doing things, the creative team in particular let themselves be carried away by their emotions. “We first met historians, then we projected ourselves into these stories. We wanted to avoid giving a series of facts, to rather embody them, to humanize them”, adds Judith Brès. Without ever entering into misery, African Canada refers, on the contrary, to a positive and strong representation of Afrodescendancy, centered on culture.

Indigenous Ties

As vividly shown afro Canada, the culture and history of black communities have much in common with those of Aboriginal peoples. “These two populations who suffered colonialism were enslaved together in the same houses. Their solidarity comes from there. Aboriginal people also helped the Black Loyalists settle and survive when they arrived in Nova Scotia during the American Revolutionary War, says Judith Brès. There are still mixed-race Aboriginal and Afro-descendant families in the Maritimes. Consequently, several indigenous thinkers and researchers were invited to join the adventure. African Canada. “It was necessary, in our approach, to recognize and celebrate their presence, as well as to discover their relationship to history and the territory,” says Henri Pardo.

Their trip to Pessamit also allowed them to draw a parallel between the rituals, the way of respecting nature and the spirit of the indigenous and black communities. Henri Pardo insists: “What is fascinating with the documentary is that beyond the historical facts, with the colonial oppression which continues, we are witnessing a connection, an adoption. We too are natives of Africa and our similarities have allowed us to move forward. We are not just slavery and suffering. »

Go further

While the documentary sheds light on these stories that are often erased or forgotten, we should not however think that with African Canada, everything is settled, warns Henri Pardo. “We regularly cite events, such as the murder of George Floyd, in the United States, but the same thing is happening here. Pierre Coriolan, for example, got shot by police in a building near the city center, as if nothing had happened, in 2017. People are acquitted and life goes on. We live in a context where the majority provincial government does not recognize systemic racism, where there are too few black people in front and behind the camera despite the new wave of filmmakers. »

According to him, Canadian institutions are just beginning their awareness and his series is only a first stone in the building of visibility and balance. “I am happy and proud that Radio-Canada asked us to get involved, to have calm conversations on this subject and to present our own vision. Our condition was simply to obtain all the means we needed to carry out the project”, specifies Henri Pardo.

African Canada on the air, Henri Pardo, when asked the question, regrets however that a discussion or a debate has not been organized to accompany its broadcast, programmed furthermore far from the prime time slots initially demanded by the production . He also points out that what is taught in the documentary “should not be up to us, but to the education system, because our presence deserves to be explained”. But if already African Canada could spark a conversation between Canadians, of whatever origin, then the bet would be partially met.

African Canada

ICI TÉLÉ, Saturdays at 9 p.m. until September 3

To see in video

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