CBC FACES GRILLING OVER DOCU-DRAMA
• A House of Commons committee is asking CBC representatives to testify about the controversial history docu-drama The Story of Us.
The 10-episode weekly series, which began airing at the end of March, is supposed to recount Canadian history in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of confederation.
It has faced a backlash over its representation of francophones, indigenous people and some regions. The premier of Nova Scotia, for example, criticized its failure to acknowledge Samuel de Champlain’s first settlement in Port-Royal.
At the crux of the issue for MPs is the fact CBC is using public money to present programming. The series is also connected to Canada 150 celebrations and featured an introduction from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
New Democrat MP Pierre Nantel successfully moved last week to have the House heritage committee ask CBC to appear. Spokesman Chuck Thompson said Thursday the broadcaster hasn’t yet received the invitation.
The motion is worded broadly, asking CBC “to discuss the efforts of the corporation, by virtue of its mandate, to ensure the representation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and of francophones, and concerning the corporation’s activities in the context of the 150th anniversary of Canada.”
But MPs understood in committee that they were really talking about The Story of Us and whether or not it paints an accurate picture of Canada’s early days.
“I think it’s been very lazy,” Nantel said of the series, and “a big mistake.” In an interview Thursday, he said he wants to ask the public broadcaster, “How can a decision be taken so lightly?”
The CBC did apologize earlier, saying 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.”
Nantel is especially incensed about how francophones are portrayed, and that Quebec actors weren’t hired. He complained translations weren’t done in the province either, so translated lines are in the accents of French-speakers from France.
“How can you not hire French-Canadian (actors) to play French Canadians?” he asked as well. “How can you bear to have a fils du roi speak with an English accent? It’s a super joke.”
The series was produced for CBC by Bristow Global Media Inc., headed by CBC veteran Julie Bristow, in partnership with U.K.-based company Nutopia.
In a statement Thursday, Bristow said the show was never intended to be a “typical, comprehensive historical documentary series.”