CBC FACES GRILLING OVER DOCU-DRAMA

Montreal Gazette - - NP - MARIE-DANIELLE SMITH

• 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.”

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