________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 9 . . . .January 7, 2005


An Idea of Canada.

Kevin McMahon (Director). Niv Fichman and Jody Shapiro (Rhombus Producers). Gerry Flahive (NFB Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2003.
100 min., VHS, $99.95.
Order Number: C9103 118.

Subject Headings:
Canada, Northern-Social life and customs.
Native Peoples-Canada-Social life and customs.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Dianne Arnott.

*** /4



An Idea of Canada explores the Aboriginal communities, the landscapes, and the economic realities and challenges of Canada's three ocean coasts - the Arctic, the northern Atlantic and the northern Pacific. However, through visitations to and discussions with a citizens of a number of remote communities by the current Governor General and her husband, the film also suggests a second purpose - demonstrating the importance and value of the role of a visible and inclusive Governor General.

     The cinematography is stunning, as expected from any National Film Board production! Whether snowmobiling through the endless white terrain approaching Kugluktuk (western Nunavut), sailing amid prismatic icebergs lit by floodlights at dark off the coast of Rigolet (a Labrador coastal village), or hiking through the moss forests of the Haida Gwaii region of the Queen Charlottes, the viewer is engaged by the beauty, the spectacle, but also the recognizable stereotypical imagery that continues to represent these three distinct regions of Canada (i.e., the northern Inuit community with children playing hockey under the midnight sun while snowmobiles move along the streets).

     The film is divided into four distinct segments:

- the Governor General prepares for and attends Canada Day services in Ottawa (5 min.)

- Governor General's party tours Nunavut communities (35 min.)

- Governor General's party tours Labrador & Newfoundland communities (30 min.)

- Governor General's party tours Queen Charlotte communities (30min.)

     Used as an educational tool, this video can easily be edited and viewed according to area, comparison of three aboriginal cultures, or economic and cultural quality of life in remote settings versus urban lifestyles and influences. The visual portrayal and the discussions recorded provide much information and insight into:

- the struggle for survival of remote communities and traditional ways;

- the quality of life desired by retaining these communities;

- the impact of such alternative lifestyles to that of urban life, especially for aboriginal peoples;

- the diversity of ways of life as well as the similarities among our aboriginal peoples from coast to coast to coast;

- the desire to maintain cultural/ethnic integrity - not to be commercialized but also not to be taken advantage of;

- the sense of history and the "footprint" of these quiet, gentle citizens of Canada.

     Maps showing the progress of each tour (and perhaps the itineraries' dates) would have been very beneficial and enlightening for the viewer.

     An Idea of Canada is best suited Middle and Senior Years students studying Canadian political and economic geography, Aboriginal awareness, and political science or civics. However, Grades 5 and 6 students would definitely benefit from viewing this video just to give them a sense of the vastness of our country and the complexity of our cultures.


Dianne Arnott is a teacher-librarian at Wellington School in inner-city Winnipeg, MB. She does NOT expect at any time to become Governor General of Canada.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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