In Alanis Obomsawin’s provocative documentary Trick or Treaty? a dark moment in Canadian history as the ramification of the century old Treaty 9 is exposed. The 1905 treaty was established between the Canadian government and the First Nations communities within Northern Ontario. The treaty was designed in a way that the First Nations people relinquished sovereignty over their traditional territories. In return, they would share in the wealth of the land with the government…or so they were told. Obomsawin’s film explains why the printed version of Treaty 9 holds no merit. With each new revelation comes doubts about the government’s true intentions when the treaty was originally proposed.
Everything surrounding the signing of the document is laced with signs of corruption. The fact that indigenous leaders never received a copy – they did not see the treaty until decades later – is only one of the many alarms bells that Obomsawin’s film sets off. Sadly, the shameful acts of deceit still manifest today. Laws that directly impact the indigenous community are being passed without their consultation.
Despite the damaging evidence uncovered, Trick or Treaty? is more than a story of pain, it is one of hope. Obomsawin is at her most riveting when focusing on the various ways the First Nation communities are trying to educate average Canadians about both the treaty and their culture as a whole. Whether it is through the their “Idle No More” movement, generations of women who vocally lead the charge for equality, or the youth movement embracing peaceful means of protest, the message of change is slowly seeping through.
Trick or Treaty? is a captivating call to action for society as a whole. It not only shines a light on a dark chapter of Canadian history, but also reminds us that it is time to finally correct a century of injustice.
Saturday, October 25, 5:30 PM, TIFF Lightbox