Noted documentarian Alanis Obomsawin (Trick or Treaty?) returns with another powerful film highlighting the injustice First Nations people have endured in Canada. Her latest work follows the legal battle that occurred when activists and organizations, such the Assembly of First Nations of Canada and the Caring Society, filed a human-rights complaint against the Canadian federal government over insufficient funding for services aiding indigenous children. Led by the tireless work of Dr. Cindy Blackstock and several others, We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice captures the David versus Goliath lengthy legal conflict in a captivating fashion.
Taking the audience right into the court rooms, as if we are the invisible jury, Obomsawin’s film crackles with the tension of a gripping legal drama while never losing sight of the stakes at play. Providing stunning detail regarding how funding is allocated based on population rather than services rendered, perpetually leaving smaller communities at a disadvantage, as well as how allotted money under the “Jordan’s Principle”— a program designed to help indigenous children in dire medical need by removing jurisdictional barriers to government support for long-term care—never reached those it was created for, there is wealth of knowledge to take from the film. It is especially disheartening to see the lengths that the government goes to, including spying on Blackstock, in an attempt to get the case thrown out.
The film really hits an emotional nerve when Obomsawin shows the testimony of individuals who were taken from their homes as kids and placed in Residential Schools. Shining a light on one of the darkest practices in Canada’s history, one that the government took way too long to admit their wrong doing, hearing the survivors voice their experiences of psychological and physical abuse is truly heartbreaking.
We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice once again shows why Alanis Obomsawin is such a vital asset to both cinema and First Nations advocacy. She effectively provides a sense of urgency to the proceedings and shows that the time for talk is over. We as a society must take action and hold our elected officials accountable when it comes to giving First Nations individuals the respect and assistance they deserve. Frankly, we owe it to the children.
Saturday, October 22, 10:00 AM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the ImagineNATIVE website.
This review was originally published as part of our TIFF 2016 coverage.