CBC doc gets mixed reaction

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:34

Feelings are mixed on a CBC documentary featuring students at the Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School (DFC) in Thunder Bay and the search for answers into the death of high school student Jordan Wabasse.
Stories from the River’s Edge aired on CBC’s the Fifth Estate Nov. 4, documenting the day-to-day lives of two DFC students who moved from Deer Lake First Nation to Thunder Bay to attend school. It also focused on the grandmother searching for answers into the death of her grandson Jordan Wabasse.
The episode came about after seven high school students died in the last 10 years while attending high school in the city. Six of those students attended DFC, while Wabasse was a Grade 9 student at the Matawa Learning Centre. Wabasse went missing in early February. His body was found several months later in the Kaministiquia River.
DFC Principal Jonathan Kakegamic had mixed reactions to the episode. Initially, he felt the episode could have shown more of the support and interaction between the DFC staff and students.
“But when I think about it now, it would’ve taken away from the story,” he said. “I’m still processing it.”
He said the documentary was effective in combining the Wabasse story along with the DFC students.
“It was a good combination,” he said. “It was balanced and they stuck to the issue of what our students go through just to get a secondary education.”
Kakegamic said he spoke to students who watched the episode.
“The general feeling was the girls’ story was very similar to their own and that kind of hit me,” he said. “But they went on to say they like being here at DFC. They’re glad they’re here.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy said he liked the episode. He felt the best part was how one of the young Deer Lake students talked about her personal struggles, what it’s like at home and her determination to graduate.
“I think that’s where it reaches out and touches other human beings,” he said. “Her dream and vision of graduating is not any different than any one else in Canada.”
However, Beardy wished the documentary provided more background and context about the struggles the youth face in their communities.
“An average person living in the city here in Canada would not understand the living conditions that those young people come from,” he said. “I thought maybe (it should) have a little more focus on the community challenges – the lack of running water and infrastructure – and more importantly, the homes on the reserves and even the schools.”
Despite this criticism, Beardy still believes the project was important in creating awareness of the issue.
“We have lost seven young people in a 10-year period,” Beardy said. “If it was anywhere else in Canada and Ontario, there would be public outcry as to what is going on and what we need to do about the safety of these young people.”
Deer Lake First Nation Chief Roy Dale Meekis felt the episode was accurate in its portrayal of his community.
Seeing the day-to-day lives of the students attending school in the city also enlightened him.
“It’s something we need to know more about it, because we don’t know what’s happening,” he said.
Kakegamic said the school has received a positive response from people across the country.
The episode can be viewed online on the Fifth Estate’s webpage at cbc.ca.

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12/01/2015 - 19:37