Alanis Obomsawin, C.C.

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to Alanis Obomsawin. As a member of the Abenaki Nation, Ms. Obomsawin is one of the most renowned Indigenous filmmakers in Canada. Her body of work highlights the beauty, strength and resistance of Indigenous people in the face of injustices and inequities inflicted by the state and others. It has also empowered Indigenous people — who have been silenced or ignored for too long — to share stories in their own voices.

As a result, Ms. Obomsawin has helped me, and many others, learn about our distinct but shared perspectives and experiences, as well as inspired us to connect, heal and hope. She has informed the broader public of our past and current treatment, and she has appealed for tangible action at all levels.

Over the last 60 years, Ms. Obomsawin has created more than 50 films with the National Film Board of Canada. Among the films are Incident at Restigouche in 1984; Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance in 1993; Is the Crown at War with Us? in 2002; and Trick or Treaty? in 2014, which chronicled various First Nations’ struggle to assert their rights and title to land and resources, and to secure their well-being, dignity and survival.

Other films like We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice in 2016 and Jordan River Anderson, the Messenger in 2019 focus on the plight of First Nations children and, in particular, the lack of access to health care, education and other basic services.

Given that many of these issues remain unresolved today, Ms. Obomsawin’s landmark documentaries continue to be relevant. Due to her commitment to her craft and all her relations, Ms. Obomsawin has won many awards, including the Companion of the Order of Canada in 2019. At the age of 90, she continues to be a force to be reckoned with and shows no signs of stopping.

Tonight, she is premiering one of her newest documentaries called Wabano the Light of Day, which highlights the story of the pandemic through the eyes of Indigenous people in Ottawa and the staff at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal health. I hope you have an opportunity to watch this documentary and others.

Colleagues, please join me in celebrating the remarkable life and legacy of Ms. Obomsawin. I have no doubt that she will continue to hold Canada accountable for how it treats Indigenous people, as well as profile how my brothers and sisters are working to reclaim and recover our ways of life.

Wela’lin. Thank you.

 

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