The Quebec government says the CBC should apologize for its controversial history series on Canada as the public broadcaster faces a swelling chorus of complaints over the TV program, which was meant to celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary.
Quebec’s political leaders are joining officials in Nova Scotia in voicing criticism that Canada: The Story of Us ignores key historical events and offers offensive depictions of francophones when not overlooking them altogether.
“I think the CBC should offer an apology,” Jean-Marc Fournier, Minister for Canadian Relations in the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard, said in the legislature on Thursday.
The series is supposed to talk about “us,” he said, yet “a large part of the ‘us’ is saying, ‘Where are we?’”
The 10-part series, whose opening episode last month was introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is being skewered in Quebec for its depictions of major historical figures, such as Samuel de Champlain. The explorer, considered the father of New France, is portrayed as a dark, brooding “Latin lover” whose clothes are dirty even during diplomatic meetings, critics say.
Meanwhile, British figures, such as General James Wolfe, are shown as resolute, as well as clean.
Detractors in the province describe Canada: The Story of Us so far as an anglo-centric production that condenses 12,000 years of aboriginal history and 150 years of New France into one hour.
A columnist for La Presse wrote that women are virtually invisible and the Filles du Roy, the impoverished women sent from France to populate the new colony, are depicted as “walking wombs.”
In the National Assembly, Parti Québécois MNA Stéphane Bergeron said the series shows the French as “really dirty and not very trustable” and feeds into “tenacious and offensive prejudices.”
The Nova Scotia government, meanwhile, is incensed that the program omits Port Royal, now Annapolis Royal, as the location of the founding of Canada.
Premier Stephen McNeil on Wednesday released the contents of a letter to CBC president Hubert Lacroix in which he says the broadcaster should correct the record.
“This omission overlooks the collective early history of our province and country, including the fundamental contributions of the Mi’kmaq and Acadians,” he wrote.
The series was commissioned by the CBC to mark Canada’s 150th birthday and done only for English-language audiences; the broadcaster’s French-language service, Radio-Canada, was not involved.
In a statement released on Thursday, the CBC said it was “sensitive” to the criticism aimed at the series.
“We recognize that not everyone will agree with every perspective presented, but our intention was never to offend anyone or any group, nor diminish the importance of any of the stories that were not ultimately included,” it said. “Whenever you recount a country’s history, there will inevitably be citizens, historians and politicians who will have different points of view.”
The broadcaster said it will incorporate the critiques into educational material that it will make available after the series, addressing a major concern from critics who were worried that Canadian schoolchildren would be taught a flawed version of history.
The CBC also suggested that some of the criticism was misplaced.
“We think it’s fair to say the format of this series has been misunderstood; it is not a definitive or linear history of Canada,” it said.Report Typo/Error