A number of prominent Canadian film institutions say they’re mulling over the policies of their Indigenous financial support systems after the identity of acclaimed filmmaker Michelle Latimer came into question.
Telefilm Canada, ImagiNative and the Indigenous Screen Office all issued statements in recent days addressing the path forward for grant programs and policies meant to provide financial backing for Indigenous film and TV creators.
Among them, Telefilm said Monday it intends to “work closely” with the Indigenous Screen Office to assesses how its Indigenous funding programs can be best implemented and “understand what implications this recent story may have for our programs.”
The reaction comes after a CBC investigation last week challenged claims of Indigenous ancestry by one of this year’s breakout Canadian filmmakers.
Latimer, the Thunder Bay, Ont.-raised co-creator of CBC’s “Trickster” and documentary “Inconvenient Indian,” had previously said she was of Algonquin, Metis, and French heritage, from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Maniwaki area in Quebec.
But in a Facebook post on Thursday, Latimer said she “made a mistake in naming Kitigan Zibi as my family’s community before doing the work to formally verify this linkage.”
On Friday, the Indigenous Screen Office called Latimer’s situation “an ongoing and evolving process,” and said it intends to hold further community consultations in 2021.
“We will continue to work and collaborate with the Indigenous screen sector and broader community to ensure that we have robust and transparent processes,” it said.
ImagiNative, a non-profit organization focused on showcasing Indigenous creators, says it will continue to develop policies and practices that consider “the diverse Indigenous communities and experiences” of applicants for programs, such as its annual film festival.
“We recognize that many people who identify with Indigenous nations and communities have been disconnected from their communities and cultural ties due to the impacts of colonial assimilationist practices and policies,” the organization said in a statement.
“In the spirit of caring and understanding, we support those individuals who are doing the work of reclaiming and being claimed. However, Indigeneity needs to be affirmed by the community before accessing opportunities and resources meant to mitigate colonial impacts experienced by Indigenous peoples and communities.
Latimer has worked on many Indigenous-focused projects throughout her career.
The founder of the Toronto-based independent production company Streel Films was the showrunner, writer and director of the Indigenous resistance series “Rise,” which aired on Viceland and APTN.
The filmmaker says in order to address the mistake, she’s reached out to elders and community historians in Kitigan Zibi, and the surrounding areas, to receive guidance and obtain verification.
She says she’s also hired a professional genealogist to understand her family history, and is listening to the advice of an Indigenous community of peers.
“At this point, on paper, I can formally trace through source documentation, one line of our Indigenous ancestry dating back to the 1700′s,” Latimer wrote in the statement issued Thursday.
“I have met with leadership from the community this ancestry directly ties to, and they have verified my family connections and confirmed that this is an accepted ancestral line.”
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