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Indigenous-rights advocate and BC Hydro employee Vicki George is seen in Vancouver in December. Ms. George is the daughter of activist Ron George, a key organizer of the 1980 Constitution Express demonstration.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The way forward is a crucial component of reconciliation. It is also a focus of Marie Clements's film The Road Forward, an innovative examination of Indigenous activism in Canada.

One of the activists appearing in the film, which is billed as a musical documentary, is Vicki Lynne George, a mixed-race Indigenous woman from the Wet'suwet'en Nation with European ancestors from Greece, Wales and France. Since the film's premiere last year, Ms. George has found a path forward through what some might consider a surprising portal: her employer, BC Hydro.

Even while BC Hydro faces resistance from some Indigenous people over its Site C dam project, the Crown corporation has screened the film for hundreds of its employees, thanks to the efforts of Ms. George – and support from executives.

"We are committed to advancing reconciliation, and this is a good way to start that," said Al Leonard, the utility's senior vice-president of capital infrastructure project delivery, which includes Indigenous relations. "We've had very good feedback on the film [such as], 'Gee, that's really interesting' and 'I didn't know that' or … 'Gee, I never thought of it from that perspective.'"

Ms. George, 48, is the daughter of Indigenous rights activist Ron George. He was a key organizer of the Constitution Express, a protest that had a significant impact on First Nations rights.

In 1980, hundreds of Indigenous people travelled by train to Ottawa to protest then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau's efforts to repatriate the Constitution. The activists worried that the document as originally written, without recognition of Indigenous rights, would have eliminated their rights and title.

Two trains began separate journeys from Vancouver, meeting in Winnipeg and continuing on to Ottawa. Along the route, organizers held workshops and education sessions for the roughly 1,000 people on board. The trip culminated in a massive demonstration on Parliament Hill. But the Trudeau government did not relent until the protest movement travelled to United Nations headquarters in New York and later Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain.

Ultimately, the government added Section 35, recognizing existing Indigenous and treaty rights – a huge victory.

When Ms. George attended the University of British Columbia as a mature student, she was shocked to find nothing in her Indigenous history readings about the Constitution Express – a glaring omission.

"So I decided to do something about it and record the history of the people who were part of it, including my dad," she explained. Her project is available online and led Ms. Clements, a Métis/Dene playwright and director, to Ms. George to ask her if she would be in her film. A few weeks later, Ms. George was shooting her scenes on a historic caboose at Fort Langley, outside Vancouver.

"I was thinking about the Constitution Express people that were actually on the train heading to Ottawa and had no idea what they were in for, what to expect, what was going to happen," Ms. George said during an interview at BC Hydro's Vancouver offices. "I felt this amazing feeling of their activism and energy with me when I was filming. It was one of those moments where I just knew I was doing the right thing and that I was meant to be there. It was pretty powerful."

She brought her niece Candice Scarff, now 24, to a private screening in late 2016. "And she's like, 'Auntie, this needs to be seen by every Canadian.' And I said, 'I know. I know, sweetie. I'm working on it.'"

Ms. George works as the executive assistant to the president and chief executive of BC Hydro subsidiary Powerex. She also works with the legal, compliance and trade-policy departments. Last June, she was the emcee for BC Hydro's National Aboriginal Day commemorations. Driving home afterward, she had an idea: If every Canadian needs to see the film, why not start with BC Hydro?

So she wrote a proposal, which was enthusiastically accepted by both the National Film Board, which produced the film, and BC Hydro. Free screenings were advertised on the utility's internal website and employees were invited to come during their workdays.

Among those attending the first screening: president and CEO Chris O'Riley, executive chair of the board Kenneth Peterson, Mr. Leonard and Ms. George's then-boss, Teresa Conway.

"I know how fortunate I am with the support that I have behind me, and it's just absolutely exhilarating and extraordinary," Ms. George said during the interview. "It's like a dream come true," she whispered through tears.

Her goal is for every BC Hydro employee – there are about 6,000 of them – to see the film. There have been nine screenings to date.

"I was blown away. It was amazing," said Jeremy Higham, who works in the Indigenous relations department and attended a screening in the Lower Mainland. "It gives us a much better appreciation of what aboriginal history is really about. I've been doing this work for over 15 years now, so I've got a fairly good understanding and appreciation of the history of First Nations in British Columbia and aboriginal rights and title and the different court cases. … But I really learned a lot of new things from the movie."

There have also been screenings in Nanaimo, Prince George and Fort St. John – near Site C, where the issue of BC Hydro and Indigenous relations is particularly fraught. But Ms. George says employees there and everywhere have been very open to the issues explored in the film and deeply engaged in question-and-answer sessions afterward.

"BC Hydro employees in general are curious about our history because it's not just my history … it's our history," Ms. George said. "And there's just more awareness and more willingness and not such a resistance to learn about this history any more."

B.C. Premier says the best decision for the future of the province is to complete the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam

The Canadian Press

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