George Alexander sports column

George A Portrait thumbnailTo say that acclaimed film maker Alex Williams has passion for people and his craft would be a vast understatement. Williams hails from Toronto but grew up in Saskatoon’s core area of Riversdale. Yes, that’s the part of town where the infamous, “20th Street” intersects the city’s west side. Station 20 West, hosted a public screening of Williams’ new film, “The Pass System”. The hard hitting documentary gives an informative and enlightening view into the entire scope of the colonization of Indigenous peoples in the Prairies.

Going on nothing but a shoe string budget, Williams has devoted five years of his life into the making of this fabulous film. He scoured the archives and met with the people of Treaty 4, 6 and 7 who were profoundly affected. Several of the elders who had direct knowledge of the actual pass system where also on hand to give their personal statements.

The “permit system” began way back in 1885 when Sir John A. Macdonald’s government feared an Indian uprising with the goings-on of the North-West Rebellion. The government enacted a lawless system to restrict the movement of First Nation people from their reserves. Non compliance would be met with harsh punitive measures. The Treaties were initially signed beforehand to share and enhance the lives of settlers and Aboriginal peoples alike. However, as we know they’ve been highly disregarded and changed to benefit the colonial oppressors.

The Pass System Packed Hall

It was a full house at the first screening. Photo credit: George Alexander.

The film went through the different stages and history of the pass system right up to last known moments in 1969. It showed the injustice and racism that has been bestowed upon the First Nations people here. So many different events transpired as a result of these restrictions including the erroneous residential school system. There has been a lot of pain and suffering over these years, but a message of hope was also presented in the film and discussion afterwards. Indigenous people have a vast resiliency and have over come so much injustice. There is hope for the future but there’s still so much more reparation yet to be done.

“The Pass System”, was a thought-invoking and passionate film from its outset. Williams sets out to make corrective assertions within our communities. It’s a journey through some dark times in Canadian history but essential to view.

A second screening will be coming to Saskatoon’s Broadway Theatre on December 2nd. You wont want to miss it!

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