Mar. 04, 2009 - Issue #698: Mind The Gap
Directed by Leslie Iwerks
Sun, Mar 8 (2 pm & 4 pm)
Metro Cinema (9828 - 101A Ave)
Made famous not only by being shortlisted for an Academy Award in the best short documentary category, but also by being singled out as a documentary worthy of being censored for its anti-tarsands stance by Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett, Downstream will be making its debut in Edmonton on March 8.
The film follows a defining incident in the life of Dr John O’Connor, a community physician formerly based in Ft McMurray. In 2001, Dr O’Connor began making regular fly-ins to the remote community of Fort Chipewyan to care for the people there. He began noticing abnormally high rates of rare cancer cases as well as other diseases in the population he was treating, and he raised the alarm over his concerns. That’s when all hell broke loose.
O’Connor was charged with a number of offences by Health Canada, Environment Canada and Alberta Health, who accused him of raising undue alarm in the community, double billing and irresponsible practices to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Alberta—charges which threatened his license to practice medicine. The government tried to assassinate his character in an attempt to shut him up. Dr O’Connor was forced to move to Nova Scotia to escape the furor over his concerns. In the meantime, independent study of Lake Athabasca near Fort Chipewyan proved the doctor’s fears—there are high levels of toxins caused by tarsands in the lake.
The film illuminates what was going on in the minds of some of the major players in this real-life drama. From Dr O’Connor himself to Kevin Timoney, the ecologist who produced the report which substantiated the doctor’s concerns, to former chief of Mikisew Cree First Nation George Poitras, to residents of Fort Chipewyan. Though it can sometimes run the risk of becoming a weepy polemic on the tarsands, ultimately it is a moving film centred on how easy it is for government and industry to lust after profits and ignore what is happening to isolated Aboriginal communities unlucky enough to live downstream from the largest industrial project in the world.
Following the 2 pm screening, a panel discussion featuring the major players from the movie as well as director Leslie Iwerks and other interested parties will follow. V
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