WAG Screens THE PASS SYSTEM: Film Exposing Segregationist Policy Against First Nations

Winnipeg, Manitoba, June 1, 2016: The Pass System, a new investigative documentary by filmmaker Alex Williams, exposes newly found documents and testimony about a segregationist practice that forced First Nations to carry a pass in order to leave reserve.

On the heels of sold-out screenings across the country, the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG), in association with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, presents the film with free admission on June 3 at 6:30pm at the WAG. A roundtable discussion will follow the screening. Doors open at 6:00pm.

Director Alex Williams will be in attendance, and panel guests include: Elder Harry Bone (Chairperson, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Elders Council), Dennis White Bird (Former Treaty Commissioner, Former Grand Chief, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs), Aimée Craft (Director of Research, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation), Allen Sutherland (Treaty One Project Officer, Parks Canada). The panel will be moderated by Charlene Bearhead (Education Lead, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation). The evening also includes a small exhibit displaying passes from the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan.

The pass system began in 1885 and, despite it lacking any basis in law or Treaty, was enforced by government Indian Agents in Western Canada for over 60 years. First Nations people were restricted from visiting their children at residential schools, and passes were required for the most basic of everyday needs, such as hunting, fishing and engaging in commerce, and even to leave reserve to get married.

“The Pass System documentary offers audiences knowledge about historical injustices that have been systematically hidden from public knowledge,” states Jaimie Isaac, WAG Contemporary Indigenous curator. “Alex Williams is a non-Indigenous filmmaker who provides a means to better understand this history through significant research and outreach with Indigenous peoples.”

The film features Elders from Treaty 4, 6 & 7 where the system mainly took place, but since the film's release, stories of mobility controls extending to other communities have emerged, and will be one of the subjects of a panel discussion following the film's screening.

The film is narrated by acclaimed actor and activist Tantoo Cardinal with music by Juno-nominated Cree and Mennonite composer Cris Derksen, and includes analysis from some of the leading historians in the country.

Idle No More has commented on the film: “This powerful film draws from Elders’ memories and historical artifacts in order to detail the history of the pass system - yet another example of the regulation and control of Indigenous people through colonial policies created by the Canadian state.”

Screening partners: the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, and the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan.

For more information, visit wag.ca/events

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For more information and to pre-arrange interviews, please contact:

Catherine Maksymiuk
Manager, Media & Marketing
Winnipeg Art Gallery

Alex Williams
Film Director

The Winnipeg Art Gallery is a cultural advocate – a lens and forum – helping people see and experience more through art. Playing a vital role in the community, engaging and enriching people of all ages and backgrounds through art and culture, the Winnipeg Art Gallery thrives as a creative, innovative, and accessible place for learning, discovery, and inspiration.




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