Boasting an introduction from Justin Trudeau and a high-profile promotional campaign, CBC’s big-budget historical miniseries The Story of Us was intended to bring Canadian history to life in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Instead, The Story of Us unleashed a tsunami of controversy, with viewers in Quebec criticizing the show over its characterizations of Francophone historical figures that the Quebec government has deemed “offensive,” while accusing the show of ignoring key historical events and downplaying the role of Francophones in the founding of Canada.
“I think the CBC should offer an apology,” Jean-Marc Fournier, Quebec’s Minister for Canadian Relations, said in the provincial legislature last week, reports The Globe and Mail, while Premier Philippe Couillard added that for a miniseries that is supposed to be about “us,” a “a large part of the ‘us’ is saying, ‘Where are we?’”
In addition, Parti Québécois MNA Stéphane Bergeron blasted the series for depicting the French as “really dirty and not very trustable,” which propagates “tenacious and offensive prejudices.”
Critics of the show contend that French figures such as Samuel de Champlain are depicted as looking dishevelled and wearing filthy clothing, while British characters appear clean and neat.
In addition, the premier of Nova Scotia also called for the CBC to apologize to the citizens of his province for depicting Quebec City as the site of the first permanent European settlement in 1608 (Champlain actually established a year-round habitation in Port-Royal, N.S., three years earlier).
In the wake of the criticism, Canada’s public broadcaster has issued an apology.
“After the first two episodes, some people felt misrepresented and for that, we apologize,” the CBC said in a statement, adds The Globe and Mail, announcing plans to host the first in a series of “live digital conversations” after the fourth episode airs on Sunday, Apr. 16.
“The goal is to foster discussion and debate – in English and in French – about the series, its stories and generally, what’s on the minds of Canadians when it comes to Canada’s history,” the CBC said.
“The conversations will provide an opportunity for anyone and everyone to engage directly with us and each other online,” added the statement. “In each broadcast, we’ll also include the perspectives of those who have sent us e-mails, called in, or posted on social media.”