Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Experimental film documents Aboriginal workers in Canada

by Aisling Chin-Yee
Art Threat

For week 5 of the NFB’s Work For All campaign, we’re going to hand the mic over to WFA’s Aisling Chin-Yee, who will set up this week’s film.

As I am is a short experimental documentary about Aboriginal presence in the workplace. This film is unconventional in that it consists only of still photographs, and a poem (by Mohawk poet Janet Marie Rogers). We had the good fortune to meet all the participants in the film, in both Kahnawake and Ottawa, and everyone had a great story to tell about their profession and their communities.

Director Nadia Myre wanted to profile many different workplaces and highlight the pride that Aboriginal individuals take in both their cultural identity and their professional identity. She also wanted to show that these are not mutually exclusive and that cultural diversity is an asset in any workplace.

But the statistics suggest discrimination on the part of Canadian employers and show a major divide between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal workforce. A recent study by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) entitled “The Income Gap between Aboriginal Peoples and the rest of Canada” was brought to our attention by The Colour of Poverty network, highlighting that Aboriginal peoples earn on average 30 percent less than non-Aboriginal people and experience the highest rate of income inequality in the country.

This is a continuing trend, and often boilerplate reasons are given to explain the disparity between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal workers — location, lack of education and other more racist in nature.

So we hope that this film is part of a growing media movement to celebrate the skills and contributions of Aboriginal people to society, but also to make non-Aboriginal people sit up and listen. Public perception needs to change along with wage disparities.


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