CBC issues apology after Story of Us backlash

Series producer Bristow Global Media has also issued a statement following complaints that the series has misrepresented certain groups.
Canada The Story of Us

The CBC has issued an apology after receiving a barrage of complaints about the first two episodes of its 10-part docuseries, Canada: The Story of Us. 

The series, which premiered March 26 on the pubcaster, drew the ire of Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil who argued that the debut episode incorrectly portrayed the country’s first permanent European settlement as Quebec City in 1608 instead of Port-Royal, NS in 1605. “This omission overlooks the collective early history of our province and country, including the fundamental contributions of the Mi’kmaq and Acadians. It needs to be corrected,” the release stated.

The Quebec government and other politicians have also called on the CBC to apologize, arguing the series presents offensive depictions of Francophones and ignores their contributions to Canadian history. Others, including historians, have argued that the series overlooks the role of Indigenous peoples and Acadians.

In response, the CBC has issued a release apologizing to those who have felt misrepresented by the series. “Our intention was never to offend anyone or any group, nor diminish the importance of any of the stories that were not included,” the release states. The CBC also wrote that when recounting a country’s history, there will inevitably be citizens, historians and politicians with differing points of view and that it recognizes that not everyone will agree with the perspectives presented in the series.

Canada: The Story of Us is produced by Bristow Global Media. The Toronto prodco has issued its own release, stating that the 10-part, hour-long series was never intended to be a comprehensive historical documentary series. Rather than telling a complete linear history of Canada, the series, which is based on the format created by London, U.K.-based prodco Nutopia, features five stories per hour based on a general historical theme.

“In this format and in a tightly packed 10-hour time frame, we necessarily left out huge swaths of history.  We recognize the notion of ‘Us’ in a nation as diverse as Canada is challenging. But we do strongly believe there is room in the national discourse for this kind of wide-ranging, ‘popular’ approach to our history,” stated the release, signed by exec producer Julie Bristow, and primary consultants on the series, historian Dr. John English and Indigenous Arts scholar Gerald McMaster.

“We understand that some people are upset, whether by the historical point of view, the choice of topics or the manner in which characters or groups have been portrayed. We regret that some people felt misrepresented. It was certainly not our intention to cause offence or to place the historical importance of one group over another.”

The CBC said it is listening to the complaints and will host the first of several live digital conversations on April 18, after the next episode of the series goes to air. The goal of the digital conversations, the release states, is to foster discussion and debate about the series and Canada’s history. The conversations will be archived online.

Canada: The Story of Us was unveiled as part of the pubcaster’s programming in celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary. The series was executive produced by Julie Bristow, Marlo Miazga and Janice Tufford, alongside Jane Root, Ben Goold and Phil Craig for Nutopia.