A Canadian Narrative?

I was a little hesitant to post about this, especially considering the numerous discussions we’ve had on this blog related to the negative image of Sikhs in the media.poster_cropped-300x207.jpg While a big fan of independent documentaries, I admittedly sighed when I came across an article about Air India 182, a film which was the opening feature at HotDocs, a film festival that was held in Toronto last weekend. My initial thought was that this was yet another way of perpetuating negative race relations in Canada.

Air India 182, as it is simply titled, is a first-person account of the events leading up to the Air India tragedy and weaves together stories from those who are “directly involved,” including the families of those who died, investigators, and the “conspirators themselves.” Considering this, I didn’t expect to come across the director’s apt observations of how these events unfolded for the Punjabi community and what that meant for Sikhs in Canada,

Ultimately, Gunnarsson wanted to personalize the tragedy, to show the people involved, and give much more of a voice to the victims’ families, whom he believes didn’t get enough political recognition. “I felt at the time that people in Vancouver in the Punjabi community were being deprived of their rights as citizens of Canada. They did not have the same relationship to law enforcement or to political leadership as I did. It was being brokered through so-called community leaders, and the brokerage tended to happen at temples,” he says. [Link]

Gunnarsson also remarks about how the Air India 182 bombing was seen as a tragedy for the South Asian community and not felt as a Canadian tragedy,

After the bombing, he adds, there was the sense that the tragedy had to do merely with the South Asian community, “that it wasn’t in the general population. I think that it would be fair to say that if there had been [more than 200] blue-eyed and blond-haired people on that plane – I still think the plane would have gone down; I don’t think that racism played a part in the failure to prevent it – but I do think there would have been outrage across the country, and it would have been the topic of discussion on Parliament Hill for weeks,” Gunnarsson says. [Link]

While I empathize with the director’s desire to honor the victims of this tragedy and appreciate his attempt to look at the tragedy as Canadian and not simply South Asian – I do wonder whether this type of media attention will continue to perpetuate problematic race relations within Canada. Will Sikhs and Air India 182 be one and the same in the minds of most Canadians? How is this going to help with the issue of multiculturalism in Canada and race relations between Sikhs and “Canadians”?

PS. If any of our Canadian langarites saw the documentary, please let us know what you thought. (For those of you who are interested in seeing it, it will air on CBC on June 22, 2008).


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2 Responses to “A Canadian Narrative?”

  1. R R says:

    True that it does run the risk of misrepresentation as you clearly wrote but that shouldn't put a stop on the freedom of expression which you also mentioned. :) So, much power to the documentary maker for tackling such a sensitive issue.

  2. R R says:

    True that it does run the risk of misrepresentation as you clearly wrote but that shouldn’t put a stop on the freedom of expression which you also mentioned. :) So, much power to the documentary maker for tackling such a sensitive issue.