Here's how we do antinuke propaganda in Canada (and export it to the US too...)
(article reproduced here with the permission of the author)
A Review of the Video "Village of Widows"
A lesson of how much more powerful emotions can be than facts
by Walter Keyes
CNS Bulletin, Vol. 26, No. 4 p.45 http://www.cns-snc.ca/Bulletin/bulletin.html
Several years ago a Canadian filmmaker, Peter Blow, produced a sensational video called A Village of Widows. The project started when members of the Deline Uranium Committee from Deline, NWT, invited him to make a film about the Sahtu Dene's "tragic involvement with the world's first atomic bombs." Blow notes it was not intended to be an investigative or journalistic effort, but rather, "I wanted to make an intimate film from the perspective of the community".
The film purports to show the disastrous consequences to native people from the community of Deline, NWT. People who worked for the Eldorado uranium mine at Port Radium on Great Bear Lake between the 1930s to1960 when the project ended. It tells the tale of how unwitting native workers and their families were exposed to high levels of radioactivity and how the product of the mine was used to make the bombs that were used in Japan. It even shows a delegation traveling to Japan to apologize and seek forgiveness for their involvement in the event.
Blow's film is powerful. Interviews with elders provide sad litanies and frightening anecdotes, tents made from used gunnysacks dusty with uranium, children playing in "sandboxes" filled with tailings, the decimation of entire families by cancer. The visual imagery, camerawork and editing are all put to the service of the Deline Uranium Committee's desire to tell a story. Archival footage locates the story in history and lends a factual context to the film while the clever juxtapositioning of fact with fiction weaves a seamless story in a documentary style format.
It's a powerful formula for such a film and it is difficult not to be affected by its emotional impact. It's a good film, even if it isn't true. But this is not an objective report on what was once known as Port Radium. Rather, it is a brilliant piece of propaganda art and a lesson of how much more powerful emotions can be than facts.
The first factual flaw in Village of Widows is its title. According to StatsCan, there are more men in Deline than women, but somehow the name Village of Widowers wouldn't work quite as well. The next factual flaw is in its opening scene, a mournful image of lovely old women at a funeral, burying 'another' of the former mine workers who died of cancer. In fact the funeral was for a young man who died in a truck accident. But again, safe driving in a village with six kilometers of all weather road is not as good story material, so why not invent?
About the same time the film was being shot, the Deline Uranium Committee got the attention of the federal government. They met with three federal Cabinet Ministers, Alan Rock, Ralph Goodale and Jane Stewart, and they had their camera along to record the meeting. They wanted both compensation and recognition of past wrongdoing by the federal government.
The ministers took the matter seriously. Both Stewart and Goodale wanted to see some facts. "We need to work together... to get clear a common set of historical facts," Stewart told the Deline delegation.
To make it happen, Ottawa put up six million dollars and created a working group called the Canada Deline Uranium Team (CDUT). The Team consisted of Deline members appointed by the Deline Band Council and federal government officials. The CDUT investigation lasted five years and cost close to seven million dollars. Its report was released in mid September 2005. In a way, it too was a bombshell. But it got almost no media coverage.
The report concluded that perhaps the largest health threat to the community was the fear that had been created by scary news reports and fictional events like those contained in Blow's video Village of Widows.
The report concluded that no Dene people ever worked at the mine site, not one, ever, in the 28 years the project was in operation. A few Dene worked as part-time seasonal stevedores for about two months each summer, loading and unloading barges at three of eight sites on the river system. It found that the Dene were treated no differently from any of the other transportation workers.
With regard to radiological effects, the report found that at an absolute maximum, the most additional cancer deaths that could even theoretically be attributed to all such exposures was 1.6 but that the likely additional deaths was below any statistical detectable levels.
The finding from five years of research and six million dollars of taxpayers money was that the community of Deline, which is about 200 miles away from the mine, had hardly been affected by the mine, in any way, environmentally or individually.
Vision TV helped spread the message
The belief patterns illustrated in Village of Widows are likely to be much more widespread and persistent than the findings of the CDUT study. The film illustrates how people and organizations that set themselves up as ethical and rational authorities can be so easily drawn in, and be so wrong.
In Canada, Vision TV has aired this video a number of times without ever warning the audience that events have been dramatized in a documentary format. The film won a joint Vision TV /CAW sponsored HUMANITARIAN AWARD at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. The award was for the Canadian documentary that best explores humanitarian issues. That's right, documentary! Despite the producer, Peter Blow's acknowledgement that it was not a documentary, it won in the documentary film category. An award sponsored by Vision TV and the Canadian Auto Workers Union, two credible Canadian organizations!
The culture of self-deception and herd instinct goes far beyond the film award and Vision TV. Village of Widows has been incorporated into educational materials in our school systems. One example is from south of the border. The University of Washington and Western Washington University produce a series called K-12 Study Canada. This educational series is designed to teach American students about Canada by making links between the histories of the two countries. According to the program outline, "Village of Widows" is designed to point out an important historical event that links our two countries".
That project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education with the mandate to provide education to students, educators and the community about Canada. Additional funding for outreach is from an annual Program Enhancement Grant from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC.
It's not just in the US school system that this stuff is being promoted. The same thing is taking place in Canada as well. For the past two years a high school teacher in Saskatoon Saskatchewan has been propagandizing her students with study sessions on the tragedy at Deline. She maintained she was teaching the students to be discerning, to judge for themselves, what the merits of the case were. How enlightened, except for the fact that all the time she was feeding them fiction dressed up to promote a cause. She failed to distinguish that it was not different, opinions or interpretations of the facts that were involved but in this case but a difference between facts and fantasy.
Breathtaking isn't it? A work of fiction is awarded a prize for best documentary film. The Action is next turned into an historical event and taught in our schools. And, the Canadian Embassy in Washington helps finance the event at the same time the Canadian Government in Ottawa and the Dene of Deline are working hard to establish a common set of historical facts - facts for which few people seem to have an appetite.
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Walter Keyes is a member of the Saskatchewan Branch of the CNS. Over his career he has worked as a Depuly Minister in the Saskatchewan Government regulating many aspects of the uranium industry in Saskatchewan and has also been involved in many national and international consulting projects on energy and resources issues.
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