In summer 2015, we were invited to document a collaborative road construction project between Hugh Munro Construction Ltd. and Berens River First Nation, with the support of the Manitoba Construction Sector Council (MCSC). Initially, we were engaged to simply archive the process and capture interviews with a list of questions provided by MCSC, but as we became involved, we realized the steep learning curve that we as outsiders had to contend with.
To create this 7 minute documentary, we:
- Gained knowledge about the roads in Northern Manitoba. Being from the southern city of Winnipeg, our company has had little exposure to the difficulties of living up north. Some communities, including Berens River First Nation, are only accessible by road in the winter. The East Side Road Authority project is working to connect these northern towns and reserves to ensure that they have access to necessary food, building materials, and medical supplies.
- Gained knowledge about the culture in Northern communities. There is a lot of misinformation out there about the First Nations cultures due to some really reductionist and outright racist portrayal in the media. We wanted to allow Berens River community members to tell their own stories, so we were careful to be neutral when interviewing the community. Part of the training that MCSC did in Berens River was an effort to align the locals with Hugh Munro’s workplace policies and expectations, and there was also cultural awareness training that was done for company workers from Winnipeg, so we got a little taste of both in this documentary.
- Gained some understanding of the physical processes involved in road construction. We drive on roads every day, but do we really know how much work goes into them? We made sure to let each valuable step of the process be highlighted in our video, even if it wasn’t the focus
- Gained knowledge about the key players that made this road project happen. MCSC’s Ron Castel was very helpful in explaining the series of steps and negotiations that led to the project coming to fruition. This allowed us to ask specific questions to each organization about their involvement in the project without relying solely on the provided questions – and we got better answers because of it.
There was a lot of context to explain and a lot of people to represent in a short video, and yet we were able to get at the heart of the matter: this particular project has provided well-needed employment for people from Berens River and is an illustration of how to build sustainable opportunities on reserves in Northern Manitoba. Not every joint venture
When the video was shared with Berens River, it was celebrated as an accurate and moving depiction of a business agreement that had positively affected their community. Supposedly, a local Member of Parliament was in attendance at a presentation where it was played, and she stood to applaud it.
A couple of months later, APTN played the documentary in full as part of their coverage of Hugh Munro Construction’s efforts to forge ties with the community.
Parachute Media Lab Inc. is currently working on a project with Berens River First Nation’s Student Services division as a result of this video’s success.