Doc Review: Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh

A few weeks ago, I received info from the NFB on Finding Dawn. Métis Director Christine Welsh endeavours to put a human face on Dawn, a native woman who lived in Vancouver's downtown eastside. Sadly, Dawn was murdered, as were many other women, by the notorious serial murderer, Robert Picton. Upon hearing this name, many of you will want to look away; however, Welsh successfully manages to shift the focus from the sordid details to the more human face of the victims, giving the viewer an idea about what it might be like to walk in another woman's shoes. In this documentary, Welsh gives us valuable insight into the daily realities of many native women in Western Canada, from Vancouver to the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia (BC) to Saskatchewan and then back to Vancouver Island.

Through Dawn's brother, a BC Aboriginal rights activist, we learn of Dawn's early years. An otherwise happy family is torn apart by the untimely death of the father. As the mother is unable to provide for the entire family, Dawn and her older sister are taken away and put in a foster home, an event which marks them both for life.

Welsh also takes us to northern B.C. to the Highway of Tears, a road between Prince George and Prince Rupert, where nine native women have disappeared. This ominous highway winds its way through the mountains, and for many, it is the only means to get to the outside world. We also visit Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where another native woman has gone missing. It is here that the filmmaker introduces us to an Aboriginal rights activist who has overcome tremendous adversity to become a teacher. The activist gives us a peek into what is like to be a woman growing up native and explains the profound significance of the word "squaw."

Welsh has created a film that is surprisingly easy to watch, given the subject matter. There is a lot to be learned from our most vulnerable.

I must add that I'm well acquainted with the beauty of British Columbia, but I was taken aback by the stunning countryside of Saskatchewan.

The documentary is only 73 minutes long. I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to leave a comment...


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