Everyday Activist - The Pass System

Posted on Thursday, June 02, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Movie: Pass System, The

The Pass System

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

The Pass System highlights darker chapters in Canadian history. While in school, as a southern Albertan, we learned about Louis Riel and the Uprising, but I never knew about the pass system that controlled the movement of natives who chose to leave the reserves. History is written by the victors. How would children respond knowing that their government, who welcomes everyone with open arms and celebrates diversity, would perpetuate an illegal system to restrict the rights and freedoms of those who were here first? Thanks to the dedicated effort of film maker, Alex Williams, we may get an answer to this question.

At the film screening at the Calgary Public Library, in the post film discussion, Mr. Williams said that teachers have reached out to him to have his film screened at their schools. He has a special place in his heart for us on Treaty 7 land, because much of the important documentation he found for his film was uncovered at the Glenbow Museum archives in Calgary; not the Canadian archives in Ottawa. Some caring citizens took the time to save them from the dump. Unfortunately, at that time many documents about the pass system were purged. This made me think of Steven Harper’s actions during his last term in office. What else do we not know about our own history?

With a running time of 51 minutes, The Pass System packs a serious emotional punch the way few films can. The film maker carefully curates the stories he shares, allowing the people abused by the system to speak of their experiences. In discussion after the film, he mentions that he had to leave out many of the stories to keep the film focused. Given that he had six years’ worth of stories and research to share; he accomplished his goal of creating a film that speaks to the audience while educating them on Canada’s dark past.

To me the pass system hasn’t ended, merely insidiously transformed. Racism, especially concerning aboriginal people is alive and well in Canada as much as we welcome those from other countries. Many native reserves don’t have basic necessities such as running water. Violence, alcoholism and drug abuse prevalent on reserves are symptoms of a much larger problem that have been ignored. With the Truth and Reconciliation initiatives over the last few years, native people are finally getting some acknowledgement to their past and continued suffering. Brave film makers, such as Alex Williams and other like him are helping the cause by creating awareness. With their efforts we can have a much better understanding and act compassionately to the current situations concerning aboriginals rights in Canada.

The Pass System was shown in Calgary twice this week. If you missed though, it will air on CBC in the near future. If you would like to arrange a screening of this important documentary, Tamarack Productions may be able to help out. 

Calgary Showtimes: The Pass System >

The Pass System Official Trailer from Alex Williams on Vimeo.


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.