Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up is vital viewing for Canadians

Family and Legal Counsel in Parliamentary Press Conference — Photo © George Hupka

Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, winner of the ‘Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award’ at the 2019 Hot Docs, is one of the most important Canadian films of the year. The film pulls back the curtain on Canada’s identity to reveal the story of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation, who was fatally shot by Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley.

Throughout the film, director Tasha Hubbard shares intimate and exclusive moments with the Boushie family, both during and after the trial of Gerald Stanley. Hubbard also shares what most directors are afraid to show. She shares herself.

Colten Boushie and Debbie Baptiste.

Opening the film with a scene of her son and nephew, Hubbard explores the joys and hardships of what it’s like to teach and raise an Indigenous family in Canada. By doing so she is able to contrast the innocents of life with the tragedy of death.  

As the trial unfolds, the film reveals a hidden and disturbing sentiment in Canada that is not often spoken about publicly but is constantly experienced by many Indigenous people: racism. As the family is subjected to discriminatory comments from news articles and Facebook, they are also left overlooked by the Canadian legal system, which fails to acknowledge the effects of race within its systems.

Using animation, beautiful cinematography and strong personal narratives, Nîpawistamâsowin is far more than a film about finding justice. It’s a film that also reflects the multiple realities of Canadian history and society. It addresses a historical cycle of discrimination that continues to allow for land, legal, and human rights violations and systematically lets down Indigenous families like Colten Boushie’s.

Despite the films serious subject, its focus is not only on heartbreak. The strength of the Boushie family as they push forward for justice around the world, including meeting with Premier Justin Trudeau and the United Nations, is a reminder of resistance against historic oppression dating back to the early days of Canadian law-making.

Jade Tootoosis at a rally.

The film itself is also a platform, a tool, to help share and understand who Colten Boushie was. Colten was someone who won a state spelling bee championship, loved science and loved his family. And his family loved him.  By entering into those personal spaces the film breaks down Indigenous stereotypes and gets at the heart of what it means to be a family who has lost a loved one.

Nîpawistamâsowin has already started its cross-country tour, with a first stop in Saskatoon, and will continue to Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Sudbury, and Victoria during the month of June. You can find more information and an updated schedule of screenings on the film’s Facebook page.