Aboriginal Films at the VIFF part 2 “People of a Feather”

image “People of a Feather”, by scientist turned filmmaker Joel Heath, is a mesmerizing documentary about a Sanikiluaq community’s struggle with the effects of hydroelectric projects on the Hudson Bay ecosystem.

It is not easy to foresee all the consequences of resource development projects. Hydroelectric dam projects have obvious and immediate environmental impacts, such as, flooding of vast tracks of prime wildlife habitat, soil erosion, mercury poisoning of fish species and the complete cut-off of wildlife migration corridors. There are also lesser know effects of backing up free flowing river system’s into huge man-maid reservoirs. The water backed up in a reservoir will experience a dramatic increase in temperature. A dams outflow is determined by the amount of energy it has to produce, which, not surprisingly, is at its highest point during the winter months. The combined effect of the aforementioned facts means that up to 3 times the natural outflow of warmed up freshwater is being pumped into Hudson Bay in the middle of winter. Guess what? It seems to be having a dramatic impact on ocean temperatures and currents, thereby, affecting the entire ecosystem and all of its inhabitants.

Joel Heath came to the Belcher Islands to study the resident arctic eider ducks, which have been experiencing huge die-offs. After consulting the Sanikiluaq people, who’s live are inextricably linked to the natural environment, it became obvious that what was happening was a direct result of hydroelectric projects in QC. The huge amounts of water being released have created a layer of freshwater on the ocean’s surface and have dramatically affected the ocean’s currents and in turn the formation and behavior of winter ice-flows. During an arctic winter almost every species depends on an understanding of sea ice behavior in order to survive. The dams have caused the ice to becoming increasingly unpredictable and this is having a seriously detrimental effect on many species, in particular the arctic eider duck on which the Sanikiluaq people so heavily rely.

This film is beautifully put together with an artistic sensibility that is often overlooked in the environmental documentary department. It offers an insight into the lives of the Sanikiluaq people, both of today and a hundred years ago. It also exposes a huge issue that industry is overlooking and the government refuses to address. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out this film I highly recommend attending the final screening!

Julian Maree, Dunne-za/Cree
Cooridnator, Redwire Youth Media
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Here’s some links to check out…

“People of a Feather” trailer

Official “People of a Feather” website

Arctic Eider Society website

Final show time
Sun. Oct 9, 4:00pm, Granville #2

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