Earlier this month, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Michelle Latimer, director of the CBC series series Trickster and the documentary Inconvenient Indian, apologized for falsely claiming Indigenous heritage based on unverified information. The revelation has since led to Inconvenient Indian being pulled from upcoming distribution, its screening at Sundance nixed, and the future of Trickster being thrust into limbo.
Latimer’s identity first came under question after a National Film Board press release said that Latimer was of “Algonquin, Métis and French heritage, from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg (Maniwaki), Que.” (As Native News Online explains, Kitigan Zibi is an Algonquin First Nation in Quebec.)
Her claim caught the attention of Kitigan Zibi members, who found her connection to the community dubious. It turns out that connection, upon which Latimer has built her career, amounted only to stories from her grandfather: Latimer said he’d talked about being Indigenous, and sometimes used the term “Métis.”
“My grandfather was a hunting and fishing guide along Baskatong Lake and moved around a lot. His family resided there and around the Kitigan Zibi/Maniwaki area before he enlisted in WWII,” she said.
But Dominique Ritchot, a genealogist and researcher with an expertise in French-Canadian families, says otherwise. While he did discover that Latimer had two Indigenous ancestors back in the 17th century, her grandfather himself was found to be French-Canadian. “Most of her ancestors were quite easily identifiable as French Canadians, Irish, Scottish,” he said.
Since Ritchot’s findings were made public, Latimer has backpedaled on her claims, writing,
“I know that when questions like these are raised, it hurts our entire community and undermines the years of hard work that so many have contributed towards raising Indigenous voices,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I take responsibility for the strain this conversation is having on the people who have supported me, and I apologize as well for any negative impact on my peers in the Indigenous filmmaking community.”
The day after Latimer released the statement, Trickster producers Tony Elliott and Danis Goulet, who is Indigenous, announced their resignation from the show. Eden Robinson, on whose novels the series was based, issued her own statement: “I’m so embarrassed. I feel like such a dupe,” she wrote. “I don’t know how to deal with the anger, disappointment and stress. As wretched as this moment is, I’d rather know the truth.”
The National Film Board, which pulled Inconvenient Indian from distribution, said that, “Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to dialogue and engage with Indigenous communities to explore an accountable path forward for the film.”