Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

‘Trickster’ fans question why CBC cancelled the series instead of finding new path

Indigenous TV series cancelled in the wake of controversy over co-creator Michelle Latimer’s ancestry

Fans of “Trickster” are expressing disappointment after Canada’s public broadcaster announced it was cancelling the Indigenous TV series in the wake of controversy over co-creator Michelle Latimer’s claimed ancestry.

Viewers, some of the show’s creators and fellow Indigenous actors took to social media on Friday to question why the CBC didn’t find a new path forward for “Trickster,” even though it had been greenlit for a second season.

“This could have been an opportunity to do it right the second season,” tweeted Mohawk performer and filmmaker Devery Jacobs, whose acting credits include the recent film “Blood Quantum.”

“I know dozens of real Indigenous writers and directors who could’ve taken over as show runner and benefitted from this opportunity.”

Shot largely in North Bay, Ont., “Trickster” was a mythical story starring Joel Oulette as a teenager who discovers he has magical powers passed down through generations.

The show debuted to much positive buzz last fall, but became a lightning rod of attention in December after a CBC News investigation challenged co-creator Latimer’s self-identification as Indigenous. The Toronto-based filmmaker had said she was of Algonquin, Metis, and French heritage, from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and Maniwaki area in Quebec.

The news report led Latimer to issue a statement saying she “made a mistake” in naming Kitigan Zibi as her family’s community before verifying the linkage. She said she had contacted elders and community historians to receive guidance and obtain verification.

But the fate of “Trickster” hung in the balance, as questions were raised over whether show’s reputation had become irreparably tarnished.

CBC officially pulled the plug on Friday, saying the decision was reached after “many conversations” with the show’s producers, writers, actors, and Eden Robinson, the author of the books on which it was based.

“Fully respecting everyone’s perspective, season two will not move forward as planned unfortunately,” the corporation said in a statement Friday.

However, not everyone involved with the series was in the loop.

RELATED: Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

JJ Neepin, a Winnipeg-based associate producer on the series, said she found out about the cancellation through Twitter, which “hurt.”

“The producer side of my brain is trying to convince the director side of the brain why it makes sense. Or it just might be my regular brain trying to tell my heart not to take it so hard,” Neepin told The Canadian Press by email Friday.

“I loved working on ‘Trickster,’ I genuinely thought it was going to be one of the big ones, an Indigenous entertainment legacy that I could proudly say I was part of for many years instead of just the short time it was going.”

“Trickster” was chance to develop skills on a high-calibre show alongside fellow Indigenous creators from many different nations, said Neepin.

“Whether ‘Trickster’ finds a new home or a new Indigenous show of the same calibre takes its place, I am glad that Indigenous voices are speaking up, not keeping quiet and continue fighting for our stories to be told properly (and) respectfully.”

The CBC declined an interview request on Friday.

“Trickster” was in a difficult position after the CBC report done within the separate news division of the organization.

Latimer became a prominent voice in the Indigenous filmmaking community in recent years, with prizes for her documentary “Inconvenient Indian” and a reputation for supporting young Indigenous filmmakers.

But questions persisted about whether Latimer had misled Indigenous colleagues on “Trickster,” and shortly after the report co-creator Tony Elliott and consultant Danis Goulet resigned from the project. Within days Latimer had left her role on the series as well.

On Friday, a representative for Latimer confirmed lawyers for the filmmaker had served the CBC with a notice of libel.

Latimer said in a statement “we have grave concerns about the fairness and accuracy” of the CBC reporting on her ancestry.

“The CBC was aware of the questions and concerns I raised about the integrity of the research they used to inform their reporting, as well as the manner in which they approached the story,” she said.

“And yet, they reported inaccurately about my ancestry and created a false narrative about my character and my lineage.”

CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson confirmed the broadcaster’s “lawyers are reviewing the notice of libel.”

While “Trickster” wasn’t a ratings smash in Canada, it was the most prominent Indigenous TV series in recent memory.

The show’s audience grew through on-demand viewings after its original airdate, and conversations stoked by its presence on TV marked a symbolic cultural milestone.

“Trickster” was picked up by U.S. channel CW and began airing in January, while broadcasters in the United Kingdom and Australia also carried the first season.

“Son of a Trickster” author Robinson said seeing a young, Indigenous cast “soar” was “one of the best parts of 2020” for her.

“The outpouring of support for the first season was magical,” the British Columbia-based Haisla and Heiltsuk writer said in a statement.

“I’m deeply grateful that CBC and Sienna respect this situation. It gives me hope that future collaborations with Indigenous creatives can be done with care and integrity.”

CBC said the “Trickster” cancellation doesn’t sway its commitment to Indigenous stories, and that eight other scripted projects are currently in development.

A statement from Latimer, issued after the “Trickster” cancellation, said seeing the world of the series realized on screen was “one of the greatest joys” of her life.

“I was not involved in the decision that was announced today and am sad to hear that season 2 has been cancelled,” she said in the statement issued Friday.

“I am incredibly proud of the entire team that worked so hard to bring ‘Trickster’ to life and I will forever be grateful to the cast and crew that poured their hearts and souls into its creation.”

– with files from Victoria Ahearn

Arts and Entertainment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Last week warming temperatures were a concern for Avalanche Canada forecasters, and those trends likely contributed to an avalanche that killed a West Kootenay snowmobiler on Thursday, March 4. Jen Coulter file photo.
Warming trend that concerned Avalanche Canada contributed to Kaslo fatality

Concern for persistent layers has reduced since then

A helicopter hired by Golden Dawn Minerals trails an electromagnetic scanner over Greenwood on Wednesday, March 3. Photo: Submitted
Helicopter flights above Greenwood, rural Grand Forks part of gold mining survey

Results to inform potential explorations by Golden Dawn Minerals, which owns Phoenix and other area mines

An RDKB bylaw officer on Thursday, March 4, concluded their investigation into land-use violations reported at the disused Broadacres facility at 860 Carson Rd., according to planning and development manager Donna Dean. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
No ‘homeless shelter’ at rural Grand Forks’ Broadacres, says RDKB

Regional District planning manager Donna Dean says there’s no camping happening there, either

Edward Wright’s trial will continue at the city courthouse later this spring, the court heard. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks man stands trial for break and enter at flood-damaged property

Edward “Joe” Wright is accused of an August 2019 property crime in the city.

Cat defenders Kimberly Feeny (left) and Zeke Sijohn (centre) stand beside Councillor Neil Krog after signing a lease at city hall for the Boundary Helping Hands’ cat shelter. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks’ city hall leases vacant home for cat shelter

Boundary Helping Hands’ Chair Kimberly Feeny said the shelter hopes to start adopting cats soon

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)
Why skilled immigrant women continue to be shut out of B.C.’s booming tech sector

Experienced software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, hasn’t found a job since she migrated to Canada 6 years ago

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover digging in with B.C.-made part

Kennametal’s Langford plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

Most Read