There is a visceral connection between Canadians and our 40 national parks. Almost 2.5 million of us have already snapped up free passes to visit them during our 150th birth year.
But while we trust and need Parks Canada to keep those wilderness jewels pristine, we do not need its bureaucrats vetoing movie productions asking to use Rocky Mountain scenery as a backdrop.
They did just that this month, icing an application to shoot a film called Hard Powder in Banff because the plot had an aboriginal gang leader murdering the son of a snowplow driver, who then sets out for revenge.
That the gang leader will be played by iconic indigenous actor and Order of Canada recipient Tom Jackson, who insists there’s no cultural disrespect in the script, matters not to park overlords.
The mere presence of an aboriginal bad dude is deemed a threat to our government’s reconciliation efforts with indigenous peoples.
This elevates political correctness to a bizarre abstract art form. All it does is block a decent-sized movie from showcasing our greatest national asset as they take their production spending elsewhere.
There may be extreme cases where themes clash with park purposes. A villain poaching big-horned sheep or an arsonist setting forest fires might be cases where Parks Canada could understandably nix content as naturally offensive.
But it’s a major stretch of scripting intolerance to deny access based on character or cultural considerations. It’s as if Alberta’s Kananaskis County had nixed filming of The Revenant because it depicted bears as man-eaters or blocking Brokeback Mountain lest it stereotype cowboys as gay.
Ironically, Parks Canada had no problem allowing Doctor Strangelove to be filmed in Banff, despite being the story of nuclear confrontation with Russia. Setting the scene for the end of the world is apparently acceptable in our parks; portraying an aboriginal man who commits murder is not.
Canada’s mountains, rivers and forests have a long history as riveting scene-stealers in hundreds of movies. But park management has no business deciding if characters pass their cultural sensitivity smell test.
Unless they’re up for an award in the excessively overacting category, Parks Canada has opened the wrong envelope.
And that’s the Last Word.