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After a successful world premiere at the 2016 imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival, Michelle St. John’s documentary Colonization Road will air across Canada on CBC’s weekly point-of-view documentary series Firsthand, on Thursday,  January 26, 2017 at 9pm (9:30 NL). In Canada, Colonization Road will then be available to stream online.

Colonization Road is an eye-opening documentary that examines First Nations and settler relations through Ontario’s first roadways. Anishinaabe comedian and activist Ryan McMahon takes viewers down Colonization Road, the main drag of his hometown of Fort Frances, Ontario. McMahon speaks with historians, lawyers, and community leaders to reveal how treaties are the foundation of Canadian law and how they articulate the relationship between Indigenous peoples and settlers.

Across Ontario there are at least ten roads that still bear the name Colonization Road or Street. Countless others have been changed over time. Many streets in Ontario that were built through the Public Lands Act of 1853, were named for settlers and are considered Colonization Roads. These roads and their remnants are stark reminders of the severe impact on First Nations in the name of “Canadian settlement.” Throughout Colonization Road, Michelle St. John explores the history of these roads and raises significant questions about “reconciliation” and what it means to “decolonize” in her directorial debut.

“So let me get this straight, in Canada’s earliest days if you were a rich and powerful white dude, actively colonizing, you got a road named after you. But sometimes they just flat out named the road Colonization Road! This was Manifest Destiny – Canadian style.” Ryan McMahon in Colonization Road


Director Michelle St. John is a two-time Gemini Award winning actor with more than 35 years of experience in film, television, theatre, voice and music. Michelle was a co-founder of Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble and former producer and host for Red Tales on Aboriginal Voices Radio. As president of Dr. E Entertainment, she helped to create media content featuring Dr. Evan Adams with a focus on Aboriginal health. She has also been a producing partner in Frog Girl Films, producing several short films directed by Marie Clements. Recently, Michelle joined ranks with Shane Belcourt and Jordan O’Connor at The Breath Films.

Ryan McMahon is an Anishinaabe comedian, writer, media maker and community activator based out of Treaty #1 territory in Winnipeg, MB. Armed with a degree in Theatre, and as a graduate of the prestigious Second City Conservatory, Ryan’s comedic storytelling style is fast paced, loose and irreverent as he explores the good, the bad and the ugly between Indian Country and the mainstream.

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