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

A rider crosses a “skinny” on the newly opened trail known as 90s Jank, built within the Hartland system by volunteers with the South Island Mountain Bike Society. (Youtube/MTB Matt)
Mountain bikers celebrate first new trail in years on Saanich’s Mount Work

90s Jank trail a product of licence agreement between CRD and mountain bike society

Fire crews respond to the 3500-block of Blanshard Street in Saanich on April 16. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: BC Hydro crews repairing failed electrical equipment in Saanich

Vernon Avenue reopen to traffic following closure

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
Extinction Rebellion activists march from Vancouver to Victoria this weekend

The four-day trek ends at the B.C. legislature Monday, protest province’s environmental policy

The hiring of out-of-province workers by the Canadian Red Cross to staff the vaccination centre in Langford has raised eyebrows. (Black Press Media file photo)
Red Cross hires out-of-province workers to staff Langford vaccination centre

Staffer worries local jobs weren’t offered to local people

The District of Saanich announced April 12 that the Cedar Hill Golf Course clubhouse would remain closed for at least six months for repairs after a flood on Feb. 14 caused by faulty sprinklers. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Faulty sprinklers to blame for second Cedar Hill Golf Course clubhouse closure in just over a year

Saanich facility facing six-month shutdown for flood repairs, course not impacted

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Most Read