Controversy causes cancellation for ‘Kanata’

Robert Lepage, artistic director of the multidisciplinary production company Ex Machina, has missed yet another opportunity as the cancellation of his production Kanata came as a surprise to Quebec last week.

Lepage’s play Kanata was to examine relations between European settlers and indigenous people, but was fervently criticized for not including indigenous cast members. The decision to cancel came after some of the indigenous co-producers withdrew from the project.

But a cancellation was deemed a disappointment by indigenous artists, as it showed that Lepage would rather cancel than change the production to address their concerns.

Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash, a Cree opinion columnist and daughter of MP Romeo Saganash, attended a meeting over Skype with a group of 34 which included indigenous artists, actors and activists that met with Lepage and Founder of Theatre du Soleil Ariane Mnouchkine on July 19. Labrecque-Saganash noted that the group made a number of suggestions on how to incorporate Indigenous voices.

“I’m pretty disappointed about that because a lot of us put anger aside even though we were really entitled to our own anger,” she said to CBC News. “I’m really disappointed that he’d rather cancel the show than work with Indigenous people. There was controversy around it, if he decided to change his ways and work with us, there would be no controversy for his co-producers.”

The group from the meeting also put forth an open letter addressing the controversy and included that they were “tired of hearing other people tell our stories.”

In 2016, the Canada Council fo the Arts refused to fund the production because of lack of indigenous involvement, but Lepage insisted on “creative freedom.”

This cancellation comes only a few weeks after the show SLĀV was cancelled at the Montreal International Jazz Festival after receiving criticism — for good reason. The show was performed by a predominantly white cast, was described as a performance “based on slave songs,” and was promptly accused of cultural appropriation.

Lepage admitted to a ‘judgement error” in the development of Kanata, but has yet to rectify it.

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