________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 1999

cover Abegweit - The Confederation Bridge: A Marvel of Canadian Engineering.

Serge Morin (Director). Pierre Bernier and Diane Poitras (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: The National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
71 min., 55 sec., VHS, $39.95
Order Number: C9198 062.

Subject Headings:
Bridges-Prince Edward Island-Design and construction.
Confederation Bridge (N.B. and P.E.I.)-Design and construction.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Joan Payzant.

*** /4

image Although "Abegweit" is the story of the Confederation Bridge, spanning the Northumberland Strait between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, it is also a video with a mission. That mission is to quell the apprehensions of the many islanders who vigorously opposed the bridge's construction.
     "Abegweit" is the Micmac Indian name for Prince Edward Island. Although the Fathers of Confederation met there before Confederation actually took place in 1867, Prince Edward Island did not join until 1873 when the federal government promised the islanders a year-round steamship service to link them to the mainland.
     For over a hundred years, the car ferries were an important part of island life, giving employment to many and pleasurable short voyages both to islanders and visitors. For farmers, they were a means of getting their produce to a wider market, and they also were vital links in bringing goods from outside to the island.
     During Premier Joe Ghiz's time, a plebiscite was held resulting in a 60% vote in favour of a bridge and 40% against. The film shows groups of fishermen talking together and expressing their fears about ice build-up and possible destruction of the lobster, scallop, herring, and haddock fishing grounds, as well as to the Irish moss industry. One irate lady at a meeting with construction company and government officials denounces the environmental management plan as "bafflegab and obfuscation!" The Marine Atlantic ferry employees shed tears as they worked on the ferry Abegweit due to have her last crossing in the near future. Through it all, the construction starts and continues, stage by stage, a remarkable Canadian engineering achievement. Finally comes the great day when people gather to walk or run across the 13 kilometer span or catch the final crossing of the ferry Abegweit.
     The video is lightened by occasional music. Richard Gibson provided original and appropriate folk songs, and no Maritime event is complete without the bagpipes. Since there is a large French population on Prince Edward Island, quite a lot of the dialogue is in French with English subtitles. Heated confrontations between the construction company and opponents occasionally result in strong language to which objection might be made in some classrooms. For instance, Mr. Granelli, supervisor of the project, praises the workers as the "best labor force, skilled workers, doing a hell of a job." Most students are likely inured to such language, however.
     The video ends with a splendid aerial view of the Confederation Bridge, stretching from Jourmain in New Brunswick, to Borden, Prince Edward Island. It will certainly change the face of Prince Edward Island. The last trip of the ferry Abegweit was sad to witness and a difficult one for Marine Atlantic employees. But for tourists who thrill to a ferryboat ride, Northumberland Ferries at the eastern end of the Island still operates a crossing from Wood Island, PEI to Caribou, Nova Scotia. A useful video for social studies programs in high school or for adults interested in the subject.


Joan Payzant is a former teacher-librarian from Dartmouth, NS.

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