CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 1999
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.
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.
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
"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.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association.
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