________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 10 . . . . January 11, 2008


Finding Dawn.

Christine Welsh (Writer & Director). Svend-Erik Eriksen (Producer). Rina Fraticelli (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
73 min., 28 sec., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 337.

Subject Headings:
Women-Violence Against-Canada.
Indian women-Violence Against-Canada.
Murder victims-Canada.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Gail de Vos.

**** /4


Dawn Crey, Ramona Wilson, Daleen Kay Bosse. These are just three of the estimated 500 Aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada over the past thirty years. Directed by acclaimed Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh, Finding Dawn is a compelling documentary that puts a human face to this national tragedy.

This is an epic journey into the dark heart of Native women’s experience in Canada. From Vancouver’s skid row, where more than 60 women are missing, we travel to the “Highway of Tears’ in Northern British Columbia, and onward to Saskatoon, where the murders of Native women remain unresolved.

Finding Dawn illustrated the deep historical, social and economic factors that contribute to the epidemic of violence against Native women in this country. It goes further to present the ultimate message that stopping the violence is everyone’s responsibility. (From the liner notes.)


Finding Dawn is an extremely difficult film to watch in the midst of Robert Pickton’s trial as not enough of Dawn Cray’s DNA was found on the farm for her to be included as one of the murder victims – but found it was!

     The documentary begins with Dawn’s story, the finding of her remains and then backtracks to the Sto:lo reserve where she and her siblings had their beginnings. The viewer meets Dawn’s sister, Lorraine, and her brother, Ernie, and follows their increasing involvement with the annual Women’s Memorial March in Vancouver before moving out to Highway 16, “The Highway of Tears.”

     Ramona Wilson was only 16 when she became one of nine women who have gone missing on that lonely stretch of highway in northern British Columbia. Her family is luckier then most; her body was found almost a year later in the bush. Most of the victims along that highway have never been located. An annual walk commemorating Ramona’s last steps brings family and community members together in order to keep not only Ramona’s memory alive but to help stop the disappearance of more women, both Native and non-Native, in the area.

     Welsh then moves viewers from the lonely highway to a large city, where a young university student and mother, Daleen Bosse, has been missing since 2004. Daleen’s parents and friends talk about the difficulty in getting the police to take Daleen’s disappearance seriously. It took almost a year before a search was organized in the area where Daleen’s car had been found two weeks after she went missing. Daleen still has not been found. In her investigation in Saskatoon, Welsh speaks with Native rights activist Professor Janice Acoose whose personal story demonstrates and celebrates courage, strength, hope and reclamation of self. 

     Finding Dawn interviews family members and friends, thereby putting a face and personality to the names of these three victims. They are loved and remembered in their communities and have been, along with other missing Aboriginal women, the catalyst for change on and off the reserve. The film also acts as a vehicle in its quest to answer questions.           

     And viewers also must constantly ask why? Why was it so difficult to engage the authorities in conducting an investigation into these women, not only these three, but the more than 500 that are still missing? Why does the violence against Aboriginal women continue without wider notice? What can each of us do to help stop the violence?

     This is an emotional documentary to watch but also a very important one. Winner of the Audience Gold Award at the 2006 Amnesty International Film Festival – Vancouver.

Highly Recommended.

Gail de Vos, an adjunct professor at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, teaches classes on Canadian children's literature, young adult literature and storytelling.

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