Cuts, Canadian Culture and the
By Pierre Berton
When I watched the CBC's impressive production of Charlie Grant's
War this year, I was struck by what I call the subliminal influence
of home-grown drama. On the surface, this was a moving and dramatic
story of one hitherto unknown Canadian who, at considerable personal
sacrifice, followed his conscience. But just below the surface,
we were given a history lesson in anti-semitism, Canadian-style,
Charlie Grant's War did what no serious tome or even a serious
documentary could do: it told us something about our country (an
unpalatable something in this case) and allowed us to absorb the
lesson subconsciously while following an exciting story.
Home Fires did the same thing and so, in spades, did Empire,
which covered three generations of Canadian history without ever
sounding like a history lesson. So did Chautauqua Girl, a
remarkable program that, without ever preaching, told us more about
small town western Canadian life in a past generation than any school
book could possibly accomplish.
This is the glory of native drama: it gives us a sense of community.
It does what Dallas or Dynasty or Upstairs Downstairs
cannot do. It introduces us to ourselves. But it also costs money.
The people who made Charlie Grant's War got in under the
wire. With the present cuts this kind of drama - albeit produced
on a shoestring when compared to American televison - cannot continue
on the CBC. And there goes our birthright.
Pierre Berton is a founding member of the Alliance For Canadian
This article originally appeared in Sources, Winter 1986/1987
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