Aboriginal Nominees for Gemini Awards in Canadian TV excellence

This fall the Gemini Awards will honour the best in Canadian English-language television, and a handful of Aboriginal nominees are competing for some pretty significant hardware in the Program and Performance categories.

Neil Diamond’s remarkable documentary Reel Injun is up for Best Social/Political Documentary Program. Don Kelly, host of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network‘s Fish Out of Water, is nominated in the Best Host or Interviewer in a General/Human Interest or Talk Program or Series category.

In fact, quite a few Aboriginal productions that garnered nods come from APTN, including Wapos Bay for Best Animated Program or Series, and Down the Mighty River for Best Documentary Series.


On the news front, CBC Manitoba‘s Sheila North-Wilson is also up for Best Breaking Reportage, Local, for her ongoing coverage of the “Homeless Hero” story that captivated the country in the spring of 2009, when Faron Hall rescued a teenager who fell off a Winnipeg bridge into the Red River.

“It truly feels amazing to be nominated,” says North-Wilson from her Winnipeg home. “Especially because I wasn’t expecting to when I did the stories. I am proud of the stories I did on Faron but I surely wasn’t thinking about the Geminis while I was putting them together,” she adds. “Now that I am nominated though, I feel truly blessed. Astounded!”

North-Wilson is known as an extremely well-connected journalist who, through her contacts, was able to find the remarkable story and continue to advance it as the week progressed. The coverage that followed painted the picture of a homeless Aboriginal man down on his luck who risked his life to save 19-year-old Joey Mousseau. As an added twist, Hall pulled another woman from the same river later that summer.

Faron Hall and eyewitness Marion Willis (courtesy CBC)

“To me the story is about pleasant surprises,” says North-Wilson. “It’s about seeing the diamonds in the rough. About not discounting people when I meet them, no matter what they look like or where they come from. Rich or poor. The stories renew my hope in humanity when there are other bad things going on.”

The public and other media jumped on the story, waiting for the two men to be reunited, and wondering what would become of Hall in the spotlight. As North-Wilson observes:

“I think people are intrigued by Faron Hall because of his willingness to give even though he looked like a person who didn’t have much to give in the first place. He was ready to give something most of us wouldn’t give — his life. I think people in a way wish and hope they would do it too, but aren’t sure they would. So instead they live vicariously through his deed and feel great that perhaps if someone with less stature or social class could do what he did, then ‘so could I!'”

“It wasn’t easy trying to keep on top of the story because it was overwhelming Faron. It was hard to see him being shaken by all the sudden interest in him by the public and media. He is such a strong person in many ways but he needed help and guidance from others on how to ride the media wave. In that, I never forgot how to relate to him as a person. I’m very grateful to Faron and Joey for letting me be the first to tell their story. For trusting me. Thanks to his friends who helped and thanks to CBC for allowing me to tell the story how I saw it.”

The 25th Annual Gemini Awards will be handed out in Toronto this November.

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