Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger Image

The tiny hero of Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger was born with a series of complications. His face “wasn’t able to move.” He could only breathe through a hole on his neck, consequently unable to make any noise. His father, Ernest, remembers: “Jordan never cried…he had club feet…we had to feed him through his stomach.” Due to bureaucratic complications, Jordan could not leave the hospital when he was ready. The boy went into a coma and passed away shortly thereafter.

Obomsawin dutifully traces his family’s battle to enforce the Jordan Principle law, which is “intended to resolve jurisdictional disputes within, and between, provincial/territorial and federal governments concerning payment for services to First Nations children when the service is available to all other children.” By turns affecting, informative, and scorching-dry in its presentation, her film does a solid if unremarkable job shedding light on a serious issue – as well as (perhaps inadvertently) once again pointing out that, with a little perseverance, things actually get done in Canada.

“…dutifully traces his family’s battle to enforce the Jordan Principle law…”

“Here we are in Kinosao Sipi, Norway House, Manitoba,” Obomsawin narrates, as we glide over an idyllic landscape, “a Cree community of 8,000 people, located more than 800 kilometers north of Winnipeg in Canada. This is where the Anderson family lives.” When Virginia Anderson experienced pregnancy complications, she had to be flown to Winnipeg to give birth. “Two levels of government” could not agree about little Jordan’s payment. If he were deemed “provincial,” Jordan would have been released. But due to his Indian heritage, he “never had that opportunity.”

Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger (2019)

Directed and Written: Alanis Obomsawin

Starring: Alanis Obomsawin (narrator) , etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger Image

"…if you have a heart, there’s no way you won’t be affected by the subject matter."

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  1. Melanie says:

    Would love to see this at the University of Manitoba in any relatable faculty’s course – law, social work, medicine, Indigenous studies.

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