TORONTO – Audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival are used to the string of pre-movie announcements that traditionally unfold before the main attraction: requests to turn off cellphones, kudos to festival volunteers, and shoutouts to the myriad corporate sponsors.
This year, it adds a verbal acknowledgment of the Indigenous groups who traditionally occupied the land where festival screenings take place.
It’s in step with similar gestures of reconciliation unfolding across Canada, including at Winnipeg Jets hockey games where fans are reminded the ice sits on land formerly used by the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the Metis Nation.
At TIFF, public screenings begin with the statement: “To begin, we would like to acknowledge the Mississaugas of New Credit, the Haudenosaunee and the Huron-Wendat, the original keepers of this land for hosting us today and for hosting TIFF on their land every day.”
A festival spokeswoman says the reading of the statement is not mandatory, but is done at every public event when possible. She says the festival began incorporating the statement into events last year.
The festival’s artistic director Cameron Bailey says “it’s a simple sign of respect.”
“We’re in the middle of a long learning process,” Bailey said Tuesday in a statement.
“That’s meant talking about the history and culture of Indigenous people in Canada, and what we can do to help decolonize. One small step is to acknowledge that we live and work on land that Indigenous nations have taken care of for countless generations.”