Canada: The Story of Us dives into our history, 'the good and the bad'

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Canada: The Story of Us dives into our history, 'the good and the bad'

Unsung heroes and darker tales share the spotlight with established figures and well-known stories in Canada: The Story of Us, a new docu-drama that recasts the country's history as an epic adventure series.

The 10-part series, which debuts on Sunday as part of CBC-TV's programming for Canada's sesquicentennial, takes a broader look at Canadian history, shining a light on lesser known stories of Indigenous people, women, immigrants, scientists and more alongside the more conventional explorers and politicians already familiar from school textbooks. 

"History is filled with stories and often ... privileged stories [are] what we learn in school, what we hear all the time. But what about these lesser narratives that are so critical to our history? I think that understanding and getting that was critical," Indigenous scholar Gerald McMaster told CBC News. 

"So it's not a celebration so much as the big narrative, as the many, many stories that make up this country," said McMaster, a primary historian and Indigenous consultant for the series.

"When I arrived in Canada nearly 40 years ago and I went to the history books, you never heard anything about women or Indigenous people or new Canadians in those history books. Most of it was political history, featuring male politicians," she said.

"[Canada's history is] not a history which is just about constitutional deals and legislation. It's a history of extraordinarily brave, original, creative, unusual survivors who kept forging ahead despite the most incredible odds." 

It was key to incorporate the stories of "unsung heroes" who were pivotal in shaping Canada — as well as dark periods of our past — into the series, said Sally Catto, CBC-TV's general manager of programming.

"It's important that we all celebrate and reflect on and own our history, the good and the bad," she said.

Based on an format previously seen in the U.S. and Australia, Canada: The Story of Us also features commentary from dozens of notable Canadians, including Susan Aglukark, Paul Gross, Eugene Levy, Peter Mansbridge, Tatiana Maslany, Christopher Plummer, Lilly Singh and David Suzuki.

Producers will also make the show, which is being extended online with digital components, available to Canadian educators for use in schools.

"We don't tell ourselves enough of these great stories. And so here's an opportunity," McMaster said.

He added that he hopes the series will inspire "future historians, future cultural theorists, and scientists and others, who will look at these stories and go 'Wow. I didn't realize.'"

Canada: The Story of Us debuts Sunday, with the first episode Worlds Collide airing on CBC-TV at 9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. NT).