A new documentary exploring the links between residential schools, the high rates of Indigenous kids in foster care and overdose deaths debuted in a private ceremony on Sept. 30.
For Love was a project that came out of a landmark 2016 human rights tribunal decision that found the federal government discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding the on-reserve child welfare system, says producer Mary Teegee.
"[The film] was really to highlight the beauty of our culture as prevention," said Teegee. "More importantly, everything that we do as Indigenous people is for the love of our children and that is our culture, our language and everything that is still there."
The film, which was directed by Matt Smiley, tells stories from across the country about the effects of the Canadian child welfare system on different Indigenous communities and families. The film makes links between the historic residential school system and Canada's current system of care.
The documentary was produced by Carrier Sekani Family Services in Prince George, B.C., and Walking Tall Productions, Inc.
Teegee says it's also a story about the longevity of culture and connection to the land.
"Both Matt and I, [wanted] to ensure that we were providing, not just telling, the stories of all the atrocities and systemic racism that was occurring within the child welfare system and linking it to residential schools," she said.
"Our people are still strong, resilient and proud."
Kristine, Wyonna, and Sheldon Batoche are siblings and members of the Lake Babine Nation. The Batoche siblings were born and raised in foster care and spoke about their experiences in care.
"Aging out of care was honestly the hardest part of my life. It taught me so much about myself and my culture, you know. My message is to keep on going. Don't back down. Keep your head up," said Sheldon Batoche.
"I'm proud of all the kids out there who are trying their hardest."
Wyonna Batoche said she hopes the film and her siblings' stories will show a different side of children in care.
"They're not misfits. We all belong. We all deserve to be loved and acknowledged. They do have people who care about them and they are loved and they are not alone."
Teegee said they wanted to approach Shania Twain to be part of the project to ensure that the documentary found a large audience.
"We wanted a voice that would be easily recognizable, not just in Canada ... We wanted international exposure. And so Shania, with her story, and people don't realize this but Shania has always been an advocate for underprivileged children ... It was an appropriate synergy that came together," Teegee said.
"She said yes right away."
The film debuted on Thursday in Vancouver, with a wider release to come in the next few weeks.