Shirley Cheechoo and Debajehmujig impacts go beyond theatre

They make an important contribution to effecting social change

To the Expositor:

Hello Manitoulin! Aanii!

Been thinking about life on Manitoulin Island lately as I am recently in touch with colleagues from Debajehmujig. Those years at Debaj had a major impact on me and heightened my awareness for First Nations issues. Currently I am involved with an advocacy group to draw attention to the Adam Capay story.

This young Ojibwe man from a small reserve in Northwestern Ontario, has made headline news since October 7, 2017, when Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane visited Thunder Bay District Jail. A prison guard at the jail tipped her off to a prisoner, held without trial in solitary confinement for four years! In a cell the size of an elevator shaft, 23 hours a day, a lightbulb burning constantly a young man, Adam Capay endured.

Shortly after Commissioner Mandhane’s expose the news broke on CBC’s ‘The Sunday Edition’ with Michael Enright, who gave a scathing report on the use of torture (as defined by the UN) for the treatment of Capay. That very day, my daughter Lilly Woodbury was leaving for New Zealand. She is the same age as Adam Capay, 23. After obtaining a degree in Environmental Studies at University of Toronto, she is working for Greenpeace in New Zealand, following her dreams. This contrasted so sharply to Adam Capay, who’s life had become a nightmare.

Recently Brett Storey, who grew on the beautiful Manitoulin, has received recognition for her film ‘Twelve Landscapes of Prison.’ This film explores solitary confinement in the USA. In Canada we have a kinder, gentler term—administrative segregation.

Our advocacy group has an online “Care 2” petition with 80,000 signatures. We are now working on a GoFundMe campaign—A Family

for Visit for Adam Capay—as, due to public pressure, he was moved to Penetanguishene, 1,700 miles from home. As we plodded along with our efforts I kept thinking, who do I know that can spread the word on our campaign and in a flash I thought Debajehmujig!

Without people like Shirley Cheechoo, without Debaj, I may not have become involved in Adam’s plight. I’d like to thank Shirley Cheechoo, Marsha Coffey, Blake Debassige and Audrey Wemigwans for getting back to me on this important issue, Miigwetch!

The arts such as theatre and film make a major contribution to the important work of affecting change on social justice issues. Weengushk Film Institute and Debajehmujig, right there on Manitoulin, with so much local support, continue to make a difference!

Jane Woodbury
Tofino, BC