Toronto 2019: Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger

Jordan's Principle Parade in Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger. Courtesy of National Film Board of Canada.

Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger profiles the battle of the First Nations to have equal access to government-funded services.

Born into the Norway House Cree Nation of Manitoba, Jordan River Anderson would spend all five years of his life living in a hospital.  He couldn’t even get special housing arranged because neither the Canadian federal and Manitoban provincial governments could come to an agreement.  This is honestly ridiculous.  How hard is it to come to an agreement?!?  Nobody should have to live their entire life in a hospital.  It would have been best for his family for Jordan to end his life while closer to home.

Indigenous children now have the same access to health care as other Canadians.  It wasn’t always like this.  Sadly, it took Jordan’s death for people to see the bigger picture.  If it were up to Jordan’s family, he would have grew up in his hometown or as close to it as possible.  As a result of being born with Carey-Fineman-Ziter syndrome, it meant having to live close to a hospital at all times.  For Jordan and his family, this meant he was living at a Winnipeg hospital for all of his young life, passing away when he was 5 years old.  Tragic and unfortunate.

While the Canadian Parliament did pass a law in favor of Jordan’s Principle in 2007, it took even longer to see results.  Rather than Jordan’s Principle paying dividends immediately, it would take a good decade before the law was truly working.  It is a dire shame that it took this long for the law to work.  Despite a Human Rights Tribunal hearing, it still isn’t enough!  Moreover, it is just as unfortunate that the First Nations have to fight even harder for their rights.

What the principle does is give responsibility for a particular phase of life to the first agency contacted.  This would have erased much of the troubles that plagued the Anderson family.  In theory, the First Nation families are better off.  However, getting the law to truly be enacted was unfortunately time consuming.  What is surprising about this is when people speak about how much better it is for healthcare in Canada.  I’m watching this film and thinking that there are flaws in the Canadian healthcare system, too.

Filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin not only directs the film but narrates the documentary, too.  In the film, she profiles not only Jordan River Anderson but Noah Buffalo-Jackson, a teen born with Cerebral Palsy.  Noah’s family talk about the fact they needed help in paying for a special vehicle but nobody would cover the costs.

What Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger does is expose the flaws in Canada’s prized healthcare system in barely over an hour.


Jordan River Anderson: The Messenger holds its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Masters program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.