ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, when it comes to the characters he plays on screen, hasn't always had it as easy as he might have liked. Having built something of a cinematic niche for himself playing mildly curmudgeonly yet lovable older dudes who terrible things happen to, Neeson has spent much of the past few decades being forced to rescue kidnapped daughters, overcome the loss of countless romantic partners and battle through all sorts of existential crises/wolf packs. In other words? His working life doesn't seem like it's exactly a laugh a minute, at least when the cameras are rolling.

And, just to double down on that unusually grim body of work, life has opted to screw with Neeson in a distinctly ethically confusing fashion. Y'see:

Liam Neeson's New Movie Was Just Banned From A Bunch Of Canadian Parks

'Taken' [Credit: Fox]
'Taken' [Credit: Fox]

Which, on the surface of the thing, is pretty darned funny. The idea of Liam Neeson not being allowed into a Canadian park is, after all, precisely the sort of thing that mildly topical and nominally entertaining SNL skits are there for.

The problem, however, arises when you actually take a look at why Liam Neeson's upcoming project, , has been banned from filming in a handful of 's parks. The reason? "Grave concerns" over the film's presentation of its First Nations (roughly speaking, the Canadian term for Native American) lead.

Specifically, Canada's parks service, Parks Canada, refused to grant the film access to its Rocky Mountain national parks because of concerns over one of the film's main characters — a gang boss played by acclaimed First Nations actor and musician Tom Jackson. As the agency's spokesperson Meaghan Bradley put it in an official statement:

"The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation and nation-to-nation relationships with indigenous peoples, based on a recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership... In addition to some administrative details and outstanding documentation, Parks Canada's commitment to reconciliation and respect for indigenous peoples was an important factor in the agency's final decision on this matter. Parks Canada maintains the right to refuse applications that are not in line with Parks Canada's mandate or operational priorities."

'Taken' [Credit: Fox]
'Taken' [Credit: Fox]

The folks behind Hard Powder, however, dispute Parks Canada's interpretation of the film's script, with Jackson himself arguing that:

"As a consultant to this production, I have taken a strong stance to ensure that the humility and integrity of First Nation roles do not cross the line of disrespect to my culture. I don't feel my culture is insulted even slightly by the script."

Which, of course, raises a problematic conflict between a government agency that's presumably genuinely trying to do the right thing, and a prominent and decorated First Nations figure (Jackson is a member of the prestigious Order of Canada) who is suggesting that they've got things muddled up in doing so.

'Taken 2' [Credit: Fox]
'Taken 2' [Credit: Fox]

On the one hand, with Canada (along with pretty much everywhere else) having a distinctly terrible record when it comes to the representation of First Nations peoples, it makes sense that Parks Canada would be concerned about facilitating a perpetuation of negative stereotypes relating to an often misrepresented group. On the other hand, Canada's government also has a long history of thinking it knows what's best for First Nations peoples, and implementing policy that they themselves don't necessarily agree with in, well, pretty much this exact sort of way.

In other words? It's pretty tough to know who the bad guy is here. Though in fairness, we can be pretty sure it's not Liam Neeson's character in the movie: He's apparently "an honest snowplow driver whose son is murdered by a local drug kingpin," who then "seeks to dismantle the cartel."

Because of course he is.

What do you think, though? Would you like to wade into this emotionally and ethically fraught political minefield? Let us know below!

(Sources: CBC)


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