First Contact takes six Canadians, all with stereotypical opinions about Indigenous People, on a unique 28-day exploration of Indigenous Canada. It is a journey that will turn their lives upside down, challenging their perceptions and confronting their prejudices about a world they never imagined.
Country-born and bred, Jamie-Sue loves big trucks and small-town Canada but she defies any stereotypes that go along with country life with her open-mindedness and compassionate nature. Growing up on a farm in Chatham, running down the dirt road to her grandparents’ farm next door, she formed a love for nature, particularly animals, that continues to this day, evidenced by the four rescue pets she cares for.
A balance of the left and right sides of her brain, Jamie-Sue excelled in both accounting and art while in school. Post-high school she partied her way through college until it was time for reality to set in. After a nudge from her mother she went to work at a car manufacturing plant, a job she’s now been with for thirteen years. One of the advantages of the role has been the opportunities it has given her to travel, including moving to Mississippi for seven months for a job, exposing her to a whole new world of music and food.
Outside of her work life one of Jamie-Sue’s hobbies is painting, which she’s had an interest in since childhood. She traces this back to her father, a talented wood-worker. Travel is another passion, although many destinations remain on her bucket list. A huge Seattle Sea Hawks fan, one of her dreams is to travel to Seattle to see her favourite team play.
One of Jamie-Sue’s defining characteristics is her empathy. Optimistic by nature, she loves that Canada is geared towards helping others; be it equal pay or the programs that encourage women to enter trades, she loves that there is opportunity for growth for all. She feels, however, that the country could do much more to help its most marginalized communities, like those suffering from addiction or mental health issues. She believes we are only as good as the way we treat those most in need.
Donald has spent his whole life based in Alberta. He grew up in a close-knit community, and still has several of the same friends he went to school with as a child. After high school he studied business at the University of Alberta, and ventured into sales afterwards. That path didn’t stick forever; his career has been varied, with turns in teaching, entrepreneurship and truck driving.
His passions include flying airplanes, a hobby he shared with his father and brother. He eventually got his commercial pilots license and taught flying for several years until a physical limitation forced him to stop. Another hobby-turned-job was scuba diving, for which he was certified, and taught at the University of Alberta for thirty years.
He and his wife didn’t have children, and enjoy travelling the world together, minus the flying in uncomfortable planes. His life has had many twists and turns, and now he takes pleasure in exploring further afield, and getting a chance to visit the places around the world he’s seen on TV and the movies.
Donald is proud to consider himself honest, with a strong work ethic and integrity. In his childhood he has been told he was a bit of a bully, but hasn’t been in a fistfight since he was 9 years old, and is now more likely to stop a fight than start one. He does consider himself vocal, and not afraid to speak his mind. An opinionated conservative, he considers the freedom to live in a safe, clean place without war and suffering the best thing about Canada. He feels that Canada’s worst problem is the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his focus on diversity.
Avonlea spent her earliest years moving from town to town throughout the British Columbia, before settling in Pemberton when she was ten. The constant shuffle meant that she learned quickly to adapt to new social settings, turning on the charm to make friends in each new school. After the loss of her stepmother at twelve, Avonlea had to quickly step into the mom role for her younger brother, which didn’t leave much time for being a typical, happy-go-lucky kid.
Having grown up quickly, it felt natural to her to move in with her now-husband when she was just seventeen years old. After testing several career paths she found the right one for her; event management, which was a great fit for her perfectionist nature. Now a mom of two young boys, Avonlea looks after them full time, while her husband works in construction. They love to do the simple things as a family: camping and spending time outdoors.
All of this work and looking after others hasn’t left much time for travel, and one of Avonlea’s dreams would be to live overseas for a stretch of time. One of her hopes for her children is that they get a chance to learn about other cultures from their schoolmates, as she feels it’s important that they learn that there are many ways to live. She believes all Canadians should have the right to live how they choose as long as they don’t negatively impact others.
Avonlea has spent her life caring for others, from her brother to her own young sons, and her big-heart and compassion are her defining qualities. Open to learning and change, she is curious and excited to explore Canada.
Family man Ross has his roots firmly planted in Alberta, but has explored the world as well, first as a young child living in New Zealand with his family, and later in the Navy. Growing up in small town Alberta he loved to do all the classic Canadian activities: hockey, dirt-biking and camping with his family. A class clown, Ross got by in school but didn’t put as much time into his studies as he did into hockey.
After school, Ross spent thirteen years in the Navy, followed by studies in accounting, working in a bank and eventually working for the government. He raised his family in Edmonton, and now has three nearly adult children, of 20, 18, and 16. One of his greatest passions is travel, exploring all over Canada and around the world with his family. His mother was originally from New Zealand, so that is a regular stop on his adventures.
Ross is blunt, outspoken and opinionated. He believes specialty groups lobbying for their own needs are the biggest problem that Canada faces. While he feels all Canadians have a right to be who they are and have their own beliefs, they also shouldn’t flaunt their differences into everyone else’s face. Ross holds his beliefs strongly, believing that hard work and classic Canadian values are the key to success, and expecting anyone who has the opportunity to live in Canada to feel the same.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Ashley’s life has been a truly transformative journey. The daughter of a Canadian Mounted Police Officer father and a Portuguese immigrant mother, she was a shy little girl. This was largely due to abuse she suffered from a family member, which went on for several years. One of the side affects of this abuse was a fear of reading in front of others, which culminated in her failing third grade as her teacher believed she wasn’t able to read.
A tomboy who didn’t care about appearances, Ashley continued to be picked on heavily throughout high school. Her outlet became sports, and she joined every team the school had to offer. Despite this, the bullying continued, with her classmates at the Catholic school labeling her gay, even before she had personally come to terms with her sexuality.
On entering Algonquin College for the Police Foundations program, Ashley found her rhythm, excelling in her classes, meeting her first girlfriend, and being chosen for the starting lineup of the college soccer team. After college, she met her goal of entering the police force. After working with the RCMP for eight years, Ashley did some soul-searching and realized the job was not making her happy. She quit, and found her passion as a personal trainer, forming her own business focused on helping clients with athletic performance. After a year and a half of building her business solo, she and a business partner and mentor, Mike, bought three fitness centre franchises.
Having been through many challenges and hard times, Ashley is an empathetic person who is interested in learning about other people before passing judgment. However she is a direct, outspoken person and believes every Canadian has a right to their own opinion and the right to express it.
Born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick, Dallas fits the mold of a friendly, open east-coaster. Outgoing and athletic from childhood, he spent his time playing sports and hanging out at the community centre with the same group of kids he is still friends with to this day. Part of a close-knit family, Dallas’ parents pushed him to be someone who cared about others and did his best to help them however he could. He looks to his mom especially as a role model, having worked hard to support them as a single mother after her split with his dad. She always made sure he was able to participate in the activities his friends were doing, despite a limited income.
In high school his main interest was in sports, joining basketball, lacrosse, football and hockey. He feels the discipline he learned on these teams played a big role in his future success, as they kept him out of trouble and focused on good habits rather than bad. After graduating high school with honours, he knew he didn’t want to be cooped up in a classroom again, and that his strengths were as a more hands-on type of person. He picked up and moved to Alberta and began his welding apprenticeship, learning the trade over the course of three years. By 22 years old he had achieved his goal of becoming a journeyman welder.
On a whim one day, Dallas decided to audition for Big Brother Canada’s fourth season. Chosen to be on the show, he made a big impression on the audience for wearing his heart on his sleeve, getting fired up, and taking on every challenge with his signature enthusiasm. He was so memorable that he was one of eight former houseguests asked to return for the following season, which pitted these returning competitors against new ones.
Dallas has explored some of Canada through road trips between Edmonton, where he still works as a welder, and Saint John, where he spends the summers lobster fishing. Travelling the world is at the top of his bucket list, and he is looking forward to beginning by seeing more of his own country.
Laurianne was born and raised in Saskatoon, where she has resided for 20 years. Laurianne was an only child, and lost her dad in her late twenties. She credits Saskatoon as being the place that really made her who she is. She loves to spend her down time at the cabin and loves to escape cold prairie winters by hitting the beaches of Mexico, where she hopes to have a second home one day.
Laurianne worked in corrections for 13 years, and worked with youth for six years after that. Along with her partner, who is deputy leader of a political party in Saskatchewan, she has two children and two stepchildren; a 19 year old son, a 17 year old daughter, a 25 year old stepson, and a 16 year old stepson. The self-described love of her life is her 200 pound pot belly pig, ‘Chris P. Bacon’. Laurianne always wanted a pig; she got him when he was only three months old. Between her pig and her cat and two dogs, she has lots of animals to love and care for.
Laurianne is a very active person and is interested in a variety of recreational activities. In her free time, she loves to ride on her ski doo or quad, curling, slow pitch, and spending time at her cabin. She loves to watch reality television and day time talk shows. Laurianne is a passionate, caring, loyal woman who takes pride in her close group of loved ones. When asked to describe herself Laurianne said “I am private person, those who know me, know me well, those who don’t can go to hell”.
An East Coast resident, 19 year-old student Jackson Way has been attending school in Nova Scotia for the last year with a focus on history, but calls Ontario his home. He has one younger sister, and is close with his whole family, especially his parents and paternal grandmother. Jackson was a good student, and describes his childhood as simple and normal.
Jackson has a summer job at a local zoo, and performs in live animal shows. He is a self described parrot enthusiast, and has three birds of his own. When he’s not in school, Jackson works as a hockey referee. Jackson has loved hockey his whole life; he is involved in the sport at the community level, and follows professional hockey closely. He is very interested in archery, a hobby he was introduced to by his grandparents. He has traveled throughout the United States with his parents, and went camping at Manitolin Island often. Tropical locations are his favorite.
Jackson has a passion for history and politics, and is a creative person. He loves poetry, playing guitar, songwriting and singing, and theater. Politically, Jackson is left leaning; he feels strongly about social responsibility and how our choices affect the greater good. Jackson is an open, kind, outgoing person who is up for anything. He loves to learn and is always up for a healthy debate.
A Croatian Canadian, Brennen was born and raised in Mississauga, ON, where he currently resides. He grew up playing baseball and attending summer camp. He is deeply connected to his Croatian heritage and has a tightly knit family. He loves to spend time with his sister and parents.
Brennen has a successful career in sales and a passion for music and acting that shines through in his hobbies. For nearly eight years, he has hosted a podcast, that is nearing its 100th episode, focusing on Canadian techno music. He has also released his first short film that he wrote and produced. During Brennen’s free time, he enjoys watching comedies, follows hockey and the Croatian national football (soccer) team, along with Croatian players that are playing across Europe. On the weekends he often spends time at the Croatian Park enjoying traditional food and beverages. He has a cat named “Winston” who he thinks is very nice.
Brennen is outspoken, loyal, honest, and is known for being a jokester. He loves to tease his friends and family in his own silly, endearing manner. Brennen straddles political lines; he feels strongly about LGBTQ+ rights, housing and health care, and believes in being fiscally conservative. He considers himself a person who is helpful and treats people with respect.
Larry spent his early years in Simcoe, Ontario, in Norfolk County, southwest of Toronto. He has three brothers, and had a typical, middle class upbringing where he went to public school and was taught to respect authority. Larry works in the retail industry in shipping and receiving, and is a self-described country boy. He has two adult daughters who help to keep him grounded. He is proud of his childrens acheivment as together they started a successful coffee company in Ontario. Being a parent has helped him understand the different needs and abilities children have and is important to how he sees the world.
In Larry’s free time, he loves to spend time at the cottage, fishing, hunting, and cycling. He believes in keeping active for health reasons, but doesn’t care much for professional sports. Larry also loves to build bikes and collects toys from the 50’s and 60’s.
Larry is an opinionated man who holds very conservative views and is not afraid to offer his opinion. Larry has strong views about immigration; he believes that if one moves to Canada, they should implement the views and traditions of the west, and if you mess up, you should be sent back to the country in which you were born. He believes that Canada has a responsibility to help the indigenous community for what they did for the settlers, and upholds that Canadians are living in the best country in the world.
Samantha was born and raised in Whitby, Ontario. She has a large, closely-knit family and describes her childhood as quite perfect. Samantha is very active; growing up, she played volleyball and soccer, and continues to play with a local women’s league.
Samantha went to University in Ontario, where she studied media and communications. After taking some time to travel, Samantha returned to school to study event management. She has worked in event management in sports, film and television. She has worked as a production assistant for various events and commercial shoots.
Along with sports, Samantha keeps quite busy in lots of other ways in her down time. She has a passion for animals; she has volunteered at the Toronto Wildlife Centre, has a family dog named Melvin, and a cat she describes as “not very nice”. She loves to watch reality TV and enjoys seeing strong female leads portrayed on the big and small screen. She doesn’t tend to get political, but describes herself as a open-minded person. When asked how others would describe her, Samantha said they would call her a dreamer, someone who thinks unconventionally, is friendly, and optimistic, a quality she says she gets from her father.
Stephanie grew up in the small town of Carmen, Manitoba until the age of 13. Her family then decided that moving to the city would be a better environment for her and her two siblings, so they relocated to Winnipeg. Stephanie was shy and quiet, but spending her teen years in the city helped her to come out of her shell. She played ringette and high school hockey as a goalie, something she has rekindled her passion for in recent years.
After high school, she met the love of her life. They spent time in western Canada until Stephanie found out she was pregnant. The couple then decided to return to their home province of Manitoba, where they currently reside. Stephanie is very close with her siblings who both live near by, which makes spending time together very easy.
Stephanie and her husband continued to grow their family while also building their trucking company. These days, her plate is very full with the schedules of her seven children. They spend lots of time on the road traveling to their various activities, and love traveling to tropical locations during the cold Manitoba winters. It was important for Stephanie to get involved with her community and was successfully elected as the chair for Local Urban District of Tyndall and Garson in the RM of Brokenhead. A big part of her mission in her new role is to get more young people involved in politics.