Peter Blow, 'A Village of Widows'

IssueJune - August 2004
Review by Theresa Wolfwood

Few people know that Canada provided most of the uranium for the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Even fewer know the devastating effect that the uranium ore extraction had on the Dene people of Great Bear Lake.


Peter Blow travelled to the north to record this story. White men came to the Dene land and found the “money rock”, as the residents called it. In the 1940s they started mining it, using local people for labour. At the same time the Dene gave them caribou, moose and fish. The hospitable northerners said, “They were strangers living among us on our land so we took care of them.”

In return, the local workers helped extract and transport the deadly ore with no knowledge of its dangers. The southern developers left the people with toxic waste dumps in their community and radiation ticking in their bodies. Most of the men who carried the ore died early deaths of cancer, leaving a village of widows behind. Now the families of the workers are dying, yet they have apologised to Japanese victims for their part in the deaths of thousands across the world. There is a moving and even humorous scene where the Dene go to Hiroshima to express their regrets.

Governments at all levels have refused to recognise or help the Dene. This is a piece of Canada's dirty history that needs recognition and this award-winning film should help raise awareness of the unacknowledged plight of these exploited people.

Topics: Nuclear weapons
See more of: Review