CBC’s excellent Keeping Canada Safe showcases everyday heroes

Last fall, Force Four Entertainment and CBC teamed for Keeping Canada Alive, a poignant documentary that showed the breadth and depth of our country’s health care in a 24-hour period. (Give Diane’s review of that a read, won’t you?)

Both companies have partnered again for Keeping Canada Safe, a 48-hour whirlwind look—spread over eight half-hour episodes—of the emergency personnel (and sometimes animals) charged with ensuring our safety last summer. With news of walls going up and national security in the headlines of late, Keeping Canada Safe is certainly timely. What sets this series apart from, say Border Security, is the 60-plus cameras dispatched across the country. Rather than being focused on one airport or border crossing—production was granted access to more than 47 organizations in 34 cities across 10 provinces and two territories—the program is able to profile a cross-section of this country and the personalities of folks who do this.

The debut instalment, airing Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC, wasn’t what I was expecting. With Border Security as my only reference, I assumed Keeping Canada Safe would spend most of the time at airports, borders and other high-profile transit points. After having seen Keeping Canada Alive, I should have known better. You do get those broader national security stories here, but Force Four connects with viewers by getting down to a local level, like an enraged Calgary man trying to break into his house as a police helicopter swoops overhead. That situation is used to explain the reason for a helicopter being in the air in the first place: it’s safer for police and citizens for a chopper to track a criminal in a car than a high-speed chase is.

Meanwhile, in rural Prince Edward Island, Lewie Sutherland is the police chief of Kensington and everyone calls him by his first name. Because of the small population—a mere 1,500—everyone knows each other, and the death of a citizen is felt by the community. It’s easy to assume Lewie’s life is easier than that of the guys working in Calgary, but I think it’s harder. In a metropolis, people can become somewhat faceless. But in PEI, a criminal or someone in danger could be your friend.

The most disturbing segment of Episode 1 is devoted to following Winnipeg’s Bear Patrol, a group of volunteers who strive to find missing women in the city. Within the span of mere broadcast minutes (but remember, this is filmed over just 48 hours), a handful of girls and young women are reported missing. The race is on to locate them in a neighbourhood known for violence and the sex trade.

Upcoming stories during the eight-episode run include an all-access look at Pearson International airport, including their K9 Unit, wildlife control with trained falcons and an emergency landing; a Kingston drug bust against a suspected meth dealer; and Ottawa scientists testing a compound of everyday chemicals and a bomb suit for first responders.

Beautifully shot and wonderfully written, Keeping Canada Safe really should be seen, both to be informed about the jobs being done behind the scenes for our security and to celebrate those who are doing it.

Keeping Canada Safe airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of CBC.