1986 | 29 min
by Alanis Obomsawin
Richard Cardinal: Cry from a Diary of a Metis Child is a loving tribute to the memory of a sensitive, articulate young man who finally ran out of hope. Richard committed suicide at seventeen years of age. The film is based on his diary. To hear his words is to share the profound loneliness and suffering of another human being. It is also to be touched by the strength and courage with which a young boy endured a nightmarish life of brutality, neglect and indifference.
Richard was four when he and seven siblings were removed from their parents’ care. Except for sporadic contacts with one brother and a sister, he never saw his family again. His diary expresses how he longed to be reunited with them. In death, Richard received the attention that so eluded him in life; special efforts were made to bring the family together for his funeral.
By the time he died, Richard Cardinal had lived in twenty-eight foster homes, group homes, shelters and lockups throughout Alberta. He might have been just another statistic, “just another dead Indian,” were it not for his diary and his last foster parents, who refused to let his death go unremarked. Their efforts resulted in a judicial inquiry that had far-reaching consequences, prompting changes in child-welfare administration. For the first time, it was acknowledged that native people are quite capable of caring for their own children. As a result, numerous tribes are now administering their own social services. The new Alberta Welfare Act is, in part, Richard Cardinal’s legacy.