penelope buitenhuis - writer / director
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giant mine

Yellowknife mine tragedy focus of new CBC movie


TORONTO (CP) -- Miss Piggy is what angry miners called her. But Chatelaine magazine was impressed enough with Peggy Witte's tough business acumen to name her Woman of the Year in 1994. This after the American-born entrepreneur captained the Vancouver-based Royal Oak Mines through one of the ugliest chapters in Canadian labor history: the 17-month riot-torn strike at the Giant gold mine in Yellowknife that saw nine men killed in an underground bombing on Sept. 18, 1992. Now the story is being told in a new TV movie, Giant Mine, airing Sunday night on CBC. But will Witte be flattered or insulted by her portrayal at the hands of Toronto actress Alberta Watson? "I hope she calls me. It would be great," says Watson. Watson's Witte is as hard-nosed as the genuine article is reputed to be, seen in the movie calling in jackbooted security guards and attack dogs to keep the locked-out miners at bay while she orders replacement workers trucked in.

Producer Alan Burke, meanwhile, says he'd be curious to hear Witte's reaction but isn't losing sleep over it. "We've done our homework, we've done our research, and this is an accurate portrayal of the situation." Burke's Giant Mine tries to steer a middle course with Witte's obstinacy matched by that of the union leaders who refused to consider logjam-breaking concessions.


"I hope this film is seen as a cautionary tale," says Burke. "I think that everyone's got a lot to own up to in that whole situation." The film shows a silhouetted figure planting the deadly bomb in a mine tunnel and does not quite identify him as Roger Warren, the disgruntled miner ultimately convicted on second-degree murder charges. Warren, who confessed to police then pleaded not guilty, is seeking to appeal. Burke says the residents of Yellowknife now live under an uneasy peace after the Canadian Labor Relations Board forced a settlement under threat of compulsory arbitration. He wants them to react with sensitivity to the film even if there isn't a complete healing yet. "I hope we have unearthed and shown some of the human weaknesses that brought this situation together. I think it's going to be positive."

 

 
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Penelope can be reached in Canada through her agent
THE CHARACTERS
Carl Liberman (Toronto)
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