Image Credit: “The Ipperwash Park Film Project,” Klippensteins/Monica Virtue Productions
Monica Virtue is a settler from Woodstock, Ontario. She is a researcher and documentary filmmaker and holds a Master of Design in Digital Futures from OCAD University in Toronto. She is currently producing her own feature documentary, as well as producing a short 360-documentary with the Public Visualization Lab.
Monica’s co-designed Master’s thesis project, The Ipperwash Beach Walk, combined locative storytelling with GPS-guided mapping and counter-mapping. It was awarded the 2016 medal for the Digital Futures Masters program at OCAD’s 101st GradEx graduate exhibition. The two-year Masters in Digital Futures (MDes) program was in partnership with the CFC Media Lab.
The Ipperwash Beach Walk builds on Monica’s past experience as a filmmaker specializing in the development of documentaries and real-life stories. Her specialties include historical and investigative research, creative story development, field producing, interviews, and camera operation.
Monica has over 15 years of research experience under her belt, with seven of those spent conducting meticulous treaty and land claims research under the guidance of a social justice law firm. She has conducted original research at Collections Canada, the Archives of Ontario, local archives and museums, courthouses, and land registries. She is particularly adept at finding underlying stories in unexpected places.
In 2005, Monica was hired by Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors (lawyers for the Estate of First Nations protester Anthony “Dudley” George) to produce an educational documentary known as The Ipperwash Park Film Project. The project was initially scheduled to last six months and was to plug gaps in knowledge growing out of the ongoing Ipperwash Inquiry. Soon, Monica was able to unearth so many unseen documents involving the land transactions at Ipperwash Beach that it provoked Justice Sidney Linden to remark during Inquiry testimony that:
It is astonishing that after all these years, and all this investigation, and all this work that all of us have done that documents are still surfacing at this late date.
This research was put on public record during the testimony of former Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Chris Hodgson, as well as former Ontario Premier Mike Harris.
The Ipperwash Park Film Project soon came to incorporate multiple storylines, including First Nations’ land surrenders on both ends of Ipperwash Beach, in Caledonia, and a number of significant surrenders in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. Monica also conducted a thorough investigation into hundreds of Inquiry audio exhibits, tracked down experts in Indigenous history, and sourced stock footage and still photos from archives across North America. The project ended up lasting seven years, with primary research concluding in 2012. A portion of this research was used in 2016 towards Monica’s Master’s thesis project.
Since 2003, Monica has also been collecting content for her own independent feature documentary on the aftermath of the “Ipperwash Crisis.” The project began with six years of filming with Sam George, who sought justice after his brother Dudley George was killed by a police sniper during a nighttime confrontation between riot police and a group of unarmed Indigenous protesters. The project continued to grow as Monica began researching treaties and Indian Act land surrenders. She has also taken a deep dive into the exhibits and transcripts released through the Ipperwash Inquiry.
In addition, Monica has created several short films, including one for Amnesty International Canada (Freedom Drum) and several independent shorts in 2012 and 2013 about the Idle No More movement.
Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Monica earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, a Certificate in Business from Fanshawe College, and a graduate certificate in Advanced Television & Film from Sheridan College.