It all started with her late aunty Geraldine’s VHS camcorder. Candy Fox discovered it during her childhood in the 1990s on the Piapot First Nation. “I remember having so much fun with it. I think that’s where I grew a sense of wanting to make movies and to direct, especially,” she recalls. “I remember being kind of bossy and telling my cousins what to do in front of the camera.”

Growing up, Fox’s main hobby was watching movies. She was—and still is—a fan of a variety of genres and styles of storytelling. “I got a sense that I wanted to be in the film industry somehow. Initially, I thought it would be through acting,” she notes. A few years after moving to Regina as a pre-teen, she did just that. After a reluctant audition (“I was really shy”), she landed a lead in the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) series, Moccasin Flats, and got a firsthand introduction to the professional film industry. Over the course of shooting three seasons and two related movies, Fox became even more certain of the direction her life would take. “I would stay on set and watch the crew at work. I asked questions of Stacey Stewart Curtis, the director at the time, picking her brain, soaking it all in. I think that’s where my sense of wanting to be behind the camera grew,” she explains.

The natural next step was film school. Fox chose the University of Regina to stay close to family. She went through the First Nations University of Canada and gained a sense of belonging from the student body, faculty, and curriculum there. She found a lot of support from members of the UR’s Film faculty as well, catching the attention of one of her professors, Sarah Abbott, to collaborate on a project with vulnerable youth in Regina. “Engaging Media and Indigenous Youth,” supported by a grant from SK Arts, ran for eight weeks in 2013 at the Rainbow Youth Centre and focused on media literacy, Indigenous-made films, and films with Indigenous content. Abbott created a directed study Film course in order for Fox to be involved in the project’s classes, document them, and teach a class on her own. “For that class, she reviewed what media literacy means for the youth and put together a great curated program of Indigenous films for them to watch. I remember watching with her the films she had to choose from—her taste in film is excellent,” Abbott remarks.

Fox reflects on Abbott’s support with gratitude. “The opportunity to step outside of my student role and become a teacher alongside her really gave me a sense of leadership and the ability to think of myself in that role for the future” she says. While Fox doesn’t have immediate plans to teach, she’s not closing the door on that possibility.

Abbott was also Fox’s professor for Film 401, the final core production course in the Film program. Fox’s resulting short documentary, Backroads, deals with sexual violence within a family. “Candy tells that story in a very effective, elegant, and evocative way. There is a quietness, simplicity, and intimacy in her cinematic approach that sensitively holds and unfolds a heart-wrenching, complex experience. It generates insight, empathy, and awareness for the audience,” Abbott explains. Backroads was named one of Canada’s Top Ten Student Shorts by the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and won Best Student Film at the Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards that year. “I went into film school wanting to do scripted narratives and came out really loving documentary, and that’s what I’m working mostly in now,” Fox says.

At a time when many in the film industry were leaving the province, Fox chose to stay and build her career here upon her graduation in 2015. She started as an independent contractor by doing videography and photography for a lot of different local organizations. As awareness of her work grew, due in no small part to the national attention she received for Backroads, she was soon hired in various roles on independent productions. “I was able to find work coming out of film school and slowly got other jobs. Word of mouth was really helpful for my career,” she says. “I had a discussion with a couple of filmmakers recently about working in Saskatchewan, and they all said, ‘If there’s work here, we’ll stay here.’ That really rings true. Thankfully, I was able to plant my career roots here at home.”

Fox during production on season one of "Zarqa". Photo: Peter Scoular
Fox during production on season one of "Zarqa". Photo: Peter Scoular

Someone particularly influential in Fox’s career was award-winning Indigenous filmmaker Trudy Stewart BFA’08, who passed away in 2019. “Trudy was always sending me different opportunities. She saw some potential in me and took me under her wing. She supported a lot of other Indigenous filmmakers as well. She was always generous with her time and wanted to share what she had experienced.”

Stewart screened Fox’s films at mispon, a film festival in Regina devoted to supporting Indigenous filmmakers and mentoring Indigenous youth. In 2016 she invited Fox to participate in an Indigenous, Two-Spirit film collective with filmmakers from Ottawa, ON, and New Zealand. Fox, Stewart, and several other filmmakers travelled to each other’s communities to make films together. Travelling overseas for the project was a highlight for Fox. “New Zealand is one of those places where every Indigenous person wants to go. It was just breathtaking to see the lands, the beaches, the beauty of the people, as well as how strong their language is—Māori is their national language,” she says. The team made some short films and screened them in each other’s communities. “It was an opportunity for us to collaborate with one another and see each other’s festivals, connect with people from those territories, and build a strong sense of community across nations for Indigenous filmmakers. It was really memorable.”

Fox’s break into working in network television, was on APTN’s The Other Side, a documentary series that follows a team of Indigenous paranormal investigators on the pursuit to help unsettled spirits and their loved ones. She was brought on as assistant director with the opportunity to direct one episode. “It was the catalyst for me to work in network TV,” she notes, as it led to directing on other APTN shows like Amplify, a music documentary series featuring Indigenous songwriters, and Pow Wow Chow, a documentary series that follows Indigenous food vendors on the powwow trail. Fox has also worked as a senior story producer on Big Brother Canada (Global) and directed episodes of ZARQA (CBC Gem).

Four individuals in a snowy location
"Treaty Road" hosts Saxon de Cocq and Erin Goodpipe with director Candy Fox on location. Photo: 3 Story Pictures
Three individuals on film seet
de Coq, Goodpipe, and Fox on location for "Treaty Road". Photo: 3 Story Pictures
Interior documentary film set
Fox behind the camera for "Treaty Road". Photo: 3 Story Pictures

She considers her latest project to be one of the high points in her career. Fox is director and co-producer of the new APTN documentary series, Treaty Road, which follows Saxon de Cocq and Erin Goodpipe as they unveil the sites, history, and people connected to the signing of the numbered Treaties. They talk to experts, Knowledge Keepers, Elders, historians, and grassroots activists about the Treaties’ history and current climate. As de Cocq explores his Métis heritage, he and Goodpipe examine the role that his great-great-great-grandfather—who was a prominent Métis politician from the Red River region—played in these controversial agreements. Together, they confront the difficult truths of Canada’s colonization, comparing the promises made to those kept. Season one, which premiered in March 2024, explores the truth of what really happened in the first six numbered Treaties in Canada. A second season is slated to explore the remainder of the numbered Treaties, and eventually touch on some of the pre-colonial treaties and unceded territories.

de Cocq and Fox had worked together previously on The Other Side. “I saw what a strong director she is, so Candy was the first person who came to mind to direct when I was developing Treaty Road. We ended up bringing her on as a producer, as well—it seemed like a natural direction for her,” he says.

When de Cocq outlined the concept of the series to Fox, she jumped at the opportunity. “I could see the importance of the subject matter and felt a responsibility to help tell this story, because up to this point, I hadn’t seen a modern or contemporary depiction of the numbered Treaties,” she explains. “I thought back to high school and my own education of the Treaties, and I feel like that wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. So, thinking about that, it felt like there was a need for something to be made.”

Fox describes the series as “a journey that our two hosts are on, but it is also about history and contemporary issues and privileges the Indigenous voice.” As a Cree person, Fox is well aware of the effects of broken Treaties and colonization, such as intergenerational trauma. What she found most rewarding about the project was travelling to the different territories across the country and witnessing their resilience. “While they are still healing, the nations are still rooted in their culture and in their languages. They still thrive to this day after all these attempts at assimilation and genocide. I never get tired of seeing the beauty and strength within our communities.”

The rapport between Fox and de Cocq also contributed to a positive experience for everyone working on the show. “We’re on the road a lot and dealing with very serious content. Because Candy and I have such a good history together, we’re able to keep things light and grounded, and we’re able to laugh. You need that when you’re dealing with a project like this. And when we have to get back into things, we focus really well,” de Cocq says.

He also speaks highly of Fox’s interview skills. “Her ability to pull information out of people in an interview setting is unparalleled. She makes people feel very comfortable. She has a humble approach in the way she frames questions, which is important when people are reluctant to speak about serious issues,” he says. Fox is honoured that people were willing to share their stories with her. “It’s reaffirmed that the effects of colonization are a collective experience across the board. It’s a difficult thing to talk about and to reflect back on, but it also gives us strength to be able to share in that collective experience,” she says.

In the years since graduation, Fox has continued making independent films, as well. Her film, ahkâmêyimo nitânis/Keep Going, My Daughter (2019), is about a young couple living on Poundmaker Cree Nation who narrate a poetic and hopeful love letter to their daughter, reflecting the dreams of a new generation of Indigenous parents still healing from the traumas of colonialism. It premiered at Hot Docs in 2019 and was awarded Best Short and Audience Choice by the Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards. Her films have screened at festivals both nationally and internationally at imagineNATIVE, LA Skins, Vancouver International Film Festival, and Wairoa Māori Film Festival.

Looking to the future, Fox can see herself making a transition to scripted films, “I would like to do more writing and make some really fun movies. I’m really drawn to science fiction and Neo-noir movies. I like drama and horror as well.”

With her busy schedule, Fox is mindful of work/life balance. She loves to travel and has been to New Zealand, Japan, Jamaica, and Vietnam, to name a few. “I like exploring new places, eating new foods, and learning about new cultures,” she remarks. Her favourite thing is spending time with family. Over the last several months, she and her partner, Kezia, have been caring for a baby boy, named Zaiden, that they will be taking into guardianship soon. They hope to adopt Zaiden eventually. “He’s been a real joy to have around and is teaching us so much about parenthood,” Fox says. “We love him immensely.”

When asked what advice she would give film students graduating today, Fox counsels, “Just keep going. There were some points when I started out when I wasn’t sure if I was going to get work or not, but I just kept with it. I tried to do things that were meaningful for me, and I tried to tell stories from the heart. That’s what has really guided me—to lead with my heart.”

About the Author

Sabrina Cataldo BA’97, BJ’99, MA’23 is an award-winning writer and communicator who lives in Regina.

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The year was 1967 and the future was brimming with promise and potential. Tie dye, bell bottoms, and peace signs were everywhere as millions of visitors from around the world descended on Montréal's Expo 67 to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday.

Radio stations were playing Lulu's hit To Sir with love on repeat - the story of a young student's gratitude for a brilliant teacher who opened their mind to the world.

Stepping into this world was another brilliant young teacher by the name of Bernard Wilhelm - a Swiss intellectual whose visions of a bilingual studies centre would emerge in the middle of the prairies.

"At that time, the University of Regina was known as the University of Saskatchewan, Regina campus," begins Bernard's oldest son, Pierre Wilhelm BA'77, speaking from his home on the Sunshine Coast of BC.

"It was nothing but a dirt field, with a gym, library, several classroom buildings, and a heating plant. Campion College had just been built. But thanks to my father's vision, the French cultural hub known as the Bilingual Centre - later renamed La Cité - would become a gathering place for French speaking students."

The early years

"My father was an adventurer through literature and was fascinated by American writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, but also by French writers like André Malraux" says Pierre.

"Most young Swiss teachers ended up pursuing their studies in England, but my father felt that his destiny was in America. He met and married the love of his life, my mother Rita Finnerty, when the two of them were in teacher's college in Upper New York State. We like to say my father was fascinated with Rita Hayworth and wound up marrying his own Rita."

When Bernard returned to Switzerland, he proposed to his love by mailing an engagement ring in a Swiss Chocolate box because "he couldn't afford the duty that a ring would have cost."

Rita joined her fiancé in Switzerland and Bernard earned a living as a secondary school teacher. As was customary of the times, Rita supported Bernard as he pursued his PhD in comparative literature while she devoted time to raising three children: Jane BA'75, Pierre, and Christophe BA'81.

But Bernard felt stifled by the conservative European academic climate where politics and connections - not necessarily hard work - resulted in higher promotions. He made the decision to return to the United States and applied for numerous teaching positions; however, it was a small, relatively unknown university in Regina, Saskatchewan, that caught his eye.

"The position came with the opportunity to set up a bilingual centre. So, we put our belongings in storage and made the five-day transatlantic trip to New York with our little terrier pup named Whisky," remembers Pierre.

It was a time when the era of passenger ships was coming to an end in favour of air travel, and Bernard wanted his family to experience all that a seaward journey would offer. So, he purchased tickets for his family on the SS United States.

The family arrived in New York and paid cash for a white Ford station wagon and made the journey north, camping along the way during the height of Expo 67. After days of travel through Ontario and Manitoba, they finally arrived in Saskatchewan.

"I think my father was in a hurry to get to Regina. We were stopped by the RCMP and given a speeding ticket, but the officer was so friendly and said, 'Welcome to Saskatchewan!'"

Establishing Regina roots

As the family settled in Regina that fall, they soon learned the truth about prairie cold. Bernard also quickly realized that the promise of a "bilingual centre" would come up cold, with no associated funding. Undaunted, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work as an assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages.

Things radically changed once funding for bilingual education projects was made available under the Pierre Trudeau government in the late 1960s and early '70s. Bernard's enthusiasm soared as he established a unique academic institution offering students a BA with a bilingual distinction through courses in English and French. The Centre provided a space for English-speaking students to converse in French and become a part of Saskatchewan's francophone (or Fransaskois) community.

"Students and academics flocked to the many social encounters my father organized," says Pierre. "They came to drink fresh coffee, sample Beaujolais Nouveau or enjoy a cup of hot apple cider on a cold wintery day. Many came to read French magazines and newspapers or hear conference speakers."

In the summer, courses were offered for Québécois and French-speaking students who came from abroad to learn English and discover Western Canada.

For many years, Bernard was President of the Association France-Canada and invited academic and culturally prominent personalities to Regina. He was in his element hosting these guests, while his wife Rita welcomed them into their home.

"Rita was an accomplished hostess known for organizing dinners for these speakers," recalls Jane, 70, the eldest sibling, from her home in Geneva, Switzerland.

Jane recalls her mother serving a delicious meal of filet mignon en croûte (beef tenderloin in puff pastry) to celebrity Canadian cook, author, and media personality Madame Jehane Benoît OC, who famously introduced Tourtière (French-Canadian meat pies) to English Canadians.

"I recall Mme Benoît saying that most women weren't confident enough to serve her a home-cooked meal, so she was invited out to restaurants instead. I think she was very impressed that she met her culinary match in my mother and even told Rita the meal was excellent!" laughs Jane.

Rita obtained a master's degree in English literature at the U of R in 1973 and taught French at Luther High School for many years.

Individual at desk in the 1970s Bernard Wilhelm in his office at the University of Regina. All photos courtesy of the Wilhelm family.

A lasting legacy

As the director of the Bilingual Centre, Bernard helped numerous students advance their careers. He organized exchange programs, helping students from Western Canada learn French in France and Switzerland. He also enabled young assistants to become professional translators and interpreters.

"My father left a lasting impression on so many people," recalls Pierre. "This included his research assistant Mary-Ellen Parker-Murray, who went on to head Saskatchewan's Protocol Office before she moved to Toronto. She and her family remain close friends of ours and we still speak to her in French. Another student of French, Craig Pollock BA'87, became an interpreter for the Canadian government."

When Bernard passed away in November of 2016, former students flew back for the funeral from all parts of Canada.

"My brothers and I were really touched by a card that then University President Vianne Timmons sent to our family," says Jane. "She recognized our father's pioneering work at the university and his dedication to French-speaking communities."

Youngest son Christophe, who sadly passed away last year, also recognized his father's contribution to French culture. He once spoke about the similarities between his father and fellow Swiss professor Auguste Viatte, who both believed French-speaking minority cultures in Canada, Louisiana (the Cajuns), and the Caribbean (the Haitians) deserved to have their cultures collected, preserved, published, and shared on radio and television.

Bernard was not only a pioneer of French distance education, but he also published several books in French, including a literary "fransaskoise" anthology, as well as a profile of the French community of Zenon Park. He was an engaging media personality on Radio-Canada and his research helped link French-speaking communities in Saskatchewan with sister communities in Northern Ontario and in Québec via satellite and video phone.

Bernard passed away in 2016, almost one year after his beloved Rita. With Christophe now gone, Pierre and Jane are left to ponder their family's legacy.

"According to his wishes, we took our father's ashes to the Jura Mountains in Switzerland where he grew up," says Pierre. "He now rests next to our dear mother and our brother."

Rooted in higher education

A love of languages and higher learning have followed the Wilhelm siblings their entire lives.

After studying English and French literature at the U of R, Jane went on to pursue graduate studies in literature at the Université de Genève in Switzerland. She then obtained a PhD in comparative literature in Montréal and was later a Marie Curie Fellow at the Université Sorbonne in Paris, with a fellowship for advanced research from the European Union. She has worked for both the Swiss government and the executive council of the City of Geneva.

As a certified professional translator, Jane has also been a language and communications consultant for agencies including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. She has taught French, English, and translation at universities in Canada and Switzerland, with research focused on gender, translation, and intercultural communication.

Pierre completed a 30-year university teaching career, having taught at the U of R's Language Institute as a French instructor. He also became an expert in multimedia and mass communications, helping set up Athabasca University's online distance learning courses. Pierre's research led him to work in Mexico, Cuba, and other Latin American countries. He married the love of his life Mariela, whom he met in Regina - a Chilean woman who grew up in France after being exiled during the Chilean coup.

Pierre says his four children are representative of "Canada's multicultural blend" and they embrace Spanish, French, and English, with a strong attachment to Western Canada.

Youngest son Christophe was a brilliant businessman who rose to be Vice-President Strategy of the avionics division of the Thales Group - a world leader in cybersecurity and data protection.

In the early years, Christophe studied history at the U of R and was awarded the President's Medal when he graduated. He also won a Queen's Silver Jubilee Award to study in Montréal.

He pursued his master's in European history and won a scholarship to study at the Institute of European Studies, whose graduate program was twinned with that of International Relations at the Université de Genève. He later obtained a graduate degree in science and technology policy planning.

After obtaining his MBA in international business and finance, Christophe worked as a leading executive for US and European multinationals in the automotive, rail, aeronautical, space, and defense domains.

Jane says Christophe had access to the most sophisticated top-secret technological and geopolitical information in the world. "The ease with which he navigated between languages and cultures contributed to his success in business negotiation," she says proudly.

A few years before Christophe passed away, he had the chance to speak with the U of R about his outstanding world-level career - something that is especially difficult for a foreigner in France, a country that seldom allows outsiders that level of responsibility.

"I have had the incredible luck to put into practice almost all of what I have studied, working on some of the critical infrastructure projects that our governments - or we, as consumers - now rely upon. This has ranged from ballistic missile defense at NATO, to winning major air traffic management projects and space-based, global navigation satellite solutions at the European Union. My work has also included the negotiation of public-private partnerships in the rail domain and the setting-up and oversight of defense or aerospace joint ventures in Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, the US, Russia, and China."

Jane and Pierre both recall Christophe saying that what helped him most in his work as a brilliant geopolitical strategist was his early studies in history at the U of R. Navigating life without their brother hasn't been easy.  "Like our father, Christophe was charismatic," says Pierre. Christophe's legacy is summed up by former Thales Aerospace colleague Yannick Assouad, who said: "Christophe was a man of experience and wisdom, a true gentleman with outstanding human and professional qualities."

Moving forward while looking back

As world citizens, Jane and Pierre say they will always look back on their time in Regina fondly. Both share an immense pride in the contributions of their father and brother - and to the university where it all began.

"It's amazing to think that my father's decision to move our family there 60 years ago would have such a profound impact on all of our lives," adds Pierre.

Read this story en français!

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