By Chris Pickup

With a self-described deep interest in history and preserving stories of the past, Canfield’s Graeme Bachiu was awarded a $2,000 Haldimand County grant through the community partnership program to his independent company Windecker Road Films. 

The grant is to help with production costs of a documentary television series entitled “The Black Settlers of Canfield’. The original request, made December 10, was for $5,000.

The $2,000 was approved at Haldimand’s council in committee Tuesday. However, it is likely to be boosted at council meeting Monday, through an amendment, after councillors voiced their enthusiastic backing for the project. 

Councillor Rob Shirton wanted to know why the recommended approval amount differed from the original request.

The request is a bit different from the norm, he was told by staff, but consistent with past approval of a similar type request. 

“It’s a possible rabbit hole in raising expectations,” CAO Craig Manley had noted (of this kind of request) at the December 10 council in committee. “We need a staff report re funding options. It’s taxpayers’ money.”

“It’s an extreme benefit to the community,” said Cayuga councillor John Metcalfe, Tuesday, noting the cemetery in Canfield is filled with the graves of black settler residents. 

“We need to be cautious but it’s a hot topic right now and of immense benefit to the county.” He volunteered vibrancy fund money to top the grant up.

Councillor Bernie Corbett had also supported the project at the December 10 meeting.

“Canfield has a rich history, and this project would be a benefit to the community. “Black history is important to these people, and they will travel if they know they can find family history here.”

“The Black Settlers of Canfield” will explore the stories of the descendants of the black settlers who arrived in Canfield via the underground railroad and found a new home of inclusivity, diversity and respect, says Bachiu.

He has partnered in research with local resident Sylvia Weaver who has given many talks on the subject and was instrumental in the establishment of the black settlement marker in Canfield. 

Bacchiu filmed that event and made it available to Haldimand county for promotional, tourism and archival purposes.

Heritage Haldimand supports the new project, and has already donated $300, as has Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation.

The project, funded 75% by a $30,000 Bell Media grant, will be broadcast via Bell’s Fibe TV1 streaming service in the fall of 2020, which unfortunately is not available in this area. However Bachiu has promised to provide free “hard” copies of the final project to every Haldimand library and the county archives.

In addition, the county will be promoted in each episode and has the potential to reach a motivated, urban audience with its positive message about the quality of life in Haldimand, Bachiu says.

Hewitt congratulated Bachiu. “It’s good news all around.”