Is it possible to change the world while healing your wounds? This is what Inuit activist Aaju Peter is trying to discover in the documentary Twice Colonized, which opens the 33rd International Indigenous Presence Festival tonight.

Mother, lawyer, activist: Aaju Peter has it all. The one who received the Order of Canada in 2012 is best known for her fight for the improvement of the rights of the Inuit and for her decision-making against the ban by the European Union on the product of the seal fishery. A fight immortalized in the documentary Angry Inuk by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. But Aaju Peter is a much more complex being than the image conveyed by the media.

Danish filmmaker Lin Alluna filmed her for seven years for her feature debut, Twice Colonized, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year. A documentary that breaks with the models of the genre, the autobiographical and personal aspect of the subject being used to feel the universality of the subject.

“I really didn’t want to be portrayed as a hero,” says Aaju Peter, reached at her home in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Aaju Peter wanted her story to serve as an expression of the many Indigenous peoples who struggle daily against oppression to protect their language, culture and roots. To put his experience and background to good use while opening the dialogue. Because colonialism, she knows. Twice rather than once.

Born in 1960 in Greenland into a nomadic Inuit family, she was sent to Denmark at the age of 11, completely forgetting her native language during her teenage years. Her return home is not smooth, the young adult being a source of ridicule from those around her.

“It helped me to return to Greenland while filming the documentary,” says the 63-year-old lawyer. I was so traumatized that I have no memories of my childhood. »

In the early 1980s, she experienced a second form of colonization by settling in Canada. She witnesses, powerless, the fate reserved for the indigenous populations and their claims to control their own destiny, their difficulty in existing in this world.

“Being involved in the equation is a first step in the right direction and it’s important to create an identity,” says the designer and musician.

The particularity of Twice Colonized is to mix the private garden of its protagonist with its public quest. These two aspects feed constantly, becoming the backbone of a narrative that puts the desire for liberation at the forefront.

Aaju Peter is thus filmed in his intimacy. The empathetic camera captures its essence and slips away before falling into voyeurism. There is this mother who is devastated when she learns of the suicide of her youngest son. Then there is this same woman who seeks to get rid of the toxic influence of her lover. Tragic ordeals that shake him and allow him to redefine himself. A resilience and ultimately a rebirth that is expressed in particular on screen through the use of energetic, instrumental or popular music.

This daily feeds its global commitment and defines its main focus: to establish an indigenous peoples’ forum at the European Union. A mission that is far from over.

To achieve this, she does not hesitate to share her journey and to build bridges with other minorities – such as the Sami, who inhabit three countries in Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula, in Russia – in order to recall the importance of mutual aid and cohesion.

“I look at what Quebecers have done to protect their language, their culture and their rights and it is inspiring, compares the activist. There is a place for everyone in Canada. »

Through his struggles in his personal and professional life, Aaju Peter is therefore proof that it is possible to change the world while healing his wounds.

“You have no choice,” she asserts. You can’t wait to be well to change things. There are so many events that happen every day, but we are equipped to deal with them. I am currently in a process of double decolonization and it is very exciting. »