Burns Lake local and former Lakes District Secondary School student Barbara Patrick, will be the first Indigenous character in a Hallmark movie.
Patrick, who did her schooling in Burns Lake, is Carrier/Dene and will play an Indigenous character Suzanne Ralston in the upcoming movie.
“I am mixed race, my mom is Dutch and my dad is from Stellat’en First Nation. I went to preschool on the Lake Babine Band reserve and so that time there had a lot of influence over me. This role in particular is really cool and I am really excited about it because when I got to the set, the director said ‘I know you are Indigenous so do you want to incorporate that into your character?’”
“I was so taken aback by that because nobody on set has ever asked me that before and because we don’t really find Indigenous characters on TV unless it is specifically a story line for an Indigenous character.”
Patrick’s entry into the glamour world at the young age of 14 years, was a stroke of luck when she got discovered in Prince George while on a shopping trip with family.
“I grew up in Burns Lake and throughout my life there, we would go to Prince George for shopping trips. In 1997, I won a modeling contest in the Pine Centre mall. It was a big whirlwind. Originally we thought it was a runway show and that was kind of the only reason why my mom let me do it. It wasn’t that my mom didn’t want me to model, but she wanted me to focus on school,” she said. For Patrick, her performance in the competition was a success not just because of her efforts but also because of an outside influence. “John Dennis and his wife along with their daughter Mary Dennis really impacted me with teaching me how to dance traditionally,” she said.
After winning the competition, the following year Patrick went to Japan by herself and calls it a “big moment of trust” for her parents, in her and her career choice. She then modeled for about 10 years internationally in Hong Kong, Spain, Greece, New York, South Africa, before she finally came back to Canada in around 2007.
Upon returning, she started venturing into acting and has had several roles like her roles in the series Arrow, Supergirl or movies like Small Town Christmas and Little Fish.
Patrick said that while she was doing all these roles, and commercials she would always think of how she would play a bigger role in bringing the Indigenous people in focus.
“It has always been my goal to represent First Nations and mixed race people on TV shows because we are just not represented. So that’s why, this role for me I thought to myself is a good opportunity for First Nations people. And Suzanne Ralston is just like everybody else, they allowed me to wear my mukluks, my earrings and few of them are what I got from Burns Lake area,” she said.
Patrick’s movie Fire Star Christmas will be airing on Nov. 27 at 8 p.m.
“For me, it is a great honour that with this role, the Hallmark network is finally acknowledging First Nations people as people. And I was able to stay in character just like everybody else and not the way it is depicted usually which is kind of in a negative light,” she said.
While Patrick herself stays in Vancouver, her parents still stay in Burns Lake. Norma, her mother, is a nurse at Grassy Plains clinic, and her father, Steven, works in Prince George during the week. Patrick often visits Burns Lake.
“Burns Lake is such a special community, and I have always carried that with me. Every time before auditions, before Covid happened, we all had to sit in a room; it is just so nerve wrecking. They then make you introduce yourselves and so one of the mantras I would say was ‘I am Barbara Patrick, from Burns Lake.” For some reason that just always makes me feel stronger,” she said, adding, “Burns Lake is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I am so lucky to have grown up there. I am proud to be from Burns Lake and proud to represent the Indigenous community.”