Canada's Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) premieres tonight season 2 of Spirit Talker, "a documentary series that will follow Mi’kmaq medium Shawn Leonard as he travels from coast to coast using his psychic abilities to connect the living with the dead and bring hope, healing, and closure to indigenous communities" [hmm, they neglected to capitalize "indigenous"]. I've watched all of season 1 so I will certainly watch at least this first episode — not so much for what Shawn says and does (which is all fairly predictable, tired old shtick) but more for enlightening glimpses of behind-the-scenes. And of course I always appreciate drone footage for letting us know that no matter how natural a scene might appear, it is staged. CTV News Atlantic (Halifax NS) did this promo piece (Keeping Up with Katie Kelly) introducing the series:
Katie: When you watch the show, you you [unintelligible] ... You know so much. People are shocked by what you say. Is it real? Is it all real?
Shawn: It's absolutely 100% real, yea. This isn't like a scripted show in any way. This is like... They just put me in front of people and let me do my thing.
In spite of being unscripted, Shawn's on-site production team includes some seven other people whose bread and butter depends on how good they can make Shawn look. Shawn himself is not of course an unwitting pawn of the deceased. His art, such as it is, likely goes back to his 1995 marriage to Melissa McClinchy who brought a dabbling in pseudoscience to their relationship. At some point, the paranormal pastime became a public persona focus as Shawn strove* to incorporate his Indigenous ancestry into the act, dropping (for example) his Beaupre surname. Melissa herself was dropped by 2014 and an attempt at an Indigenous wedding in 2015 to a Bonny Martell ended bitterly a mere eighteen months later. The current status of his subsequent relationship to a Michelle Belanger (not the occult author) — though touted at one point as his fiancée — is unknown to me.
Perhaps a good indicator of Shawn's reach is this photograph ...
* Even today Shawn attempts to consolidate his public persona by attempting to nuance his biography. In the Katie Kelly interview he states: "I'm a very proud Mi'kmaq person. I never grew up on reserve. I grew up near to the reserve in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia." It is actually a pretty clever utterance in leaving the listener with the impression that even in childhood his Aboriginal ancestry was influential. With his mixed parentage and his mother's casual approach to her own Indigenous identity, that is unlikely to have been so.