Mike and Gord Downie and the family of Chanie Wenjack today announced the creation of The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. This will focus on creating new relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and will be part of Gord Downie’s legacy, commitment and recognition of the wounds that will take generations to heal.
In a press release issued this morning, Gord Downie explained that “Generations grew up not hearing about what’s happening in the North and in Indigenous communities everywhere. The next generation can’t be raised the same way. It is my hope that the Fund will do its part in starting to bridge some of the gaps that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.”
At the closing concert of The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem Tour on August 20, Gord Downie called upon Canadians to look North and “do something”. He since travelled to Ogoki Post to meet with the family of Chanie Wenjack.
Chanie was a young boy who died in October 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. Chanie’s story will be told through Secret Path, an album and a graphic novel that will be released on October 18, with an animated film adaptation on October 23.
“It’s time for us to acknowledge and help the people we were trained to ignore. It’s time to do something,” said Mike Downie. “This Fund will help make this a reality and will act as a catalyst to forge relationships for reconciliation.”
“Our family and community are grateful that Gord is lending his voice to this important story,” the Wenjack Family said in a statement. Several members of the Wenjack Family will be present at the inaugural Secret Path performance at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on October 18. A second concert will take place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on October 21.
The Fund is currently operating out of the Toronto Foundation, with a majority of Indigenous peoples on its Board of Directors. It is being guided by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Donations to the Fund are now being accepted here The Fund is also on Twitter and Facebook.
The fund announcement is accompanied by “The Stranger”, the first full song and chapter of Secret Path. Adapted from Gord Downie’s album and Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel, The Secret Path chronicles the heartbreaking story of Chanie’s residential school experience and subsequent death as he escapes and attempts to walk 600 km home to his family. The film will be broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special on Sunday, October 23 at 9pm (9:30 NT) and streamed worldwide here
“The Stranger” appears in advance of Gord Downie’s exclusive interview for CBC’s The National with CBC News Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge. It airs tonight, Thursday, October 13 at 9pm on CBC News Network and at 10pm (10:30 NT) on CBC.
Secret Path will arrive on October 18 in a special deluxe vinyl and book edition released by Arts & Crafts, and as a book with album download published by Simon & Schuster Canada.
Proceeds from Secret Path will be donated to The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at The University of Manitoba. The NCTR is dedicated to preserving the history of the residential schools in Canada, making this history known, and moving our country forward on the path of reconciliation.