The Tragically Hip is likely pleased that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Michael Barclay’s new book, The Never-Ending Present (ECW Press), about the Canadian rock band and its inimitable late frontman Gord Downie — who passed away in October from brain cancer at age 53 — is going to two national charities, environmental law group EcoJustice and 119-year-old literacy advocates Frontier College.
“That was never really a question for me. It's just what you should do,” Barclay tells Samaritanmag.
Ecojustice formed in 1990. Its lawyers have represented community groups, non-profits, First Nations, and individual Canadians on the frontlines of the fight for environmental justice, and achieved legal precedents that “keep harmful substances out of the environment, protect wilderness and wildlife and take aim at climate change.”
Frontier College believes literacy is a right. Low literacy skills are directly linked to poverty, poor health, and high unemployment. Its volunteers provide programming to improve literacy in communities across Canada.
There is also a charitable component associated with all of Barclay’s promo appearances and events for The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper received a portion of the cover charge at the Toronto book launch at the Horseshoe Tavern and had a table set up inside, selling its clean water initiative Swim Drink Fish t-shirts, alongside Frontier College which had assorted pamphlets about their work. The author has events all over Ontario with more to be added.
While the members of The Hip were hugely, yet quietly, philanthropic during their 30-year history, except for a handful of bigger profile events, such as the concert for War Child Canada in Winnipeg in 2000 and Downie’s decade-long support of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper for which he was a board member, it wasn’t until the final year or so of his life that he became very public about his advocacy for Indigenous Peoples, launching The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, a call to action for reconciliation.
Barclay, who wrote extensively about The Hip's final tour in 2016 for Maclean's magazine, and co-authored 2001 and 2011’s Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance 1985-1995 (ECW) — has always selected a charity or two for his book projects. He has donated to at least 10 organizations from Camp Trillium for kids with cancer to The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Kids Help Phone. He tells Samaritanmag why.