Gord Downie announces creation of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund

Image via Wikimedia
Image via Wikimedia

Donations go towards Truth and Reconciliation

By Lauren Kelly, Editor-in-Chief

Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip, recently announced the creation of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. It is named after Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old boy who froze to death escaping a residential school in 1966. Downie learned the young boy’s story from a 1967 Maclean’s article titled “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack,” as his teachers incorrectly called him.

Downie was diagnosed with glioblastoma—a terminal form of brain cancer—last December, and has since made this fund his focus. As part of this legacy project, Downie is releasing a new album called Secret Path, with songs inspired by Wenjack, as well as a companion graphic novel by Jeff Lemire. He will perform two concerts on October 18 and 21, performing the new songs. A one-hour animated film titled The Secret Path will also air on CBC. Proceeds from all of these will go directly to the fund.

In an interview with Peter Mansbridge on October 13 to promote the fund, Downie commented that Canada’s 150th anniversary next year isn’t something to be celebrated due to the country’s history with its Aboriginal populations.

Instead, he’s looking forward: “The new 150 years can be years of building an actual nation. Imagine if they were part of us and we them, how incredibly cool it would make us? That’s what’s missing as we celebrate doughnuts and hockey.”

He hopes that his fund, which will be handled via the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), will be a part of achieving that. The NCTR is dedicated to preserving and bringing light to the history of the residential school system, and he hopes that this knowledge will help unite the nation.

“Generations grew up not hearing about what’s happening in the North and in Indigenous communities everywhere,” Downie explained in a statement. “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.”

The Secret Path will air on October 23 at 9 p.m. on CBC without commercials, and the album and graphic novel will be released on October 18.