Gord Downie, lead singer of the legendary Canadian band the Tragically Hip, is teaming up with comics writer/artist Jeff Lemire, of Sweet Tooth, Extraordinary X-Men, and much more besides, for a comic that will accompany Downie's next solo album.

Secret Path tells the true, tragic story of Chanie Wenjack, an indigenous 12-year-old boy who died in 1966 while attempting to walk home to his family from the residential school he had been forcibly removed to.

Downie has been in the news recently, as he has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and has continued working prolifically in the face of that diagnosis. He toured with the Tragically Hip this summer, and the final concert of that tour was televised and watched by 11.7 million people.

Downie has long been an activist for First Nations and indigenous causes, and proceeds for this project 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 shameful story of Canada's residential school system is one that needs to be told and retold, but it's worth noting that it is primarily indigenous peoples' story to tell, so hopefully these two non-indigenous creators will show proper respect and consideration, and work closely with native people to make sure they do the best possible job in representing Chanie Wenjack.

 

 

In a statement from Gord Downie on his website, he said the following:

 

Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable, but this begins in the late 1800s and goes to 1996. “White” Canada knew – on somebody’s purpose – nothing about this. We weren’t taught it in school; it was hardly ever mentioned.

All of those Governments, and all of those Churches, for all of those years, misused themselves. They hurt many children. They broke up many families. They erased entire communities. It will take seven generations to fix this. Seven. Seven is not arbitrary. This is far from over. Things up north have never been harder. Canada is not Canada. We are not the country we think we are.

I am trying in this small way to help spread what Murray Sinclair said, “This is not an aboriginal problem. This is a Canadian problem. Because at the same time that aboriginal people were being demeaned in the schools and their culture and language were being taken away from them and they were being told that they were inferior, they were pagans, that they were heathens and savages and that they were unworthy of being respected – that very same message was being given to the non-aboriginal children in the public schools as well… They need to know that history includes them.” (Murray Sinclair, Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2015)

I have always wondered why, even as a kid, I never thought of Canada as a country – It’s not a popular thought; you keep it to yourself – I never wrote of it as so. The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him – as we find out about ourselves, about all of us – but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, “Canada."