I have always been a fan of the iconic Canadian band, The Tragically Hip, and revered the poetic lyrics by Gord Downie. After the news of Gord’s terminal cancer, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be going to see them live in concert, one more time; and I was extremely fortunate to have been in the front row at one of their concerts this past summer. I watched Gord Downie perform with such an amazing commitment to his art-form and audience, and I held it together until near the end of the concert when I heard the first couple of bars of “Ahead By A Century."
That night, my respect for Gord Downie amplified, and continues to grow as Gord releases Secret Path: a 10 song album and graphic novel illustrated by Jeff Lemire, that tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who died trying to escape the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in 1966, walking the railroad tracks to return to his home, 400 miles away. Proceeds from the sales of the Secret Path album and novel will be donated to The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at The University of Manitoba. The animated film adaptation of The Secret Path will be broadcast by CBC Sunday, Oct 23 at 9pm and you’ll also be able to view it online at www.cbc.ca/secretpath.
Tonight, as I host this Open Mic event in my hometown of Esterhazy, I will be passing around "The Hat," to collect donations for the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, a newly fund created by The Downie and Wenjack families that will support the healing and recovery of the First Peoples of our country, and foster new relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. My hope is for this event to continue on a monthly basis, bringing out all the local musicians and music lovers, while also working towards raising awareness and funds for such an extremely important issue in our country. Much thanks to Gord Downie and the Downie and Wenjack families, for creating this much needed fund to help heal our people.