The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at the University of Manitoba announced a unique partnership today, teaming up with The Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie.
Downie has pledged to donate proceeds from his upcoming multimedia project,Secret Path, to support the important work of the NCTR in honouring the stories of residential school survivors.
“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,’” Downie wrote in a statement.
Encompassing a new solo album and graphic novel, Secret Path relates the story of 12-year-old Charlie “Chanie” Wenjack, who died in 1966 while trying to return home from Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario.
“Like many millions of Canadians, the University of Manitoba community has been deeply moved this summer by the courage, candor and humanity Gord Downie has exhibited on the final tour of The Tragically Hip,” says David Barnard, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Manitoba.
“We all know that Mr. Downie, when the spotlight was trained on him last month during that remarkable Tragically Hip concert in Kingston, deflected the attention away from himself and onto a cause central to our nation’s future: the right to dignity and well-being for Indigenous peoples. Today Mr. Downie backs up his appeal made that night with this generous gift to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba to support ongoing efforts to identify and remember other children that never returned home from the schools. Through Mr. Downie’s efforts, Charlie’s story will rightfully live on in all our hearts.”
This announcement came following a visit by Gord Downie and NCTR director Ry Moran to Ogoki Post, Charlie’s community and final resting place in northwestern Ontario.
“With Gord shining his light on Charlie’s story, I hope Canadians will take another step along the path to realize just how harmful and devastating those schools were for the over 150,000 children that attended them,” says Moran. “Gord’s contribution to the Centre will enable us to continue the work of identifying and remembering those children that never returned home from the schools.”
All donations will be deposited into “Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation.” The fund will support the NCTR’s initiatives related to missing children and unmarked burials.
“It is exceptionally powerful when we see one of Canada’s most well-known and loved performers, Gord Downie, lend his voice in the struggle for Truth and Reconciliation. For far too long in this country, the stories of the children that never returned home from the residential schools have been ignored or silenced by mainstream Canada,”Moran says.
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. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s missing children report here.
“As a community of 150,000-plus students, staff and alumni, the University of Manitoba is privileged to be able to honour Mr. Downie’s vision in this way,” President Barnard says. “We accompany him on this journey with gratitude and humility.”