STATEMENT BY GORD DOWNIE
Ogoki Post, Ontario
September 9, 2016


Mike Downie introduced me to Chanie Wenjack; he gave me the story from Ian Adam’s Maclean’s magazine story dating back to February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.”

Chanie was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to walk home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor know how to find it, but, like so many kids - more than anyone will be able to imagine - he tried. I never knew Chanie, the child his teachers misnamed Charlie, but I will always love him.

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; 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."

"Do we want to live in a haunted house the rest of our lives?” - Joseph Boyden

Proceeds from the sale of Secret Path will go to The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at The University of Manitoba.


ABOUT

Gord Downie began Secret Path as ten poems incited by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve year-old boy who died fifty years ago on October 22, 1966, in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario, walking home to the family he was taken from over 400 miles away. Gord was introduced to Chanie Wenjack (miscalled “Charlie” by his teachers) by Mike Downie, his brother, who shared with him Ian Adams’ Maclean’s story from February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.”

The stories Gord’s poems tell were fleshed into the ten songs of Secret Path with producers Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin. Recording took place over two sessions at the Bathouse in Bath, Ontario, November and December 2013. The music features Downie on vocals and guitars, with Drew and Hamelin playing all other instruments, except guest contributions by Charles Spearin (bass), Ohad Benchetrit (lap steel/guitar), Kevin Hearn (piano), and Dave “Billy Ray” Koster (drums).

In winter 2014, Gord and Mike brought the recently finished music to comic artist Jeff Lemire for his help illustrating Chanie’s story, bringing him and the many children like him to life.

Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history – the long-supressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system – with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation.

The ten song album will be released by Arts & Crafts accompanied by Lemire's eighty-eight page graphic novel published by Simon & Schuster Canada. Secret Path will arrive on October 18, 2016, in a deluxe vinyl and book edition, and as a book with album download.

Downie’s music and Lemire’s illustrations inspired The Secret Path, an animated film broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special in Sunday, October 23. The Secret Path and Road to Reconciliation panel discussion can be watched at cbc.ca/secretpath.


1. The Stranger
2. Swing Set
3. Seven Matches
4. I Will Not Be Struck
5. Son
6. Secret Path
7. Don't Let This Touch You
8. Haunt Them, Haunt Them, Haunt Them
9. The Only Place To Be
10. Here, Here and Here

BOOK

STATEMENT BY JEFF LEMIRE
I first met Gord Downie and his brother Mike back in the winter of 2014. They wanted to discuss a potential project and, over coffee, they told me the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack. Gord was then in the final stages of recording his incredible songs based on Chanie’s life and he shared the rough mixes with me in the hopes that I would be interested in creating a graphic novel to accompany his album. Before we left the coffee shop I knew I was going to do it. I had to. Chanie’s story is one that will not let you go once you hear it. It’s a story that can’t be ignored. And yet, somehow, it has been ignored. By nearly all of us.

Growing up white in Southern Ontario, I never learned about Chanie Wenjack or about any of the tens of thousands of other indigenous children like him who were part of Canada’s residential school system. This is such a massive part of our country’s history, yet our schools didn’t teach us about it. Why? Maybe because it’s easier to live with ourselves if we pretend stories like Chanie’s never happened. But they did happen, and still happen. Chanie Wenjack lived and died, and no one knows his story.

I’ve spent the last three years living with Chanie’s story and living inside Gord’s music. Gord’s haunting songs introduced me to Chanie Wenjack. Music is universal. It crosses languages and cultures and speaks to everyone, and I’ve always felt the medium of comics could do the same. It’s our hope that one day Secret Path will be taught in schools and that it will help to shed a light on this all too often ignored part of Canada’s past. I think, above all else, that’s what Gord and I wanted to create: something that can’t be ignored. Every Canadian should know Chanie Wenjack’s name and I hope Secret Path helps to make that a reality.



FILM

The Secret Path is an animated film adaptation of Gord Downie's album and Jeff Lemire's graphic novel. Working with Downie's poetry and music, Lemire has created a powerful visual representation of the life of Chanie Wenjack. The film is divided into ten chapters, each a song from Downie's musical retelling of Chanie's story – from his escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School, to his subsequent and heartbreaking death from hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. The final product is a uniquely immersive emotional experience - an insight into the life of a little boy who, as Gord has said, he never knew, "but will always love."

The Secret Path was created, written, and directed by Gord Downie, composed by Gord Downie with Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin, and illustrated by author Jeff Lemire. The film is executive produced by Mike Downie, Patrick Downie, Gord Downie, and Sarah Polley. The Secret Path is produced by Entertainment One (eOne) and Antica Productions Ltd. in association with CBC, with the participation of the Canada Media Fund and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit. Jocelyn Hamilton is executive producer for eOne Television and Stuart Coxe is executive producer for Antica Productions. Animation is directed by Justin Stephenson, produced at Solis Animation Inc. and composited by Even Steven Inc.

The Secret Path was broadcast by CBC in an hour-long commercial-free television special in Sunday, October 23. The Secret Path and Road to Reconciliation panel discussion can be watched at cbc.ca/secretpath.



Secret Path

GORD DOWNIE


Nov 29
Halifax, NS
Rebecca Cohn Auditorium
BUY TICKETS


All proceeds will be going to reconciliation.


CREDITS

For Willo, Clare, Louis, Clemens

For the place called ‘Canada’ – past, present, future

All of us.


Words by
GORD DOWNIE

Graphic Novel & Illustrations by
JEFF LEMIRE

Songs by GORD DOWNIE
with KEVIN DREW & DAVE HAMELIN

Produced and Mixed by
KEVIN DREW & DAVE HAMELIN

Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars by GORD DOWNIE
All other instrumentation by KEVIN DREW & DAVE HAMELIN



Guest Musicians:
CHARLES SPEARIN - Bass
OHAD BENCHETRIT - Lap Steel & Additional Guitar
KEVIN HEARN - Additional Keys
DAVE “BILLY RAY” KOSTER - Drums

Engineered by NYLES SPENCER

Recorded and Mixed at The Bathouse Recording Studios, Bath, ON, Canada
November 3 - November 10, 2013
November 27 - December 2, 2013

Mastered by ERIC BOULANGER, The Bakery, Culver City, CA, USA

Art Direction by JONATHAN SHEDLETZKY
Design & Layout by ISIS ESSERY
Website Design by IAN PORTER