Inspired by the tragedy of a 12-year-old Ojibway boy who died fleeing a residential school fifty years ago, former Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie has created a new album, graphic novel, and animated film titled "Secret Path,". The graphic novel is illustrated by "Descender" and "Sweet Tooth" creator and fellow Canadian Jeff Lemire, and the animation is based on his art. The album and comic are set to release on October 18 and the film will air on CBC on October 23.
Downie announced the project via Canada's CBC News announced today while visiting the family of Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack, whose body was found near a railway track in 1966; the boy was trying to return home to Marten Falls First Nation, also known as Ogoki Post, from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. The boy's family was not aware that he had left the school until a plane arrived carrying his body. According to CBC, at least 3200 children and possibly as many as 30,000 died in these schools care after the institutions removed them from indigenous families.
"Canada is not Canada,' Downie said, as quoted by CBC. "The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and the thousands like him — as we find out about ourselves, about all of us — but only when we do, can we truly call ourselves 'Canada.'
"Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada's story. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable"
Downie, who announced in May that he has terminal brain cancer, also used the Tragically Hip's nationally televised concert in August to advocate for First Nation causes.
All proceeds of "Secret Path" will benefit Canada's National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Winnipeg.
"We are grateful for Gord's efforts to shine much-needed light on this dark chapter of history and his humility, sincerity and artistry is matched only by his determination to tell the story of Charlie Wenjack and all youth from the residential school era, youth who never made it home," said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the project.
More information about "Secret Path," including pre-orders, can be found at secretpath.ca.