Daisy Munroe says frontman’s visit north to launch project, meet Chanie’s family was appreciated
CBC News Posted: Oct 19, 2017 3:04 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 19, 2017 3:09 PM ET
One of Chanie Wenjack’s sisters says the work Gord Downie did in the final months of his life brought some much-needed attention, not only to her brother’s story, but those of other residential school survivors as well.
Wenjack’s death — where his body was found alongside railroad tracks in 1966 after he ran away from a school near Kenora, Ont. — was the subject of Downie’s Secret Path, a 2016 multi-media project that included a solo album, a graphic novel and an animated film.
- New Gord Downie work devoted to First Nations boy who died running away from residential school
- What Chanie Wenjack’s sister wants from Gord Downie’s Secret Path
- Gord Downie’s Secret Path brings hope to Chanie Wenjack’s family, 50 years after boy’s death
“We were aware of [Secret Path], we just didn’t know how big a project it was,” Daisy Munroe said on Thursday of when the singer travelled to visit the Wenjack family and the community of Ogoki (also known as Marten Falls First Nation) last year.
Downie, 53, died Tuesday night from glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer.
“It was also something that my family and I and the rest of the residential school survivors have always wanted, was the exposure to what happened in the schools that we attended,” she continued.
That in-person visit was appreciated, Munroe said. “He wanted to do it, I guess, to make it a personal kind of thing,” she said. “I know he just didn’t want to do it over the phone … he just wanted the face-to-face with the family and all that; it was good.”
- Indigenous leaders pay tribute to Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie
- ‘Words cannot express our sorrow’: Northern Ontario First Nations mourn passing of Gord Downie
The release of Secret Path commemorated 50-years since Chanie Wenjack’s death. Munroe said survivors telling their stories has to continue.
“I always wanted other people, survivors … to get their own story out and start talking about what happened and for people to know,” she said.
A fund was also established in Downie’s and Wenjack’s names to aid in reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
In the final months of his life, Downie used his celebrity to speak out in support of issues facing Indigenous communities.
During the final concert by the Tragically Hip, the band he fronted for over 30 years, he told a cross-country audience it was time to get serious about reconciliation with Indigenous communities and addressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly.
Given the type of cancer Downie was battling, Munroe said she always knew the time would come when he would pass away.