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'His story is Canada's story': Gord Downie to release album, graphic novel in honour of Chanie Wenjack

Editorial Staff

Weeks after he bid an emotional farewell to 11.7 million Canadians as the frontman for the Tragically Hip, Gord Downie has announced a solo album, graphic novel and CBC special to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the death of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old indigenous boy who died while attempting to flee a residential school.

The package, titled Secret Path, is due out Oct. 18, with the accompanying animated film to air on CBC on Oct. 23.

"I never knew Chanie, the child his teachers misnamed Charlie, but I will always love him," the terminally ill singer and poet said in a statement.

Wenjack died of exposure and hunger while attempting to walk 650 km from the residential school back to his home on the Marten Falls First Nation, northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont. His body was found near Kenora, Ont., 60 km from the school.

"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 writes.

Secret Path began as ten poems penned by Downie, and was subsequently recorded in November and December of 2013.

The album, which, like the last Hip release, was produced by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and former Stills man Dave Hamlin, will be accompanied by an 88-page graphic novel illustrated by Jeff Lemire.

Proceeds from sales 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.

Downie and a small group of filmmakers made a two-day visit to Marten Falls earlier this week, accompanied by grand chiefs from the area and representatives of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.