In 2016, two months after the final Tragically Hip show, Gord Downie returned to the stage for a very limited run of shows, during which he presented Secret Path.
A series of 10 poems turned into song, it tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy born in Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve. In 1963, at the age of 9, Chanie was sent to the Cecelia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. Three years later, Chanie ran away from the school, attempting to reunite with his family 600 kilometers away in Ogoki Post. Chanie’s body was found beside the railroad tracks on October 22, 1966, a week after he fled. He succumbed to starvation and exposure.
Secret Path, the music and accompanying graphic novel by Jeff Lemire, is the legacy project Gord most wanted Canadians to keep in their hearts and minds after he left us.
Now, three years later, the musicians who worked with Downie on the album and performed with him at Roy Thomson Hall are reuniting for what promises to be a powerful night honouring the legacies of both Downie and Wenjack, all in support of the organization that bears their names. On Saturday, October 19, Kevin Hearn (Barenaked Ladies), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers), Dave Hamelin (The Stills) and Charles Spearin (Do Make Say Think) will once again take the stage at Roy Thomson Hall to perform Secret Path.
Standing in Downie’s place will be a series of as-yet-unannounced singers, representing both Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures.
The concert will be a fundraiser for the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund and takes place during the second annual Secret Path Week, a national movement commemorating the legacies of both Downie and Wenjack, taking place annually from October 17-22. During this time DWF calls upon all Canadians to answer Gord’s call to “Do Something” by creating a reconciliACTION and furthering the conversation about the history of residential schools.
“The idea is to recreate the 2016 performance,” said Rob Ferreira, who has been supporting DWF for several years and first organized fundraising efforts in Downie’s name during the final Hip tour in 2016.
There will also be guest dancers and other artists to round out the evening, creating an “immersive cultural experience, celebrating Indigenous history, commemorating the lives of Gord and Chanie,” he said. “It’s going to be a very special night.”
Tickets for the October 19 show – two years and two days after Downie’s death and just less than three years after Downie’s final singing performance – go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. with a presale code sent to those on the DWF’s mailing list for a Wednesday morning availability.
Roy Thomson Hall has around 2,600 seats, meaning this will be an intimate performance for those who attend. Prices range from $75 CAD for balcony seating to $500 for a seat up close to the stage, but some tickets offer a special bonus: Each ticket sold for $500 will also provide a seat for an Indigenous youth or DWF Legacy School student who would otherwise not afford to attend the show.
Bringing students into the audience is a key element of what DWF was created to do, improving the lives of Indigenous people by building awareness, education and connection among all Canadians.
“The hope is there’s a bunch of kids there. We expose the kids to these 10 poems and this cultural immersive experience…they come, they experience this, then they go home with questions. That’s how these conversations start,” Ferreira said.
Tickets at the $150, $175, $250 and $500 level are also eligible for charitable tax receipts.
“I think it’s going to bring people back to a place that was so emotional for them a few years ago,” he said. “They’re going to relive that experience again and have that connection to what Gord asked us to do.”
The evening is being produced in part by Patrick and Mike Downie, Gord’s brothers, lending yet another layer of magic to the event.
“To have Indigenous people singing Gord’s music? Man. Gord’s going to be watching over this with a big smile on his face,” Ferreira said. “He’s going to love this.”