Every Child Matters: The Lonely Death of Chanie Wenjack
with Michael Downie
Original premiere date: 24 September 2021
On January 19, 2022, Chanie Wenjack would have turned 67 years of age.
He died in 1967 at the age of 12 after running away from a residential school in northern Ontario. He tried to walk close to 400 miles in the cold weather to get back home.
Chanie was a member of the Ojibway and he was attending the Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School in Kenora, Ontario. He became lonely and ran away. He died trying to get home to see his father. His story is heartbreaking. It is one that Gord Downie of Tragically Hip shares in “Secret Path,” the beloved singer`s last solo musical and video release.
Downie said, “I never knew Chanie, but I will always love him. He haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. We are not the country we thought we were.” In his last on-stage performance, he called out to Prime Minister Trudeau to fix the problems in northern Canada, saying, “It’s maybe worse than it’s ever been, so it’s not on the improve.”
According to the “United Nations Index on Human Development - Quality of Life,” people who live on band or reservation lands in Canada have a standard of living that is ranked 63rd in the world. The rest of Canada is ranked 6th. According to former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde, “6th versus 63 is an enormous gap in the standard of living. It’s a gap that represents a disproportionate number of First Nations people in prisons; it represents the high youth suicide rate, which is four to five times the national average; it represents 40,000 indigenous children in foster care and it represents a cap on education funding that is close to half of provincial averages.”
Michael Downie, the Tragically Hip singer’s older brother and the filmmaker who produced “Secret Path,” carries on the work of the foundation the two set up, the “Downie Wenjack Fund.” The fund calls on Canadians to build a better country and to see the people we’ve been trained to ignore.
Stuart McNish invited Michael Downie to join him for a Conversation That Matters about the need to build awareness, advance education, and enhance connections between all peoples in Canada.
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