Visibly shaken, Trudeau praised Downie and the music he created with his band, noting the impact he had on Canadians from coast to coast.
“Gord was my friend,” said a tearful Trudeau. “But he was everyone’s friend … our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had. And not just with a nebulous ‘Oh, I love Canada’ way, he loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.”
WATCH: Toronto sign dims in honour of Gord Downie
Trudeau released an official statement on Downie’s passing:
“For almost five decades, Gord Downie uncovered and told the stories of Canada. He was the frontman of one of Canada’s most iconic bands, a rock star, artist, and poet whose evocative lyrics came to define a country.
WATCH: Toronto Maple Leafs pay tribute to Gord Downie
“The Tragically Hip’s music invited us to explore places we had never been – from Mistaken Point to Churchill – and helped us understand each other, while capturing the complexity and vastness of the place we call home.
“Gord’s command of language was profound. He painted landscapes with his words, elevating Canadian geography, historical figures, and myths. When he spoke, he gave us goosebumps and made us proud to be Canadian. Our identity and culture are richer because of his music, which was always raw and honest – like Gord himself.
“In the wake of his diagnosis, Gord only fought harder for what he believed in: social justice, environmentalism, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Before passing, he shined his light on the story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack who died from hunger and exposure after trying to find his way home from a residential school. For his work raising awareness of Indigenous issues, he was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada in 2017.
“Gord did not rest from working for the issues he cared about, and his commitment and passion will continue to motivate Canadians for years to come.
“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to Gord’s family, friends, bandmates and crew members, and his many, many fans. He will be sorely missed.”
Trudeau and Downie were friends, indeed. The pair had many notable public meetings and shared many hugs.
During the Tragically Hip’s final show in Kingston, Ont., in August of 2016, Downie thanked Trudeau from the concert stage before the music began.
“Thank you to the prime minister for coming to our show,” he said to the crowd. “It really means a lot, to all of us. He’s going to be looking good for about at least 12 more years, I don’t know if they let you go much more beyond that … we’re in real good hands, folks.”
WATCH BELOW: Alan Cross calls for ‘national period of mourning’ for Gord Downie
Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party, and Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, also tweeted condolences to Downie.