Just two days after what would have been the 53rd birthday of one of the nation’s most beloved Canadians, the brothers of Gord Downie are carrying on the late musician’s legacy.
Mike and Patrick Downie paid a visit to London-area schools on Friday to continue their brother’s push for reconciliation as well as his call for more attention to Indigenous issues in Canada.
During a visit to Antler River Elementary School in Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Ont., the brothers asked about 50 students sitting cross-legged in the school’s gym if they knew about Chanie Wenjack — a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who died of hunger and exposure while fleeing a residential school in 1966.
It was Wenjack’s tragic story that would become the focus of Downie’s final project, Secret Path. It also inspired the creation of the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF), an Indigenous-led initiative that works to improve the lives of Indigenous people in Canada.
“Gord did the right thing at the right time,” said Downie’s brother, Mike.
“He brought a lot of attention to an issue that we all should’ve known about a long time ago.”
“I think we can create a generation who is so much more aware of Indigenous culture, teaching, language and Indigenous lives,” said Mike, adding that the DWF works to create a network of educators who focus on Indigenous history.
“As Gord says, ‘it’s going to take a hundred years to put this country back to where it should be.’ He’s probably right.”
WATCH: Sister of Chanie Wenjack talks brother being inspiration for Gord Downie’s ‘The Secret Path’
Krystal Myles is a Ryerson University student who is teaching on a placement at Antler River. She told 980 CFPL that she was happy to see the elementary school’s students brimming with pride during Friday’s visit.
“The fact that Gord’s brothers are continuing to support and bring Indigenous issues to light is absolutely amazing,” said Myles.
“Hopefully, one day things will be as it should, but until then, we still are battling through reconciliation and are continuing to do so.”
The brothers made two other stops on Friday to Central Public School in Woodstock and Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School in London.
The visits were made in partnership with London’s 2019 Juno Week Host Committee.
In a release, committee chair Chris Campbell said the committee wanted to “leverage the spotlight our city has right now” in order to respond to Downie’s call to take action on reconciliation.