The Secret Path of a Canadian Icon

Some would argue that over the last three decades Canada and the Hip have been synonymous with one another. If one wanted to wrap themselves in a contemplative, rich and revealing cloak of Canadiana, the Tragically Hip catalogue would serve such a goal better than any other. Over these last 30 years their frontman Gord Downie has also released five solo albums. What will perhaps be his last is a grim reminder of a national disgrace, but once again his poetry is Canadian to its core.

Secret Path, released just yesterday, is a concept album that recounts the tragic death of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old indigenous boy who 50 years ago this week died of exposure and starvation along a railway track, after running from a residential school to get back to his home some 600 km away. His story is Canada’s story, as we are the sum of our parts, warts and all, and must recognise and acknowledge all that has brought us to where we are now - the good, the bad and the ugly. Doing so allows us to learn, to grow and thus venture forward with hope in our hearts.

Downie`s fascination with Wenjack’s story isn’t new. Secret Path was actually recorded prior to he being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer back in late 2013. The release was delayed while graphic novelist Jeff Lemire turned his work into a book that accompanies the album. Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire's project Secret Path, a fundraiser for The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, is not the first work of art to approach the legacy of residential schools on Turtle Island - a government initiative that saw more than 150,000 children taken from their families to be Canadianzed - but it is the one likely to reach the most people.