Last month, Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie tugged on our heartstrings again with his Secret Path — the gut-wrenching story of Chanie Wenjack, who died beside the railroad tracks trying to make his way home after running away from a residential school 50 years ago. Secret Path is a series of poems which were turned into an album, a graphic novel and finally an animated special — all of which cast new light on Canada’s residential school history in general and Chanie’s plight in particular.
Gord’s brother Mike, Secret Path illustrator Jeff Lemire and the Wenjack family met with 33 education officials from each province and territory in Ottawa a few days ago, to formulate a plan to incorporate Secret Path into their curricula.
“We were contacted saying Gord Downie wants to take this on, and he has offered to take us all up to Ottawa to work on developing a resource around Secret Path and ways that we can take this resource and put it into our classrooms,” says Prince Edward Island department of education member Geoff MacDonald. “It is one of the richest resources that I have seen in relation to this.”
In PEI, the department has been working on the curriculum together with teachers and representatives from the Mi’kmaq Confederacy. They indicate that they hope to begin using it soon.
Proceeds from sales of Secret Path, which is available via Arts & Crafts, are being directed to the National Centre For Truth And Reconciliation, which aims to further Canadians’ education about the history of residential schools, and to move towards a future of reconciliation.