Passing through Union Station last week I noticed a new (to me) installation. Do Something, is a project Gord Downie launched before his death.

A Bit Of The Backstory

Chanie Wenjack

Chanie Wenjack, misnamed Charlie Wenjack by his teachers, was an Anishinaabe boy born in Ogoki Post on the Marten Falls Reserve on January 19th, 1954. Chanie’s story, tragically, is like so many stories of Indigenous children in this country; he fell victim to Canada’s colonization of Indigenous Peoples.

In 1963, at the age of nine, Chanie was sent to the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential school in Kenora, Ontario. In 1966, at 12-years old, Chanie ran away from Cecilia Jeffrey, attempting to reunite with his family 600 kilometers away in Ogoki Post. Nine others ran away that same day, all but Chanie were caught within 24 hours.

Chanie’s body was found beside the railway tracks on October 22, 1966, a week after he fled. He succumbed to starvation and exposure. In his pocket was nothing but a little glass jar with seven wooden matches.

Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written.

Gord Downie

Gord Downie

Gord Downie was the lead singer, songwriter and driving creative force behind The Tragically Hip, who brought their energetic, live performances to audiences around the world for over three decades. The group released their first album, The Tragically Hip, in 1987 and have since released thirteen studio albums, including their final album, Man Machine Poem (2016). Gord also enjoyed a career as a solo artist. He released six albums, including Secret Path.

Gord directed music videos, narrated the Waterlife and National Parks Project documentaries, and appeared in a number of films including director Michael McGowan’s One Week and director Mike Clattenburg’s Trailer Park Boys: The Movie. In 2014, Gord and his brothers, Mike and Patrick, along with Patrick Sambrook, started the production company Edgarland Films.

In August of 2016, Gord asked all Canadians to look at the state of Indigenous-settler relations in this country and to “Do Something” to change them for the better. In December of 2016, Gord was given the Lakota Spirit Name, Wicapi Omani, which can be translated as “Man who walks among the stars” for his reconciliACTIONs.

Full info about the The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund can be found here.

Gord’s Legacy

In October of 2017, Gord Downie passed away with his children and family close by. His legacy, messages of hope, and powerful calls to action live on. Gord has dedicated his legacy to creating lasting, positive change in Canada; we are committed to making Gord proud as he begins to walk down this new path in his journey.

The description beside two of Gord’s portraits in the installation reads:

This project is an expansion of Union Station’s long-term partnership with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, which focuses on building awareness, education, and connections between all peoples in Canada and our shared path toward reconciliation.