The new album, titled "Secret Path", is dedicated to a 12-year-old Ojibway boy who died from hunger and exposure trying to escape from a residential school near Kenora, Ont.
Just weeks after fans bid what they feared could be a final goodbye to beloved Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, the terminally ill singer revealed Friday that he will release a new solo album with an accompanying graphic novel and animated film inspired by the tragedy of Canada's residential school system. He had been named Charlie at the school. Secret Path will arrive on October 18, 2016, in a deluxe vinyl and book edition, and as a book with album download.
Downie has pledged to donate proceeds from the upcoming multimedia project - a solo album, a graphic novel and an animated film - to support the U of M-based National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The NCTR is located at the Unviersity of Manitoba.
I am trying in this small way to help spread what Murray Sinclair said, "This is not an aboriginal problem".
The stories Gord's poems tell were fleshed into the ten songs of Secret Path with producers Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin.
"I never knew Chanie, but I will always love him", Downie said. This is about Canada.
"It's something that has moved us deeply, I think, in this community - the University of Manitoba - and more broadly in Winnipeg and Manitoba". "Hearing stories of the survivors of the residential schools, these stories are horrific", he said, "and Gord Downie's statement that we didn't know what kind of a country we were, and we're learning it, and we want it to be different ... is something that we are well aligned with". "We are all accountable, but this begins in the late 1800s and goes to 1996".
"'White' Canada knew - one somebody's objective - nothing about this. We weren't taught it in school; it was hardly ever mentioned".
University of Manitoba President David Barnard says he's thrilled with Downie's support.
"If there are some Canadians that are choosing not to understand what happened in residential schools, perhaps this will help them understand because it's hard not to relate to it".
"The Secret Path Project represents such an initiative towards justice and healing, and to have an iconic artist such as Gord Downie take a personal interest in the plight of the former IRS students and in the healing process of our communities is truly remarkable".
"It's historic, in many ways", Mr. Fiddler said of Mr. Downie's travel to Northern Ontario and decision to commemorate the boy who died alone so many years ago.
"I don't know that that's been discussed at all, but the symbolic value of it is huge", Barnard said.
"We are grateful for Gord's efforts to shine much-needed light on this dark chapter of history and his humility, sincerity and artistry is matched only by his determination to tell the story of (Chanie) and all youth from the residential school era who never made it home", said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler in a statement. "Gord's contribution to the Centre will enable us to continue the work of identifying and remembering those children that never returned home from the schools".
His tragic story received national attention with the publication of the article "The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack" in Maclean's magazine in February 1967.