Thursday, October 19, 2017
Gord Downie and the Spirit of Chanie Wenjack
Like everybody else I knew Gord Downie was dying, from an aggressive form of brain cancer that grows fast and spreads quickly.
But I was amazed at how long he lasted before death finally claimed him.
I was impressed by all the things he managed to do in the time he had left.
And nothing moved me more than this.
The way he brought the story of Chanie Wenjack back to life again.
For the story of that Ojibway boy who lived in Northern Ontario, couldn't be a more Canadian story, or a more powerful story of resistance.
Even if it ended so tragically.
And this dramatized image will haunt me forever.
By the time Chanie Wenjack finally collapsed, he was starving, he was freezing, and he was so weak his body was covered with cuts and bruises from falling on the tracks over and over again.
And all he had on him was a little glass jar with half a dozen wooden matches.
But at least he had run for his freedom, like so many Canadian children still dream of doing, as I once did, to get away from the bullies who torment them.
And at least he died free, unlike all those other native children who died in residential schools far from those who loved them.
In what were for many nothing more than prisons designed to exterminate their precious culture.
So I was glad that Gord Downie was able to turn Chanie Wenjack's story into a ten song album called The Secret Path and a graphic novel by Jeff Lemire.
And this is a song from that album called The Stranger.
It will always be a sad story, and now it's even even sadder.
And I thought Justin Trudeau, who was Gord's friend, spoke for me and many other Canadians yesterday.
But I also like to think that now that Gord is finally free from pain, just like Chanie was finally free.
The two can sing and dance in the spirit world forever.,,
And one thing is for sure, they will never be forgotten...