The Runaways Project: Help us tell these stories
This article was published by Maclean’s, written by Michael Friscolanti, October 20, 2016
This week, Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip released what he describes as “the best thing I’ve ever done”: Secret Path, a solo album and graphic novel inspired by the heartbreaking story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Ojibwe boy who perished in the freezing cold after fleeing residential school 50 years ago. Like so many, the iconic singer first read about the runaway in an old clip from Maclean’s, a 1967 story that drew national attention to a case that otherwise would have surely been forgotten.
Chanie was enrolled at Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont., and all he wanted was to get home to his family—in Ogoki Post, a reserve 600 km away. His died of exposure near a set of train tracks, with nothing but a few matches in his pocket.
Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Downie has committed his dying days and celebrity clout to shining a light on the shameful legacy of residential schools—through the lens of Chanie Wenjack—while urging every Canadian to play a role in the immeasurable healing that still needs to happen. All proceeds from his project, created in collaboration with Toronto artist Jeff Lemire, will go toward the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. “Chanie haunts me,” Downie says. “His story is Canada’s story.”
There are other stories, of course. During its exhaustive investigation, completed last year, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) uncovered evidence of at least 32 other children who lost their lives while attempting to run away from residential schools. In the months to come, Maclean’s wants to share their stories with the country, too—and we’d like your help.
Read the complete article and be part of this so important project, clicking here.