As Gord Downie prepared to take the stage in Halifax for his sold-out Secret Path show Tuesday night, his brother, Mike Downie, announced a spinoff project to establish so-called legacy rooms in restaurants and public spaces across the country.
Businesses are being asked to dedicate rooms or spaces to promote the discussion and understanding of Indigenous issues in response to calls of actions stemming from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Participating businesses would donate a percentage of sales for the year to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund and hold events in the dedicated space.
"It will be a physical reminder of this story, of Chanie, of Gord's commitment to the story," said Mike Downie, a filmmaker. "This is a great example of reconciliation."
The project is being kicked off in Halifax with hopes it will gain traction and spread across the country. Already, the Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar in the city's downtown core has signed on.
Outside Gord Downie's Secret Path show in Halifax pic.twitter.com/rsyWw3RDjB— @svankampenCBC
The idea was the brainchild of Morley Googoo, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He said the national advocacy groups hopes to sign up 100 businesses in Halifax in the next six months.
"In those rooms, those stories need to continue to be told," said Googoo. "Reconciliation comes in many, many forms, and a lot of corporate Canada doesn't know what their part is."
The Legacy Room project is part of Gord Downie's Secret Path initiative, an animated film with poems and music. The solo project by the Tragically Hip frontman tells the story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 trying to escape from a residential school near Kenora, Ont.
Mike Downie said his brother first heard Wenjack's story four years ago and never forgot it, even as he battles an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer announced earlier this year.
"I hope you enjoy the country's first year next year. Because that's what we're doing. We're starting over" @gorddownie ends the Secret Path— @elizmcmillan
"It never let Gord go, and never let me go," he said.
Proceeds from Tuesday's concert at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium will be donated to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.
Wenjack's family has been heavily involved in the project, which has produced a graphic novel in addition to the film.
His sister said Gord and Mike Downie, along with the Tragically Hip have "become part of our family."
"I had wanted to do something about my brother when he died that day in '66" said Pearl Wenjack. "I thought of calling Oprah, but I'm not very good at computers, so that failed."
Wenjack said she was surprised to get a call from Mike Downie about 2 1/2 years ago when the idea for the project was just getting off the ground. Wenjack finally met the Downie brothers in September. She said the collaboration has allowed her brother's story to finally be told.
"It brings two different kinds of people together — somebody that is nationally known and somebody that just lives in the bush."