Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and CBC Thunder Bay Executive Producer Michael Dick are inviting people from Thunder Bay and the surrounding area to watch CBC's premiere broadcast of Gord Downie's The Secret Path at a free community event this weekend.
"We are pleased to partner with CBC to present this opportunity for the entire community to come together to watch this powerful film," Chief Fiddler announced in a news release Monday. "We are inspired by Gord Downie's determination to share the story of Chanie 'Charlie' Wenjack and history of the Indian Residential School era, and we hope this will promote much-needed healing and reconciliation in the Thunder Bay community."
It's hoped the screening will serve as an important reminder of our shared history, said Michael Dick, CBC Thunder Bay's executive director.
"As a community it is my hope for us to unite and pay tribute to Gord Downie and his deep connection to Chanie Wenjack," Dick said.
The Secret Path broadcast will be held Sunday October 23 at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, 1 Paul Shaffer Drive, Thunder Bay. There is no charge for admission, but donations to Shelter House Thunder Bay are welcomed and encouraged.
The event will begin with a symposium and light refreshments from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. followed by a traditional ceremony with drumming and prayers in honour of Chanie Wenjack, his family and Gord Downie from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The Secret Path broadcast runs from 9:00 p.m.to 10:00 p.m.
Sunday's broadcast on CBC Television will follow performances by Gord Downie of his Secret Path album on October 18 in Ottawa and October 21 in Toronto. Members of Chanie's family will attend both concerts and will be welcomed at the Thunder Bay event.
October marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Chanie Wenjack. The 12-year-old boy died on October 22, 1966 after running away from Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in northwestern Ontario.
Travelling on foot in an attempt to make the 1,000-kilometre journey home to Ogoki Post, his body was found on October 23 along the railroad tracks, approximately 60 kilometres from the school near Kenora, Ontario.
The Secret Path is an animated film adaptation of Gord Downie's album and Jeff Lemire's graphic novel. Working with Downie's poetry and music, Lemire created a visual representation of the life of Chanie Wenjack.
The film is divided into ten chapters, each a song from Downie's musical retelling of Chanie's story — from his escape from the residential school, to his subsequent death from hunger and exposure.
The final product is an immersive experience which provides insights into the life of a little boy who, as Gord has said, he never knew, "but will always love," NAN stated in its release.
Launched in mid-October, The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund is a catalyst to jumpstart reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, part of Gord Downie's legacy, commitment and recognition of the wounds that will take generations to heal, the NAN release said.