Students should see Gord Downie's Secret Path, NDP MLA says

NDP MLA Wab Kinew said he wants to see Gord Downie’s multimedia project Secret Path used to teach Manitoba students about the impact of residential schools.

Fort Rouge MLA Wab Kinew said he wants to see Downie's project on residential schools in Manitoba classrooms

NDP MLA Wab Kinew said he thinks Secret Path is an opportunity for parents and teachers to help kids learn about residential schools. (CBC)

NDP MLA Wab Kinew says he wants to see Gord Downie's multimedia project Secret Path used to teach Manitoba students about the impact of residential schools.

The album tells the tragic tale of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont.

The 10-track album is part of a multimedia project that includes a graphic novel illustrated by Jeff Lemire and an hour-long animated special that aired last Sunday on CBC.

The NDP politician raised the idea with Education Minister Ian Wishart in Question Period on Monday.

Great teaching tool, Kinew says

Kinew said he was touched by Downie's work. Kinew was raised in northwestern Ontario and some of his relatives went to the same residential schools as Chanie Wenjack. 

"Over the weekend I watched the Secret Path and was very moved by it. (I'm the) son of a residential school survivor and the father of two young kids in the K to 12 system ... I empathise with Chanie Wenjack," Kinew said.

A still from the graphic novel "Secret Path," written by Gord Downie and illustrated by Jeff Lemire. (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster)

Kinew said watching the broadcast made him think about the possibilities of using Secret Path in Manitoba schools.

"Its got a book component, its got a musical component with one of the country's great rock artists; it's emotionally resonant. This is a great teaching tool," Kinew said.

Kinew said teachers need to get some training and support to use the Secret Path. He said the Downie family have already been workshopping the material with some educators in Ontario.

Kinew said the story in the Secret Path is an opportunity for every parent.

"Look at Chanie and think about him the same way you think about the children in your life, and just pause and ask yourself if we shouldn't learn from these mistakes in the past so we can do better in the future," Kinew said.

Teachers can use it, province says

A spokesperson for Manitoba Education and Training said it's up to individual teachers whether they want to bring the piece into their classrooms.

"Teachers have the ability to show this in the classroom and we think that's great," the spokesperson said.

During Question Period, Wishart said he expected many teachers would choose to incorporate Secret Path or similar stories into their teaching.

The history of residential schools is already part of the Manitoba curriculum, said another provincial spokesperson. The material is taught in Grades 11 and 12, she said.