The Secret Path: Freedom to Speak

A group of inmates read Secret Path for their book club — and discover that they deeply relate to Chanie Wenjack’s tragic story.
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The Secret Path: Freedom to Speak

Short Docs

Watch The Secret Path: Freedom to Speak on YouTube.

It’s not your average book club.

A group of inmates at Toronto South Detention Centre are studying Secret Path, Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel about Chanie Wenjack. Chanie was a young Anishinaabe boy who died while running away from residential school in 1966 — simply because he wanted to go home.

Many themes in Chanie’s story resonate with these inmates: isolation, identity, fear, anger, the desire for freedom. Secret Path: Freedom to Speak captures a discussion within the walls of the jail and reveals how Chanie's story has had a profound impact on each of these incarcerated individuals.

The book club program is a creation of the Toronto Public Library and Literal Change, a Toronto- based non-profit that runs reading groups and literacy programs for Ontario’s incarcerated population. In 2011, the Correctional Service of Canada estimated that two-thirds of federal inmates do not have the basic level of literacy required to function in modern society. Through this program, inmates are taught reading and writing skills to help them achieve their educational and career goals when they reintegrate back into society. In addition, more than 25 percent of federal inmates are of Indigenous descent, despite making up only about 4 per cent of the total Canadian population.