For Chanie… and the Secret Path


Before I start, I want to say that I’m proudly Canadian, I always have been. I see Canada as a land of opportunity, a country that cares, a beautiful place, one that embraces diversity, a safe place to live, work and play. I am proud that we accelerated bringing over 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada earlier this year. It was the right thing to do.

Tonight I had the profound privilege and experience (with my wife Leilany) to see and hear the incredible Gord Downie perform his Secret Path concert in Halifax. I had heard some of the story, but had not paid that close attention to it…


This amazingly true story is about a young aboriginal boy named Chanie Wenjack who left his “residential” home in Kenora, Ontario to walk 400 miles to his true home. He was just 12 years old and it was 1966. He never made it, dying alone, as many other aboriginal children did through various other circumstances. All equally tragic and sad.

And this happened in Canada, our Canada. The last “residential” school only closed in 1996. All told over the previous 100 years over 150,000 aboriginal children were taken from their homes and their families!

Chanie’s sisters Pearl and Daisy were in attendance at the show. Pearl spoke with sincerity and heart, and sang a beautiful song in her native language about forgiveness for people of all colours. That was also amazing. Such courage, such power to forgive.

I’m still proudly Canadian, but tonight taught me we need to better, much better. The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund is designed to help all of us do just that, and we can all participate. I hope you check out the Secret Path website.

Most Canadians know that Gord Downie is battling terminal cancer. His courageous effort to share Chanie’s story and through that the stories all aboriginal children who were sent to residential schools, those no longer here and the survivors, is simply a testament to a great man and a truly great Canadian.

I hope that you take the time to learn more about the Secret Path and that you share this story with others. We are Canadian. And we can do better. As Gord said, “we are all connected in some way”.

Thanks to Gord, brother Mike Downie, illustrator Jeff Lemire and the entire team for sharing this story. Every Canadian should see it.

Jim Mills
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