Skip to content

Windsor-Essex chapter screens ‘Secret Path’ film

The Council of Canadians Windsor-Essex chapter screened the animated film Secret Path this evening.

Chapter activist Randy Emerson has posted, “Council of Canadians Windsor-Essex Chapter along with Windsor On Watch and OPIRG are at the University of Windsor Student Center to watch a live-stream of Gord Downie’s Secret Path on CBC and discuss our role as settlers with reconciliation in mind.”

The Globe and Mail has reported, “Gord Downie’s solo album Secret Path began as 10 poems motivated by the story of Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack, a 12-year-old First Nations boy who in 1966 died from hunger and exposure after running away from a residential school in Kenora, Ont. The album, due Oct. 18, is to be accompanied by Jeff Lemire’s 88-page graphic novel. As well, Mr. Downie’s music and Mr. Lemire’s illustrations inspired Secret Path, an animated film to be broadcast by CBC in an hour-long, prime-time, commercial-free television special on Oct. 23.”

CBC adds, “The story of the 12-year-old boy who froze to death beside the railway tracks while trying to walk 600 kilometres home [to the Marten Falls First Nation] is getting a very public retelling through Gord Downie’s multi-media project, Secret Path. For his sister, Pearl (Wenjack) Achneepineskum, it’s a new opportunity to fulfil a promise she made the day her little brother’s body arrived home from residential school in a coffin. ‘I swore that I would do something about it the day he died. I would not have my brother’s death swept under a rug’, Achneepineskum said.”

Downie says, “Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were.”

Between the 1880s and 1996, 150,000 children were sent by the federal government to residential schools in Canada.

More than 6,000 children died at those schools.

Mi’kmaw lawyer Pam Palmater has written, “Indian residential schools were boarding schools created and designed by the federal government to eliminate the ‘Indian problem’ in Canada… Instead of receiving an education (most never received more than a grade six education), most were starved, beaten, tortured, raped and medically experimented on. In some schools, upwards of 40 per cent of Indigenous children never made it out alive. Nationally, the death rate for these children was one-in-25 — higher than the one-in-26 death rate for enlistees in the Second World War.”

In May 2015, Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin commented, “The most glaring blemish on the Canadian historic record relates to our treatment of the First Nations that lived here at the time of colonization. …The objective – I quote from Sir John A. Macdonald, our revered forefather – was to ‘take the Indian out of the child’…In the buzz-word of the day, assimilation; in the language of the 21st century, cultural genocide.” In April 2013, former prime minister Paul Martin stated, “Let us understand that what happened at the residential schools was the use of education for cultural genocide, and that the fact of the matter is — yes it was.”

The Council of Canadians has endorsed all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that was released last year. One of those recommendations calls, “upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, [to] make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.”

Palmater adds, “Moving forward, the biggest mistake that could come from this report would be for Canadians to historicize what happened. Indian policy is not a sad chapter in our history — it is a lethal reality for Indigenous people today. Today, there are more Indigenous children in state care than during the residential school era. Nationally, there are 30-40,000 children in care and in some provinces, like Manitoba, Indigenous children represent 90 per cent of all kids in care.”

To watch Secret Path, please click here.