I’ve always questioned Canada and the values of Canadians.
It was almost exactly a year ago when I caught a glimpse of the high bar of what I thought Canadians could be though. Given the greatest spotlight he could ever have, Gord Downie chose to tell one of the most important stories in the history of his country. He told the story of Chanie Wenjack and released the “Secret Path” exactly one year ago.
“Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable,” said Downie on the website for this important story.
Now a year later the news that he has passed on has been shared by his family.
I believe that we came from the cosmos as a people, and that the stars are our celestial ancestors. I think we are made of star stuff. It’s something I thought about on the day that the Assembly of First Nations gave Gord Downie an Indigenous name: “Wicapi Omani” which is Lakota for “He Walks Among the Stars”. I wondered if the Lakota people shared the connection to our greater galactic selves and if his name was a link to the idea that we need to reach for the stars when setting our own aspirational standards.
In the summer of 2016 the Tragically Hip ended a nation changing run as the band of Canada. Given the attention of the nation, the Prime Minister, and people everywhere Gord Downie used the platform to talk about the issue at the heart of what Canada is or isn’t. He talked about relations with First Nations people and demanded a different result.
“It’s going to take us 100 years to figure out what the hell went on up there,” said Gord Downie that final night of the Tragically Hip’s final concert ever referring to the suicide and water crises in Northern and remote First Nations communities, “but it isn’t cool and everybody knows that. It’s really, really bad, but we’re going to figure it out, you’re going to figure it out.”
He was talking to the Prime Minister, but I think in his patriotism he was talking to the people of Canada who he thought the PM embodied.
“You’re going to figure it out.”
Learn about the dark ongoing legacy of Canada. Be aware but don’t be idle. Be emboldened to be the kind of Canadian the Hip’s frontman was. If you think that being Canadian is being like Gord Downie then set your goals as high as the cosmos and honour his legacy by being great.
A Canada full of Canadians like that is a place that everybody on this part of the continent could value.