Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie is set to release a new solo album just weeks after The Hip’s final show of the Man Machine Poem Tour in hometown Kingston, Ont.
The new album, titled “Secret Path,” is dedicated to a 12-year-old Ojibway boy who died from hunger and exposure trying to escape from a residential school near Kenora, Ont.
“I never knew Chanie, the child his teachers misnamed Charlie, but I will always love him,” wrote Downie in a statement released Friday.
Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack’s body was found in 1966 along the railroad tracks near Kenora, Ont.
Downie’s new album – which will be accompanied by a graphic novel and a film – aims to educate Canadian’s about his story and about residential schools.
— Gord Downie (@gorddownie) September 9, 2016
Wenjack’s death sparked the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found more than 300 children died and thousands were physically and sexually abused at residential schools. There were 18 residential schools for indigenous children in Ontario alone. The last one didn’t close until 1991.
In May, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized to First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities for the “brutalities” suffered at residential schools, calling it one of the most “shameful chapters” in Canada’s history.
“‘White’ Canada knew – one somebody’s purpose – nothing about this. We weren’t taught it; it was hardly ever mentioned,” Downie said.
“This is far from over. Things up north have never been harder.”
According to CBC, Downie visited Wenjack’s family in Marten Falls First Nation, also known as Ogoki Post, on Thursday.
The new album, graphic novel and film are set to be released in October.
The announcement comes just 20 days since Downie preformed an emotional show with The Tragically Hip in their hometown of Kingston that was widely described as the Hip’s final show. In May, Downie revealed he was suffering from incurable brain cancer.
During the show, Downie launched into one of his trademark onstage rants, calling out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in the crowd for the show.
“It’s going to take us 100 years to figure out what the hell went on up there,” he continued, “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.”