Gord Downie's brothers discuss his loss and legacy
Published Friday, October 20, 2017 12:14PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 20, 2017 10:13PM EDT
Gord Downie’s grieving brothers are taking comfort in the legacy that the 53-year-old Tragically Hip singer leaves behind.
Patrick and Mike Downie sat down with CTV’s Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme at Toronto’s famous Horseshoe Tavern on Friday, ahead of a private family memorial.
Mike Downie said that in the less than two years between Gord’s 2015 cancer diagnosis and his death on Tuesday, he managed to work his way through a list.
“Improving Indigenous lives was at the top of the list,” Mike said.
Last year, the Downie brothers released “The Secret Path,” an album, graphic novel and animated film that teaches the story of Chanie Wenjack, an Ojibway boy who died after escaping a northern Ontario residential school in 1966.
Their project was created with the blessing of Wenjack’s family, after the three brothers travelled to Ogoki in northern Ontario. Mike said that trip showed them a bit of what it’s like to live on a First Nation without clean drinking water.
“Once you get a little bit educated, then it’s time for action,” he said. “That’s what happened for us. (Gord) really knew that he had put something in motion. Our task is to try and keep that in motion because that’s what he would have wanted.”
The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund was also launched. It’s working toward reconciliation, in part by paying for teachers to have The Secret Path in classrooms as a starting point for lessons on residential schools.
“The Secret Path in the classroom was a big one for Gord,” Mike said.
Mike added that his brother’s vision for Canada is “a country that our Indigenous brothers and sisters could be proud of.”
In addition to thousands of fans and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indigenous leaders are also mourning Downie. Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said earlier this week that “words cannot express our sorrow.”
Patrick Downie told LaFlamme that it’s been nice to see his brother get his due. “There’s no denying who he is and how large he is in this country,” Patrick said. “But it does make it harder.”
Patrick added that Gord’s four children, the youngest among them age 11, are “doing the best they can.”
“A lot of people have been telling us he was very special,” Patrick said. “He was a very special brother. He worked very hard at all of his relationships, especially his family. He was a very special, father, son, brother, husband… he always had a nice little twinkle in his eye. So did my dad.”
Mike said his brother would have liked the outpouring of love, although “it would have freaked him out a little bit too.”
“I think he really would have been touched and then the next day he would have been moving on to the next thing,” Mike added. “I guarantee you.”