Canada is mourning over the loss of beloved singer/songwriter Gord Downie. We knew it was coming but it still hurts.
In May 2016, we found out from Gord’s doctors that he was diagnosed with glioblastoma – an aggressive, incurable brain cancer. Patients with glioblastoma live for 1-3 years after being diagnosed. So we knew it was going to happen. And Gord wanted to spend his last years making memories and living in the moment with his family, friends, wife Laura and their four children. But he also spent that time bringing light to the struggles of Canada’s indigenous peoples and our preserving and protecting our precious environment.
For his philanthropic work and career in music, Gord received the Order of Canada in June 2017. The Tragically Hip did a farewell tour where Gord needed a teleprompter to remember the lyrics he’d been singing for over 30 years – his cancer taking over the parts of his brain that helped him remember. He released solo work as well – Secret Path was a collection of Gord’s poetry about Chanie Wenjack, a 12 year old Ojibwe boy who escaped the residential school he was placed in in 1966 to return to his family that he was taken away from. They lived over 600 kilometres away and Chanie died from exposure on his journey. The poetry was turned into a graphic novel and then Gord’s own solo tour, highlighting indigenous struggles from past and present in our country. Struggles Canadians tend to forget – or try to avoid.
Gord used his fame as a platform to bring these Canadian issues to a whole new generation. His fans would listen to him, support his causes and were active on social media and ready to share his passions. And he wasn’t afraid of losing fans because if you didn’t agree with him, you were probably wrong anyway. Now his fans can carry the torch of the work he left behind and speak up for those that aren’t always heard – be it our wildlife or our indigenous brothers and sisters living on First Nation reserves with no clean water. Let’s continue Gord’s work. Let’s pay tribute to Wicapi Omani (Man Who Walks Among the Stars) and keep the light under his feet brighter than ever before.
~ Natalie (Running Squirrel)