Secret Path is a graphic novel by musician Gord Downie and illustrator Jeff Lemire that tells the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who died in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School fifty years ago.
Chanie, misnamed Charlie by his teachers, was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to return home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor how to find it, but, like so many kids—more than anyone will be able to imagine—he tried.
Chanie’s story is Canada’s story. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable. Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history—the long suppressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system—with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation. Every year as we remember Chanie Wenjack, the hope for Secret Path is that it educates all Canadians young and old on this omitted part of our history, urging our entire nation to play an active role in the preservation of Indigenous lives and culture in Canada.
The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him—as we find out about ourselves, about all of us—but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, “Canada.”
Proceeds from Secret Path will be donated to The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at The University of Manitoba.
Jeff Lemire is the award winning, New York Times bestselling author of such graphic novels as Essex County, Sweet Tooth, The Underwater Welder, and Roughneck, as well as the cocreator of Descender with Dustin Nguyen, Black Hammer with Dean Ormston, Gideon Falls with Andrea Sorrentino, and many others. He also collaborated with celebrated musician Gord Downie on the graphic novel and album The Secret Path, which was made into an animated film in 2016. Jeff has won numerous awards, including an Eisner Award and Juno Award in 2017. Jeff has also written extensively for both Marvel and DC Comics. Many of his books are currently in development for film and television, including both Descender and A.D. After Death at Sony Pictures, Essex County at the CBC, The Underwater Welder and Plutona at Waypoint Entertainment, and Gideon Falls with Hivemind Media, as well as the Eisner-Award winning Black Hammer at Legendary Entertainment. He lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife and son, and their troublesome pug, Lola. Visit him at JefLemireComics.com or on Twitter @JeffLemire.