Carson Graham Secondary School choir signing the Coast Salish Anthem on April 29, 2019 at The Secret Path film screening at Centennial Theatre.
On April 29, 2019, the North Vancouver School District Indigenous Education Team hosted a community screening of the Film, The Secret Path, at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver. The Secret Path is an animated film that tells the true story of Chanie Wenjack. Chanie was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966. He died while walking along the railroad tracks trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Ontario. He was trying to walk home. His home was 400 miles away.
The 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 Canada on a road to reconciliation. The Secret Path was the impetus for creating The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. The goal of the fund is to continue the conversation that began with Chanie Wenjack’s residential school story, and to aid the collective reconciliation journey through awareness, education, and action. Six schools in the North Vancouver School District are currently participating in the Downie Wenjack Fund Legacy Schools program. This program provides opportunity for classrooms and schools to lead the movement in awareness of the history and impact of the Residential School System on Indigenous Peoples.
As part of the North Vancouver School District's commitment to reconciliation, the school district hosted a community film screening of The Secret Path. The school district was honoured and greatly humbled that Mike Downie, from the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, was in attendance for this special evening. The North Vancouver School District's Indigenous Education team believes that through three pathways of education - students, staff and community - that a greater understanding of the truth, and the shared responsibility towards reconciliation, can be achieved. The film screening event was well attended with 576 in the audience, including staff, students, parents and community members.
The evening began with opening remarks by Brad Baker, North Vancouver School District Principal of Indigenous Education. Next, there was a traditional welcome by Vince White, District Principal of Learning Services, Inclusive Education. School district Superintendent, Mark Pearmain, Assistant Superintendents, Pius Ryan and Chris Atkinson, and Director of Instruction, Arlene Martin, all shared their professional and personal growth and understandings of Indigenous history and the impacts of residential schools. Throughout the evening, students and community members also shared personal stories and song.
Sempulyan (Stewart Gonzales) sharing his story of attending residential schools.
Sempulyan (Stewart Gonzales), Squamish Nation and an Indian Residential School Survivor, shared his personal experiences of attending both Indian Day School and Indian Residential School. Stewart’s words were powerful, impactful and deeply moving.
The Carson Graham Secondary School choir shared the Coast Salish Anthem and O Canada, while Mountainside Secondary School student, Emma Jeffrey, sang two original songs. The Windsor Secondary School choir sang the Tragically Hip song, Ahead by A Century, and The Secret Path.
The Windsor Secondary School Choir performing on April 29, 2019 at The Secret Path film screening at Centennial Theatre.
Mike Downie speaks about his journey of reconciliation.
Mike Downie also shared his thoughts and personal experiences with The Secret Path, and moving forward with his brother Gord Downie’s vision for a better community and country that understands and acknowledges the history and impacts of residential schools. He emphasized the importance of taking action. Schools are central to this action.
The main takeaway of the event for many of those in attendance was that they could not walk away from the event and do nothing. Everyone was charged with the task of doing something towards reconciliation.