The tragic story of Chanie Wenjack, an Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) First Nations boy from Ogoki Post in Northern Ontario, who died from exposure while fleeing a residential school to return home to his family in 1966 is emblematic of Canada’s systematic mistreatment of Indigenous people. After learning about this story decades later, musician Gord Downie made the decision to chronicle Chanie’s tragic experience with his album The Secret Path.
Downie’s objective with this project was to centre Indigenous issues in Canada’s national dialogue and raise awareness about the terrible legacy of residential schools. What began as a collection of ten poems by Downie became a Juno-award winning album, a graphic novel, and a documentary.
What was the communications opportunity?
The Secret Path album and graphic novel were launched at a series of live concerts in Toronto, Halifax, and Ottawa. MediaStyle was called upon to assist one of Canada’s most influential artists in telling a tragic but necessary story and, subsequently, engage Canadians in the work of reconciliation.
What did we accomplish?
MediaStyle collaborated with the Secret Path creative team and production company to develop an earned media strategy that would maximize coverage and help Chanie’s story to reach Canadians all across the country.
The Downie Wenjack Fund
During this collaboration, MediaStyle was also deeply involved in the development and launch of the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund. The fund is part of Gord Downie’s legacy and embodies his commitment, and that of his family, to improving the lives of First Peoples.
Given our work in social innovation and with Indigenous-serving organizations, this project allowed us to leverage many of our strengths.
MediaStyle took a leadership role in developing the organization’s first brand, which needed to make a big impact when it was first being introduced to Canadians. We leveraged Gord Downie’s iconic hat from August 2016’s Tragically Hip concert as the main identifier.
We were also proud to collaborate on the communications and donor strategy, corporate positioning, media relations and event management around the official launch of the fund.