Canadian Music Week is pleased to announce Gord Downie as the 2019 recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award. Outside of his career as a musician, poet and front-man for The Tragically Hip, Gord committed his time to causes close to his heart. He dedicated the last few years of his life educating the country on its past, moving toward reconciliation and also spent many years working with the Lake Ontario Waterkeepers among other organizations.
Alongside his brothers in The Hip, Gord and the band supported their hometown community of Kingston during their career, giving back to local organizations with proceeds from their Kingston shows.
“Gord Downie was an inspiration to all Canadians, and his life’s work represented the embodiment of all that the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award celebrates. His legacy continues to resonate through his music and lyrics and, most importantly, through the growth and enterprise of The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund,” said Gary Slaight, CEO and President of Slaight Communications/Slaight Family Foundation.
Gord was inspired by Chanie Wenjack’s story, and with his brothers started the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF). With Gord’s call to action to build a better Canada, DWF has worked to build cultural understanding and create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. Representatives from the Downie family will receive the award at the annual Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards Gala Dinner at Rebel Entertainment Complex in Toronto on Thursday, May 9, 2019.
“Gord Downie created a legacy during his final years, dedicated to creating a positive change in Canada. This legacy demonstrates how just one story can inspire an entire generation,” said Neill Dixon, President of Canadian Music Week. “The compassion and determination of Gord Downie is at the heart of the “Humanitarian Spirit” Award and we are thrilled to celebrate him at the Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards.”
The Wenjack and Downie families officially founded The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund in 2016 to support reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. DWF operated as a fund through the Toronto Foundation and Tides Canada until receiving charitable status in March 2018.
Since it’s inception DWF has developed programs and initiatives based on their three guiding pillars of awareness, education and action which contribute to a national movement where all Canadians are participating in reconciliation. They achieve this through their Legacy Schools program, Legacy Spaces program and Secret Path Week.
The DWF Legacy Schools Program launched in September 2018 with a tremendous response from schools, educators, and students across Canada. The DWF Legacy Schools has 477 Legacy Schools registered, 880 Legacy School toolkits distributed to every Provinces & Territory, and 1,977 participating classrooms reaching over 59,000 students nation-wide!
Gord also spent time on the board for Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, an organization that is working to restore our waterways to ensure they are Swimmable, Drinkable and Fishable today and for future generations. Having an early connection to water, Gord was a passionate ambassador for Waterkeeper.
He worked closely with LOW to stop Lafarge from burning tires and waste materials near the town of Bath and created the Heart Of A Lake events to bring environmental awareness to local communities through art.
Gord and The Hip worked with many charitable organizations throughout their career. Giving back to their local community of Kingston was always a top priority for the band, organizing events for local causes like Almost Home, Camp Trillium, The Community Foundation of Greater Kingston, and the benefit for their friend and radio host Glenn Williams.
The band were always willing to provide their time to meaningful causes. They headlined the first War Child event in Winnipeg, which was the largest outdoor benefit concert in Canada at the time, raising national awareness and funds for the charity.