Mike Downie

Speaker


Mike Downie

Co-Creator, Secret Path | Documentary Filmmaker

When Mike Downie first heard the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack—an Ojibway boy who died while running away from his residential school—it was like an arrow shot through his heart. Haunted, he shared the story with his brother, celebrated musician Gord Downie, and the two vowed to find a way to tell it to the world. The result was their multi-media project Secret Path, consisting of a music album and a graphic novel and film (with artist Jeff Lemire), that has captured the hearts and minds of Canadians. Using Chanie’s story as a starting point, Mike helps audiences understand Canada’s troubling legacy of residential schools, to explore how to reconcile with the past and bring healing as individuals and as a nation.

A celebrated storyteller, Mike is writer, director, and producer of numerous documentaries, as well as a founder of Edgarland Films. He is the winner of a Canadian Screen Award for Best Science Documentary for his film, Invasion of the Brain Snatchers. He received a Gemini Award nomination for Best Direction, and a nomination for the Allan King Award for Documentary Excellence for his film, One Ocean. The documentary also won two prestigious Chris Awards at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival.

Mike is co-founder of the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund, part of the movement to jumpstart reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.

Before his career in film and television, Mike worked as a deep shaft miner in Northern Ontario, a medical researcher at McGill University, a junior economist in Toronto, and as a windsurfing instructor in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He holds a Bachelor of Science with Honours from Queen’s University, and an MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business.


Secret Path

When Mike Downie first heard the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, it was like an arrow shot through his heart. Haunted by the story, he and his brother, musician Gord Downie, vowed to find a way to tell it to the world. The result was their multi-media project, consisting of a music album and a graphic novel and film (with artist Jeff Lemire), that has captured the hearts and minds of Canadians across the country.

Using Chanie’s story as a starting point, Mike takes audiences through the dark chapter of residential schools in Canada, and helps people to understand the importance of reconciliation with history and the need for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together.

Mike also explains his own journey on the “path”, explaining how undertaking the project has transformed him, and that “life’s most important moments are never a choice—they’re a force pushing you, and when you learn to trust the invisible hand on the small of your back, it will guide you into the great unknown.”