In 2017, CUPE3908 president, and School of Education instructor Mitch Champagne, who is also a local school teacher, combined the work of his elementary students and Trent teacher candidates to create an educator resource inspired by Gord Downie’s record The Secret Path. This would be the beginning of an invaluable relationship between the Downie-Wenjack Foundation (DWF) and Champagne, that would eventually have DWF Artist Ambassador and Canadian musician, poet and artist Tom Wilson, join Champagne’s classroom in December 2022, as part of Sony Music’s Season of Giving.
In the spirit of collaboration and furthering this relationship, the Peterborough Public Library became the first public library to be recognized as a Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Legacy Space. On May 27, 2023, with the support of Jennifer Jones, CEO of the Peterborough Public Library and generous funding from Trent University union organizations and community partners, the new space was celebrated with an event that featured Indigenous voices and Trent Alum Sarah Lewis ‘14, Peterborough’s former Poet Laureate, Unity, residents, elected officials, and the Downie-Wenjack Foundation.
Speaking of the announcement, Champagne reflected, “While the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Legacy Space is finally open, the real work of the space is only now beginning. The intent is to provide free and accessible education programming for the community so that they can begin or continue their own learning journeys and better understand their roles as treaty people.”
Having many close ties to the organizations involved in the Legacy Space Project, executive director of the Trent University Faculty Association Marcus Harvey celebrated the community involvement in making this legacy space happen.
“At its core, the Legacy Space initiative reminds us that the work of building community and addressing historic wrongs need not be an abstraction, but is always within reach of those willing to transmute time and resources into social good. Perhaps this is why the project had such immediate appeal to Trent’s Unions, the United Way, and Peterborough’s Labour Council, each in their own way concerned to advance the work of Reconciliation in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough.”
The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Legacy Space is supported by the Trent University Faculty Association, the United Way, the Peterborough and District Labour Council, OPSEU 365, PVNC OECTA, KPR ETFO, and OPSEU 327 from the Peterborough County – City Health Unit and the Peterborough Public Library.