Published Aug 22, 2016Impressively, 11.7 million viewers tuned in to watch the final show of the Tragically Hip's "Man Machine Poem" tour in Kingston on Saturday (August 20), and in addition to the emotional performance, viewers also saw frontman Gord Downie calling Canada to action to address ongoing First Nations issues.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance, and before performing "Machine," Downie took the opportunity praise the federal government's attempts at reconciliation with First Nations so far, claiming: "He's going to take us where we need to go."
Later in the show, the singer once again brought up the pleas of First Nations people, saying, "We were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what's going on up there."
Downie continued, "And what's going on up there ain't good. It's not cool and everybody knows it. It may be worse than it's ever been." Once again singling out the prime minister, he proclaimed: "We're going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help."
Immediate responses surfaced on Twitter from artists and media figures from First Nations communities, conveying feelings of both hope and scepticism.
Gord is right. We have been trained. But now we can change. Wisdom. We love you Gord. #TheHip— Jesse Wente (@jessewente) August 21, 2016
Others saw it as an opportunity to pressure Trudeau into making Downie's hope for reconciliation a reality by taking tangible steps.
Trudeau tweeted his appreciation for the band following the iconic show, but has yet to offer a direct response to questions about the First Nations issues raised during and after the show.
On behalf of Canadians, I thank Gord Downie and the Hip for their decades of service to Canadian music. Forever in our hearts and playlists.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 21, 2016
Trudeau's Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has publicly acknowledged the call to action, though, calling it both "heartening" and "daunting."
"I felt that obviously it's hugely heartening that one of the most recognized and revered Canadians believes in the prime minister and believes that we're serious about this project," she told reporters yesterday (August 21). "But it's also daunting, to say that we need to produce on this."
Acknowledging that Downie's assessment was a fair one, she explained that most Canadians don't have a deep understanding of the country as a whole, but rather focus on a tiny portion within 100 miles of the American border — echoing Downie's sentiments that children aren't taught about the "majesty" of a nation whose actual centre falls in Bake Lake, Nunavut.
"I think people know that this isn't going to happen overnight," she said. "But you've got to start with the first steps, and those steps need to be sincere and authentic."