Legacy Spaces

How sport organizations can engage with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack fund

By Angela Kryhul

Gord Downie’s brother, Patrick Downie (centre), with members of the Wenjack family at Scotiabank’s Legacy Space in Toronto. Photo: DWF/AJ Leitch.

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund provides education on the true history of Canada and the lasting impact of residential schools. Chanie Wenjack was a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who died in 1966 from starvation and exposure during his journey home from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ont. Gord Downie was the creative force behind The Tragically Hip. In August 2016, Downie asked all Canadians to look at the state of Indigenous-settler relations and to “Do something” to change them for the better.

Throughout Canada, dozens of organizations have joined forces with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) to create welcoming and supportive Legacy Spaces that foster discussion, education and the collective journey toward reconciliation.

There are 59 active Legacy Spaces located in 39 cities throughout Canada, with another 40 spaces in development.

While most are situated in private workplaces—with companies such as Scotiabank, Rogers and Accenture having created Legacy Spaces in multiple locations—there are also more than a dozen publicly accessible Legacy Spaces, including Halifax City Hall, the Abbotsford Arts Council in Abbotsford, B.C., the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines, Ont., Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto, and Scotiabank branches in downtown Toronto and in Yellowknife.

Of the 99 entities that have made the Legacy Spaces commitment, none are sport organizations, although DWF does have multiple sport event-related partnerships.

Still, Kayleigh Jordan-MacGregor, development associate, Legacy Spaces, would love to see sport organizations establish Legacy Spaces in their own offices or in partnership with local stadiums, arenas, community centres or other sport hosting venues. “It would help us reach new audiences in new ways and really tie into that connection that Indigenous Peoples have with organized sports,” Jordan-MacGregor explains.

“Legacy Spaces are a great way to keep top of mind that, for all of us to fulfill the 94 Calls to Action and the promises this country has made, it really takes all of us working together,” she adds.

Partners commit to hosting a Legacy Space for a five-year term and agree to educate about the story of Chanie Wenjack and Canada’s history of residential schools. They also commit to establishing and/or maintaining an equitable workplace for Indigenous Peoples.

Partners receive guidance and support from DWF. The program is “premised around educating and helping organizations find their place within the reconciliation journey,” says Sarah Midanik, DWF president and CEO. Some partners might be looking for ways to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, while others may be further along and are now looking for other ways to move forward.


DWF partners with the National Lacrosse League by hosting an annual Indigenous Heritage Night during a Toronto Rock game. Last year, the effort raised money and awareness for DWF through a jersey auction and DWF merchandise sales, and educational slides were shown on venue screens informing how everyone can support reconciliation. The event took place again this year on February 24. DWF is also partnering with the league to support its annual Every Child Matters campaign.

In June 2023, DWF, through its partnership with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Scotiabank, hosted the annual National Indigenous Peoples Day event for youth at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The two-day festival featured Indigenous speakers, musicians and artists as well as on-site learning stations.

During the Games, athletes had the opportunity to take meaningful actions that move reconciliation forward, by signing a DWF banner located in the Athletes Village. The banner was carried during the Parade of Athletes at the Closing Ceremony.


• Select the Downie Wenjack Fund as your event’s charity of choice.
• Invite a local Indigenous leader or DWF representative to speak at your event.
• Ensure Indigenous leaders are on the guest list alongside other VIPs and government officials.
• Provide DWF with a complimentary trade show booth at your event.
• Donate a portion of registration fees to DWF.
• Create a QR code so that delegates can tap to donate directly to DWF.
• Invite event attendees to participate in a Walk for Wenjack, which is an opportunity for reflection and potentially to raise funds for DWF.

Click here to learn more about the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund

Published March 2024

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