‘We are less as a country’: Politicians pay tribute to Gord Downie

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Politicians are paying tribute to Canadian icon Gord Downie following his passing, praising him as a musical legend, loving man and strong advocate for reconciliation with Indigenous people.

The Tragically Hip frontman died Tuesday night at age 53. He was diagnosed with an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer in 2015.

Tragically Hip Kingston concert

Tragically Hip lead singer Gord Downie greets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Aug. 20, 2016, shortly before the show in Kingston, Ont. Downie died Tuesday night. He was diagnosed with an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer in 2015. (Twitter/@JustinTrudeau)

Tears flowed from an emotional Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‏ as he delivered a statement today on Parliament Hill.

“We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it,” he said.

Calling him a friend and an icon, Trudeau said Downie cared deeply about his country and about “every hidden corner, every story” in it.

“And he wanted to make it better. He knew as great as we were, we needed to be better than we are. And that’s why his last years were devoted to Chanie Wenjack and to reconciliation. This is something I have certainly drawn inspiration and strength from.”

CBC News Special: The death of Gord Downie0:00

Trudeau said while everyone knew Downie’s death was coming, they hoped it was not.

“It hurts,” he said.

Downie spent his final months advocating for reconciliation with Indigenous people. His multimedia project, Secret Path, tells the tragic story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died of exposure and hunger in 1966 after running away from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ont.

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly praised Downie as one of Canada’s greatest icons.

“Your musical legacy and strong advocacy will always live on,” she tweeted.

Downie was honoured for his work by National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who presented the visibly emotional Downie with an eagle feather last year. He was given a Lakota spirit name, Wicapi Omani, which can be roughly translated as “Man who walks among the stars.”

Today, Bellegarde mourned Downie’s passing on Twitter, calling him an “ally and a friend.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Downie’s music brought Canadians together and that he will remain a legendary figure in the country.

Conservative MP Tony Clement called Downie a “Canadian original with a great big heart.”

NDP MP and musician Charlie Angus said he was heartbroken to learn of Downie’s death, tweeting: “He wasn’t just an amazing artist he was caring loving guy who knew a better world was possible.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced on Twitter that the Toronto sign in Nathan Phillips Square be lit in red and white to honour Downie and will be dimmed at 11 p.m. ET to mourn the “great Canadian.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne‏ said she spoke for all people in the province in saying she is heartbroken by the news.

“With Gord Downie’s passing a piece of Canada has died,” she tweeted.

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‘We are less as a country’: Politicians pay tribute to Gord Downie

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