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  • Tragically Hip perform in Victoria, B.C., to kick off the band

    Tragically Hip perform in Victoria, B.C., to kick off the band's latest "Man Machine Poem" tour in light of Downie's brain cancer diagnosis back in July 22, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 August 2016

In the band’s final concert, the lead singer praised the PM, while spurring him to address issues affecting First Nations.

With seemingly all of Canada fixated on the final concert of arguably the nation’s most beloved band, The Tragically Hip's lead singer, Gord Downie, delivered a hefty, if cajoling, mandate to the prime minister during the emotional televised concert.

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"We're in good hands, folks, real good hands," said Downie, who revealed earlier this year that he has terminal brain cancer. With cameras cutting to Trudeau,who was in attendance, he continued: "He cares about the people way up North, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what's going on up there … And what's going on up there ain't good. It's maybe worse than it's ever been ... (but) we're going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help.”

Despite some criticism that the opportunity could have been used to draw attention to Trudeau’s support for unpopular proposals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, or the various dams and pipelines that harm Indigenous communities and the environment, Downie continued with his appeal that Trudeau will set things forward.

"Prime Minister Trudeau's got me, his work with First Nations. He's got everybody. He's going to take us where we need to go," he said. "It's going to take us 100 years to figure out what the hell went on up there, but it isn't cool and everybody knows that. It's really, really bad, but we're going to figure it out, you're going to figure it out."

Trudeau's Liberal government’s list of promises include improving the quality of education and health care for Indigenous peoples, delivering clean water and upgrading infrastructure on First Nations reserves, and implementing recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address the harrowing legacy of residential schools.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has dubbed Downie, 52, who is known for his profound lyrics and garish stage costumes, the nation's "unofficial poet laureate." His rock-and-blues band, often known by the shorthand "The Hip" formed in the 1980s, penned lyrics about small-town Canadian life, that won them a broad national following over the course of 14 albums, though they are largely uknown outside Canada.

Trudea told reporters that The Hip has "been writing Canada's soundtrack for over 30 years."

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Downie’s own history of advocacy includes serving on the board of environmental group Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, as well as performing concerts near the region of James Bay to raise awareness of First Nations issues.

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