Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered an emotional statement this morning about the death of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.
Downie died of cancer last night at age 53.
Trudeau addressed reporters this morning, tears streaming down his face, as he described Downie as his "friend."
"Gord was my friend. Gord was everyone's friend, it's who we were," he said. "Our buddy Gord, who loved this country with everything he had—and not just loved it in a nebulous, 'Oh, I love Canada' way. He loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life."
After he announced that he had terminal brain cancer last May, The Hip embarked on one last cross-country tour across Canada. Trudeau was at the final show in Kingston, Ontario. There, Downie directly addressed the prime minister, saying "Well, you know, 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."
Downie also released The Secret Path, a 10-song album that tells the story of Chanie Wenjack, a young Indigenous boy who died trying to escape a residential school. In December, Downie was honoured by the Assembly of First Nations.
"He wanted to make it better," Trudeau said Wednesday. "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."
Trudeau said he's drawn strength from Downie's dedication to reconciliation.
"We are less of a country without Gord Downie in it. We all knew it was coming, but we hoped it wasn't," Trudeau said, smiling a bit through his tears. "I thought I was going to make it through this, but I'm not. It hurts."
In a statement released Wednesday, Downie's family said he died quietly surrounded by his loved ones.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.