Although Wab Kinew continues to reiterate that he does not intend to make history because of his ethnicity as Manitoba’s first Anishinaabe premier, there is no denying that his community and cultural ties will bring something new to the premier’s office.
Wabanakwut Kinew, 41, is from the Onigaming First Nation in Ontario, part of Treaty 3 territory, which spans parts of northwestern Ontario and southeastern Manitoba. His first name translates as “gray cloud” and the latter as “golden eagle” in the Anishinaabe language.
Kinew’s significant victory in Tuesday’s provincial election came in a momentous milestone for his home territory, as Manitobans elected their first Anishinaabe premier exactly 150 years after Treaty 3 was signed at Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods on October 3, 1873.
“I was given a second chance at life and I’d like to think I took advantage of it,” Kinew said in his victory speech Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Kinew said the election was about fixing health care and rejecting division, repeating a message he sent throughout the campaign that being a First Nations person does not add any more burden to the role of prime minister and that Its mission is to serve all Manitobans.
“I didn’t run to be the first First Nations premier, I put my name on the ballot to try to be the best premier,” he said.
“I don’t know how much more weight you could put on someone. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and the real work hasn’t even started yet.”
The story behind Kinew’s second chance is detailed in his 2015 memoir, The reason you walkwhen Kinew was named ceremonial chief of the sun dance and was presented with a treaty medal that featured two clasping hands, one indigenous and one non-indigenous, signifying the treaty relationship.
“I was surprised at how heavy the medal was in my hands,” Kinew wrote.
While his family had prepared him to pursue a life of leadership, Kinew wrote that he hoped that role would come after he had accomplished something great.
Instead, his initiation as a sun dance boss came during one of the lowest points of his life, following an assault and drink-driving convictions in the early 2000s, for which he later received pardon.
The book does not mention two domestic assault charges Kinew had faced in 2003 involving his girlfriend at the time. Those charges were dropped several months later, and Kinew has consistently denied ever assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
In 2017, Breaking: also discovered discrepancies between the book’s account of Kinew’s 2004 assault on a Winnipeg taxi driver and court records. Kinew responded by saying that he was wrong and that he had taken responsibility.
In the memoir, Kinew apologized for his past behavior, including misogynistic rap lyrics, and said he was a troubled young man dealing with unresolved intergenerational trauma.
His father, Tobasonakwut Kinew, was a residential school survivor and a prominent political and spiritual leader who shared the importance of preserving Anishinaabe culture and language. His mother, Kathi Avery Kinew, worked as a policy analyst.
Journalist, rapper, academic.
Kinew has worn many hats before first entering the Manitoba Legislature in 2016. The NDP leader was a journalist, rapper and the first director of Indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg before entering politics.
He received his education in Winnipeg, after moving there as a child for primary school, and has university degrees in economics and Indigenous governance.
Kinew got his foot in the CBC door in December 2005, after a producer read a letter he wrote to the Winnipeg Free Press about Team Canada choosing Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi to play in the Winter Olympics, a a measure that generated controversy due to the athlete’s position. criminal record.
“The letter Wab wrote to the Free Press [said]: ‘Look, I’m a person with a record, when are you going to get a second chance?'” recalled Janice Moeller, who recently retired as CBC Manitoba’s senior audio producer.
“It was interesting, so I said we should bring it in, record this and broadcast it as a commentary,” he said.
Kinew became a rising star in public broadcasting, reporting and hosting radio and television programs both locally and nationally. “I think she has the ability to listen and look at all sides,” Moeller said.
“It was actually very moving for me on election night to hear his victory speech talk about second chances, because that’s what that letter was about: when people get that and who deserves it,” he said.
“It just shows what you can achieve if you get one.”
Kinew assumed leadership of the Manitoba NDP in 2017, a year after his election as MLA for Winnipeg’s Fort Rouge party. In that election, his party lost its bid to secure a fifth consecutive majority government and the Progressive Conservatives came to power for the first time in just over two decades.
One of the defining moments of Kinew’s time as opposition leader came in July 2021, when challenged the new PC minister of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations in the legislature for defending residential schools.
The following September, the NDP managed to delay Bill 64, a controversial education reform bill, as well as four other pieces of legislation, leading to the that govern the PCs to discard them.
The party had not won many other major legislative victories under Kinew’s government before his election as prime minister, having been in opposition since 2016.
‘A truly effective leader’
Lloyd Axworthy, a former Liberal federal cabinet minister and president of the University of Winnipeg, met Kinew through his father, who worked as an elder and professor at the institution.
Axworthy’s advice to anyone unfamiliar with Kinew is to watch and listen. He says the NDP leader will bring a new voice to the province and the country.
“Having worked with him, I’m pretty convinced he has the ability to be a really effective leader.”
Kinew was part of a team that helped raise money for programs and scholarship funds for inner-city students during his time as the university’s director of Indigenous inclusion, Axworthy said.
“He made a significant contribution to some of the opportunities for young people in the city center and helped the university redefine itself, and I think that showed real leadership.”
The veteran liberal wrote a letter in early September to support Kinew and speak out about his character during the provincial election campaign, as he disagreed with the Progressive Conservatives bringing up the NDP leader’s criminal past and not his contributions to the community.
“His past was what motivated him, because he wanted to see that path would be a driver for what he could do in the future.”
Axworthy said Kinew’s election was a testament to Manitobans, who “didn’t accept that kind of negative agenda.”
Gabriel Ricardo Nemogá Soto says he thought Kinew would become an important leader long before Tuesday’s provincial election. The University of Winnipeg Indigenous governance professor was Kinew’s thesis supervisor when he was a student in the master’s program.
“At the University of Winnipeg I had the opportunity to recognize a very integral leader,” Nemogá said. Kinew’s 2019 thesis, “Aanakanootandaa Anishinaabemowin: Let’s Translate the Ojibwe Language,” examined how to translate the Anishinaabe language using technology.
“He is a person who accepts challenges, is able to overcome barriers and is able to move through difficult situations. I think the fact that Kinew is from the First Nations, but also rooted in the culture of this society, gives him skills that very few have. individuals have.”
Nemogá, a descendant of the indigenous Muisca people of Colombia, has two children who are First Nations, and said “having the opportunity for my children to see that this is possible, I think is a very good lesson, because it replaced a lot of words.” What could I say to them?”
However, Nemogá warns people not to be too optimistic about Kinew’s mandate.
“We enjoy and celebrate that this has happened, but be patient and be very attentive to what is going to happen, because a new alternative will need support if we want it to happen.”