If the USA can have Donald Trump as president, Canada can have Wab Kinew as leader of Manitoba NDP ????

Sep 20th, 2017 | By | Category: In Brief

Youthful Wab Kinew as an indigenous hip-hop rapper, back in the day.

This past Monday Dan Lett at the Winnipeg Free Press wrote : “The path that Wab Kinew is walking just became incredibly steep.”

Mr. Lett went on : “That’s an odd thing to say about a man who just won a landslide victory to become the new leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party. But thanks to a flurry of recent revelations about Kinew’s troubled life before he became a politician, this is no ordinary political narrative.”

Four days ago Steve Lambert at The Canadian Press had further explained how : “‘It’s a new day for the NDP and it’s a new day for Manitoba,’ Kinew declared to cheers following the vote.”

Yet : “Within minutes of Kinew’s victory, the governing [Manitoba provincial] Progressive Conservatives had a web site up that highlighted Kinew’s decade-old criminal convictions, charges of domestic violence that were stayed, and rap lyrics with offensive terms for women, gays and lesbians and others.”

At least much of all this has been known for a while, and Mr. Kinew has even made political capital out of confessing old sins, and demonstrating more recent reforms. (“‘I am not the man I was,’ Kinew told delegates before the vote with his wife, Lisa Monkman, by his side.”)

Wab Kinew and his father, the late Tobasonakwut Kinew, who “dedicated much of the latter part of his life to reconciliation between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities across North America.”

Way back in March 2016  – before Wab Kinew had even won a Winnipeg seat in the Manitoba legislature for the New Democrats – Chinta Puxley at The Canadian Press was reporting that in his youth “Kinew had been part of a rap group called the Dead Indians.”

In more mature times  : “As he became a father and his political awareness grew, Kinew saw the contradiction in advocating for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and the misogyny and homophobia of hip-hop culture.”

There were (and still are) also many inside and outside Manitoba (including myself) who have very much wanted Wab Kinew to do well as the new leader of the Manitoba provincial New Democratic Party. He is an indigenous politician in Canada who wants to be a Canadian (and not just an indigenous) leader. And that could prove very helpful for the Canadian future, especially at this particular point in the life of the 1867 confederation, in the true north, strong and free.

“Kinew can help provide a new narrative for the country”

Wab Kinew at the Walk For Reconciliation in Gatineau, Quebec, May 2015.

Jody Wilson-Raybould is already an indigenous politician who is also minister of justice in Justin Trudeau’s federal cabinet. As long ago as the summer of 1974 Ralph Garvin Steinhauer became the “first Indigenous person to serve as lieutenant-governor of a Canadian province.” (The province was Alberta, and the appointment was made by Pierre Trudeau.)

James K. Bartleman, a “member of the Mnjikaning First Nation … became Ontario’s first Indigenous lieutenant-governor in 2002.” (The appointment here was made by Jean Chrétien.)

As yet, however, no federal or provincial first minister has come from an indigenous (aboriginal, First Nations, native) background. As noted, that could do Canada a lot of good. And, at least until recently, Wab Kinew seemed to be on the brink of eventually getting it done.

There is something encouraging and provocative as well in the thought that Manitoba could be the first Canadian province to elect an indigenous premier. It was at least half-founded by the legendary Metis leader Louis Riel, not long after the birth of the 1867 confederation. .

Not at all by accident, it would seem, when he launched his campaign for the Manitoba NDP leadership this past April 2017 Wab Kinew declared “‘We need more love, we need more care, we need more compassion in government’ … while standing near the Louis Riel statue on the grounds of the legislative building.”

Wab Kinew announces his bid for Manitoba NDP leadership outside legislature in Winnipeg, April 2017.

On the other side of some Canadian coin, even its friends might concede that – no doubt partly because Winnipeg has more indigenous people than any other Canadian city (and Manitoba has “the highest percentage indigenous of any Canadian province”) – Manitoba also has a perhaps sometimes too strong “Canada-is-still-a-white-man’s-country” cultural faction, in the midst of its broader progressive tradition. (On this last progressive point see, eg, the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919!)

If Manitoba can finally elect an indigenous premier like the NDP’s new leader, Wab Kinew (the well educated son of highly educated indigenous parents who still valued their native cultures), Canada is in better shape to survive the 21st century than we might sometimes think.

As no less an authority than “Lloyd Axworthy, former Liberal foreign minister and … university president” has urged : “Kinew’s personality and spirituality can attract people and help ‘provide a new narrative for the country … He will be one of the important players in the country … There is no question in my mind about it.’”

If Trump really has changed the rules real rebels like Wab Kinew should also benefit

On the Manitoba NDP leadership trail, 2017.

Alas, the day after Dan Lett’s words about how the “path that Wab Kinew is walking just became incredibly steep,” the CBC News website posted a piece called “Details emerge of Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew’s assault, drunk-driving charges … Court heard in 2004 that Kinew directed ‘racial coments’ at cabbie before physical altercation.”

The recent media testimony of Kinew’s long-ago girlfriend Tara Hart is also starting to lend his case at least some superficial resemblance to the stormy saga of the disgraced CBC TV star Jian Ghomeshi in 2016.

The broader gathering storm is even leading the likes of the Manitoba politics expert Paul Thomas to opine that the anti-Kinew criticism “doesn’t leave the young New Democrat leader without a chance … it will just be more difficult … for Mr. Kinew to establish a reputation as a person of integrity and honesty and credibility and so on … It’s going to be much, much harder.”

The one sort-of-positive thing I’m left wondering about myself is the potential impact on this Canadian issue of the current radically unpredictable USA presidency of Donald Trump.

More exactly, has Mr. Trump actually started to change the traditional calculus on Wab Kinew’s kind of youthful bad behaviour ???? (And note that, unlike Wab Kinew, President Trump has neither apologized for or professed to have changed his probably even more objectionable  parallel bad behaviour, that extends into late adulthood!)

“MLA Wab Kinew looks out into a raucous crowd of supporters with his wife (Lisa Monkman) standing by his side after winning the Manitoba NDP leadership race in Winnipeg ... (Bryce Hoye/CBC).”

I wouldn’t even try to guess myself just where this kind of issue will finally end in Manitoba. For one thing, I just do not know at all enough about Manitoba politics. I also have serious respect for such views as those of the Toronto-based Ojibway journalist  Jasmine Kabatay in “Wab Kinew must come to terms with his past, not sweep it aside.”

But in the absence of still further incriminating information, right now it does seem to me highly arguable, at the very least, that if the USA can have Donald Trump as president, Canada should certainly be able to have Wab Kinew as leader of the Manitoba NDP.

Or if Mr. Trump really has changed the rules of the game, the forces of progress should also get some advantage from his fake rebellion. And as the great Joe E. Brown explained at the end of the great American movie Some Like It Hot (1959, directed by the European born and raised Billy Wilder) : “Nobody’s perfect.”

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