WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — The Canadian province of Manitoba has elected the first First Nations premier of a province in Canada.
Manitobans elected an NDP government led by Wab Kinew, who was raised as a young boy on the Onigaming First Nation in northwestern Ontario, later moving with his family to Winnipeg.
His late father wasn’t allowed to vote as a young man under Canadian law at the time.
During his victory speech late Tuesday, Kinew said that young Indigenous people and those of all backgrounds who are struggling can change their lives for the better.
“But here’s the thing. You have to want it,” he said. “If you want to leave the party lifestyle behind, it has to be you to make the decision. If you want to join the workforce, get a new career, it has to be you to take the first step. And if you’re dealing with some kind of illness and you want to find healing, it has to be you to decide to move forward.
“I can’t do that for you. A government can’t do that for you.”
Kinew, 41, is a former rapper, broadcaster and university administrator. Kinew studied economics in university, and then became a radio host on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He was later hired by the University of Winnipeg as it’s first director of Indigenous inclusion.
He decided to run for the Manitoba New Democrats in 2016 and was elected in the NDP stronghold of Fort Rouge in Winnipeg.
John Norquay was the first Indigenous person to serve as Manitoba’s premier. Norquay, who was Métis, became the province’s fifth premier in 1878. Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry.
While other Métis people in Manitoba have served in elected office, the province’s history with First Nations people holding elected office only goes back a few decades.
It wasn’t until the 1950s and ’60s that First Nations people were allowed to vote without conditions in provincial and federal elections in Canada.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said that Kinew’s win signifies a huge accomplishment.
“It’s a new chapter for First Nations in this province,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said in a statement. “I look forward to collaborating with the premier to address the needs of our member Nations.”