Wab Kinew

  • Human touch: As Mandela lies dying, we should all shake his powerful hand

    What I remember most about the day I shook hands with Nelson Mandela is not the firmness of his grip, but rather the power of his presence. In 1998, the world-renowned freedom fighter visited Toronto to launch the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund Canada. Before the public launch of his charity, the former South African president and his wife, Graßa Machel, took time to meet with a group of First Nations people. Most were Grand Chiefs and politicians, but somehow I managed to luck out with an invitation.
  • Turks and chaos

    Typically, Istiklal Caddesi is a pedestrian shopping corridor leading to Taksim Square. Tonight the store fronts are shuttered, graffiti covers the walls and everywhere there are people chanting, fists raised, faces covered in gas masks. They shout slogans like "We stand shoulder to shoulder" and "Taksim is everywhere." The water cannon mounted on the top of the truck sprays a torrent of water at a group of activists who turn tail and run. Suddenly, tear gas canisters hit the ground with loud clanks and everyone is surrounded by smoke. Two men rush to one of the cans and fling it back towards the truck, but it is too late. Tear gas floods the street. People rush away with their eyes watering and faces drenched, most gagging and coughing along the way.
  • Losing lives worth living

    Sean Hunte was a young man who was just starting to realize his potential: he was viewed as a youth leader, he worked at a North End drop-in centre and, even though he was only 18 years old, he had already begun helping people. His close friend Alyssa Ziolkoski, 20, says, "Sean had a huge impact on my life and honestly I will go as far as to say that he broke me out of my shell and let me be me again."
  • Taking aim for the Riverton Rifle

    "We the undersigned put forth his name, to the Hockey Hall of Fame..." Those words wove their way through the halls of the esteemed institution of hockey lore in Toronto on Feb. 23. John K. Samson, best known as the frontman for indie rockers the Weakerthans, led a group of 25 people who sang the chorus as they hand-delivered a submission addressed to Hall of Fame chairman Bill Hay.
  • Conflict resolution, aboriginal-style

    If you are to believe the mainstream media, the Idle No More movement has been divisive. It has pitted the racists versus the activists, the chiefs versus the prime minister and well, these chiefs versus those chiefs. This is really too bad because the goals of the movement itself, social and environmental justice, are ones that many Canadians can identify with. Beyond that, indigenous cultures have always been inclusive. From our ancestors inviting the early European settlers to share the land right to the modern era. With that in mind, I decided to reach back in to our traditions for some ideas on how to smooth over some of the tensions that have arisen lately. Call it conflict resolution, aboriginal-style.
  • Love and death: It's all that's left at the very end

    I will never forget the last hours I spent with my father. We had already conversed about his life. We had already enjoyed the celebratory travels together. We had already passed the point of no return beyond which he might recover. Instead, we were together in his darkened bedroom, mostly silent. Occasionally, I would help him up or fetch him some water. More often, however, he slept. Here and there I would sing and tap out a traditional song on a hand drum, reminding him of the meaning. In Anishinaabe I would tell him, "Here is the thunderbird pipe song... this one is a woman's song."
  • From a grassroots hashtag to a real opportunity for change

    When First Nations chiefs angry with the federal omnibus budget Bill C-45 scuffled briefly with RCMP on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, it certainly made for compelling images. It also raised some compelling questions. Are we seeing a renewed militancy in the aboriginal community? Is this a "tipping point" of sorts? What can we expect next? To me, the most interesting question is what was the catalyst for this showdown? It was actually a simple message, likely unintelligible unless you are an avid Twitter user:

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