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This article was published 25/9/2017 (265 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette says new provincial NDP Leader Wab Kinew has to explain domestic-abuse allegations in order to move on, and disputes the suggestion that racism is motivating media coverage.
"I'm not even sure if it's him who's going to decide whether he has to explain it. Because at some point, it will always exist in people's minds," the Liberal MP said in a Monday interview. "You can't put things back in Pandora's box."
Police charged Kinew with two counts of domestic assault against former common-law partner Tara Hart 14 years ago, but a court later stayed those charges.
Kinew has repeatedly denied assaulting Hart, who spoke out about the allegations earlier this month. Hart’s sister and mother became emotional in a recent interview with the Free Press, angered by the NDP leader's denials. Kinew has expressed sympathy for Hart but says he didn't assault her.
"As long as people have those questions I’m going to continue to answer them with honesty and integrity and as best as I can," he said earlier this month.
Yet, Ouellette says that until Kinew clarifies the discrepancy with Hart's claims, the public will jump to their own conclusions and political opponents will score easy political points.
"From a political, Machiavellian standpoint, it is very astute. Whether it's fair, on the other hand, I'm not convinced," he said.
"The partisan response is: he needs to answer for his actions in the past; he needs to be fully accountable. And we all do. In politics you need to be an open book; for people to read the pages and say, this is who this person is."
Ouellette was not referring to Kinew’s autobiography, which mentioned some of Kinew’s run-ins with the law, but not the abuse allegations.
The Winnipeg Centre MP also disagreed with comments by Manitoba Senator Murray Sinclair, who said media coverage could be unconsciously racist and could lead to a "witch hunt" against Kinew, whom he mentors.
"I don't believe there's racism. I think a lot of people in Winnipeg want to see Indigenous people succeed, and give Indigenous people a bit of the benefit of the doubt," he said, citing himself, MLAs Nahanni Fontaine and Bernadette Smith, and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.
"They don't want us failing," Ouellette said.
But he does share Sinclair’s concerns about what Kinew’s case means for Indigenous leaders with difficult pasts.
"Some of us make mistakes. The question is: are we allowed to have a way of overcoming that? Can we become something more than we were before? Because if not, we exclude an awful lot of people from various things in public life," said Ouellette.
"That being said, often [times] past behaviour can predict future behaviour, when people are placed in stressful situations."
Parliamentary bureau chief
In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"