New Manitoba government swearing-in ceremony filled with cultural relevance

By Brenda Sawatzky
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Niverville Citizen

A new provincial government was sworn in at The Leaf in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park on October 18. Premier Wab Kinew took the opportunity to introduce his new 14-person cabinet as they took their oaths of office.

“Our government is ready to get to work on the strong mandate given to us by Manitobans to improve healthcare, make life more affordable, and bring Manitobans together,” Kinew said. “I have every confidence in the team of skilled and passionate individuals who have answered the call to serve in cabinet. I am grateful for their commitment to working diligently and collaboratively on the issues that matter most to Manitobans. I look forward to the varied perspectives they will bring to the cabinet table, representing the diversity of our province as a whole.”

It was a ceremony abounding with Indigenous flavour, culture, and regalia, true to Kinew’s roots. Representatives from Manitoba’s seven Indigenous nations participated in the two-hour ceremony.

The Norman Chief Memorial Dancers added a Métis dynamic with their fiddle music and dancing. Music of the traditional Indigenous drum circle was provided by the Dakota Hotain Singers.

Early in the ceremony, Kinew was honoured with a presentation of the war bonnet, a headdress he proudly donned for the balance of the ceremony.

While much of the event had an Indigenous theme, Kinew was quick to point towards the cultural diversity now on display in government.

“Today, Manitoba has a Jewish lieutenant governor, an Anishanaabe premier, a gender-balanced cabinet, and a government MLA team that represents many walks of life from so many regions of this great province.”

This includes a cabinet where women and gender-diverse individuals represent 50 percent of the team. At least three other newly appointed ministers are of Indigenous descent.

This sets a precedent, Kinew said, showing young people of all walks of life that the road to success can be theirs if they’re willing to walk it.

One prominent example of this diversity is the deputy premier and minister of health, Uzoma Asagwara. Asagwara is a member of the Canadian Nigerian community and identifies as queer and non-binary.

“You as Manitobans have elected to the team a trans person and many members of the 2SLGBTQ+ communities,” Kinew said. “And I want to say, at this time of increasingly harmful rhetoric, [the 2SLGBTQ+ community] has many voices around the government table and you have an entire team of allies in government.”

Of course, with healthcare at the top of the NDP’s campaign agenda, Kinew reassured Manitobans that Asagwara will serve them well with the health portfolio.

Asagwara has worked for many years in the field as a registered psychiatric nurse and unwavering healthcare advocate.

With a clear understanding of the enormity of the task, Kinew went on to reassure Manitobans that his government will also work towards balancing the books while still making life more affordable.

He says they will prioritize affordable housing while ensuring ongoing strength and growth in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Environmental issues, too, are top of mind.

“We have to be responsible stewards of the lands, of the water, of the air we breathe, and we must take action to confront the existential crisis that is climate change.”

This government has also added a new ministry: Housing, Addictions and Homelessness.

“We want to end chronic homelessness in this province within the next eight years,” said Kinew. “And as a first step today, we are announcing that the services necessary to get people off of the street and into housing, and then the wraparound services that are necessary to ensure them staying there, will now be under one government department and under one roof.”

Also new with this government is the appointment of a third branch of responsibility to the premier’s intermunicipal relations portfolio. Not only will Kinew act as liaison between the province and the federal government, but he will liaise between the provincial government and local Indigenous governments.

“Starting today, I am also appointing myself the minister responsible for Indigenous reconciliation,” Kinew said. “And the message that I am sending is simple, and it is to the leaders of Indigenous governments across Manitoba: our government will recognize you for what you are—the leaders of governments.”

The Honourable Murray Sinclair presided over the signing of the oaths. Sinclair previously served as Manitoba’s first Indigenous judge and is the former chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“This really is Manitoba’s true act of reconciliation,” Sinclair said. “We are now entering a new phase. That phase ultimately is going to lead to a relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in which we are able to show true respect… because for too long now, the situation of oppression that has occurred in this province has resulted in our people being belittled… and feeling denied of their rights.”

The complete list of Manitoba’s newest cabinet ministers includes:

  • Wab Kinew, premier, minister of intergovernmental affairs and international relations, minister responsible for Indigenous reconciliation.
  • Uzoma Asagwara, deputy premier, minister of health, seniors and long-term care.
  • Ron Kostyshyn, minister of agriculture.
  • Matt Wiebe, minister of justice and attorney general, keeper of the great seal of the province of Manitoba, minister responsible for the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation.
  • Nahanni Fontaine, minister of families, minister responsible for accessibility, minister responsible for gender equity.
  • Bernadette Smith, minister of housing, addictions and homelessness, and minister responsible for mental health.
  • Nello Altomare, minister of education and early childhood learning.
  • Ian Bushie, minister of municipal and northern relations, and minister of Indigenous economic development.
  • Malaya Marcelino, minister of labour and immigration, and minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board.
  • Jamie Moses, minister of economic development, investment, trade and natural resources.
  • Lisa Naylor, minister of transportation and infrastructure, minister of consumer protection and government services.
  • • Adrien Sala, minister of finance, minister responsible for the Public Utilities Board, minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, minister responsible for the Manitoba public service.
  • • Renée Cable, minister of advanced education and training.
  • • Tracy Schmidt, minister of environment and climate change, minister responsible for Efficiency Manitoba.
  • • Glen Simard, minister of sport, culture, heritage and tourism, minister responsible for francophone affairs, minister responsible for the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation.