Domestic violence activist calls for NDP leadership candidate Kinew to 'acknowledge what he did'

NDP leadership hopeful Wab Kinew's recent disclosures about two charges of domestic assault in 2003 do not go far enough for Zita Somakoko, who was herself a victim of domestic violence.

NDP member says party should be looking more closely at Wab Kinew's leadership bid

Manitoba NDP leadership candidate Wab Kinew continues to face criticism for his responses to charges of domestic assault in 2003. (CBC)

Manitoba NDP leadership hopeful Wab Kinew's recent disclosures about two charges of domestic assault in 2003 do not go far enough for Zita Somakoko.

Somakoko was herself a victim of violence at the hands of her husband 16 years ago. The active member of the NDP shared her dismay at Kinew's responses with Steve Ashton, the other contender in the provincial NDP leadership race.

The move prompted Ashton to call on Kinew on Tuesday to open up about what happened.

"The matter was investigated and the charges were dropped," Kinew told reporters last week. He refused to provide further details in order to "protect the identity of the people involved," he said.

"If Mr. Kinew is so remorseful and such a changed man, how come we didn't hear any apology?" Somakoko asked in an interview with CBC News.

Kinew told CBC News he doesn't know Somakoko personally, "but it's clear that she's a strong advocate for women," he said.

He said he's working to be an advocate for ending gender-based violence.

"I want to say clearly that I believe victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment face real barriers to being heard and having justice in our society," he said. "I know these are major problems and I want to be an ally in the work to end it."


Somakoko said when she read Kinew's comments she was "outraged," and she insists the MLA for Fort Rouge should explain much more about what happened in 2003.

"He needs to at least acknowledge what he did," she said.

"He put out a book that he says he was transparent in all of his past dealings. Why did he not discuss that in the book?  Or mention it? Why did he not mention it when he was running for MLA?"

Kinew published his memoir, The Reason You Walk, in 2015. The memoir detailed some of his past brushes with the law but did not address the 2003 assault allegations.

"My vetting process with the party was thorough, and they were fully aware of the changes I've made in myself over the past decade," he said.

Somakoko has organized events to highlight the plight of women who have been the victims of domestic violence. She says reading Kinew's responses to his 2003 charges triggered memories of her own experiences.

Somakoko says the NDP should take a long look at how it reviewed Kinew's past history and his candidacy for leadership.

"I mean, are we so afraid of an empty chair that we will get anyone to fill that chair?" Somakoko said.

She said at first, she thought the young, charismatic Kinew might be a good candidate for the party's leadership. She said she has changed her mind, but is not sure if she'll support Steve Ashton.