Wab Kinew reveals joy and pain of reconciliation in The Reason You Walk

Kinew's revealing new memoir explores two journeys of reconciliation: that of a father and a son; and that of a country searching for healing and a way forward.
Wab Kinew and his father, Tobasonakwut Kinew. (Courtesy Wab Kinew)

Wab Kinew is no stranger to CBC fans - as a journalist and broadcaster, he made a name for himself as the host of 8th Fire and Canada Reads. At just 33 years old, he's quickly become a strong Indigenous voice in Canada and on the world stage. 

But Kinew's latest project looks inward. His revealing new memoir, The Reason You Walk, explores two journeys of reconciliation: that of a father and a son; and that of a country searching for healing and a way forward. 

His book begins at home. Growing up, the relationship between Kinew and his father, Tobasonakwut Kinew, was difficult.

"I used to alternate between hating him and being afraid of him when I was a little boy. [But] by the time he left, he was my best friend.- Wab Kinew

Tobasonakwut Kinew was a residential school survivor. Later in life, he became a respected Anishinaabe leader and Indigenous advocate. But Wab Kinew said he was always aware of the effect intergenerational trauma had on his father.

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"I did grow up with the strength, wisdom and beauty of the Indigenous culture," said Kinew. "But I also grew up with some of the negativity of our community." 

Kinew's journey towards reconciliation came to a head when his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It's that story that is at the heart of The Reason You Walk. 

In 2012, the year of his father's illness, Kinew dropped everything. He took leave from the CBC, let go of his budding career as a musician and broadcaster, and dedicated himself entirely to his family.

We only live once. We're only going to get this one chance to make things right, so let's do it. On a personal level - put all the baggage out on display - but let's also do it for the culture and the language.- Wab Kinew
The Kinew family traveled together during Tobasonakwut's last months. Above, Wab's parents share a kiss in St. Peter's Square. (Courtesy Wab Kinew)

Kinew says that his family's journey helped shape his views on Canada's Truth and Reconciliation process, something he writes passionately about in The Reason You Walk:

"Reconciliation is not something realized on a grand level, something that happens when a prime minister and a national chief shake hands. It takes place at a much more individual level. Reconciliation is realized when two people come together and understand that what they share unites them and that what is different between them needs to be respected."

- Wab Kinew, The Reason You Walk (Excerpt)