Kevin Chief on WASAC, politics and his love for square dancing

Kevin Chief is known for many things in Winnipeg and Manitoba, including being a former MLA and his current ventures as a public speaker and advocate for young Indigenous people.

Chief, who is Anishinaabe/Metis and a member of Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba, is a co-founder of the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC).

Starting in 1999, the organization puts a strong emphasis on removing barriers for youth and creating positive change.

“The idea of WASAC was to provide sport, recreation and cultural activities to children and young people in Winnipeg and we wanted to connect to school so we wanted to extend the school day of young people so the goal of WASAC has always been not necessarily making better athletes or cultural performers but trying to assist in helping schools graduate young people,” Chief said.

“Give them better jobs and help them access bursaries and scholarships.”

Part of the message WASAC hopes to show the kids, especially those in middle and high school, is that they are role models for other youth.

“One of the things that we know is that in any resiliency model is that we need role models and young people look up to younger people and so WASAC has always been driven by youth running and leading all of the programs,” Chief said.

“We try to showcase all of the talents and gifts of young people but put them in positions where they can really lead and be ambassadors for our community.”

Before he stepped fully into his current role, Chief was an NDP MLA from 2011 until stepping away in 2017. He held numerous roles during his time in Manitoba’s legislature including minister of Children and Youth Opportunities and then minister of Jobs and Economy. Chief says he loved his time in politics but left for family reasons.

“At that time, I had a brand new baby, his older brother was only two and my oldest at that time was only four. I was in politics already for six years, I loved my job, it’s going to be the best job I ever have representing the north end of Winnipeg, but I realize it was a lot for my wife, it was a lot for my in-laws,” Chief said.

When asked if a return to politics was possible, Chief said never say never.

“It’s hard for me to see a path back in and then I love what I’m doing now you know I love the work that I’m doing now and I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to do it so right now I can’t see that happening but who knows,” he said.

Chief has also opened up publicly about his family’s trouble with alcohol, and even his own struggles. Square dancing and having a love for his culture played a key role in helping him overcome his struggles. He hopes others can find their own solutions that work for them.

“There is a solution for you, there is a journey, a path for you. And I slipped many times and you might to and loved ones might see that but you know, persevere, and if you get through it, man your story will inspire others.”

As for the future, Chief hopes he can continue to do what he does currently, and continue to find ways to make an impact on youth and communities.

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