Aboriginal broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew will be the new host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Canada Reads, an annual battle-of-the-books competition where five prominent Canadian personalities debate which is the one book all Canadians should read. Kinew replaces longtime host Jian Ghomeshi, who was fired from the CBC last month amid multiple sexual assault allegations.
Kinew participated in the most recent Canada Reads debates in March, when he emerged as the winner after defending Joseph Boyden’s Giller Prize-nominated novel The Orenda. He is from the Onigaming First Nation in northwestern Ontario, and was recently named acting associate v-p of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Winnipeg. Speaking about the Ghomeshi scandal, which allowed Kinew to land the hosting gig, he told CBC News he’s “not one to ignore the elephant in the room.”
"I think the best way we can deal with it is if we have a great book that deals with either gender violence, or sexual assault or all the issues around consent that our society still seems to be grappling with,” he said. “If at least one of our books raises that, I think that’ll allow us to deal with the root causes, the underlying issues that still persist in our society.”
According to the CBC, this year’s theme for Canada Reads is “books that break barriers,” which the company defines as “one fiction or non-fiction work that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues.” A longlist of 15 Canadian books, whittled down from titles suggested by the public, will be announced in December. Then, five finalists and their champions will be announced on January 20, 2015. The debates will take place March 16-19, broadcast by the CBC on the radio, TV, and online.
Kinew is also a soon-to-be published author himself, after signing a two-book deal with Penguin Canada imprint Viking earlier this year. His first book, due in 2015, will be a memoir, and the second will be an illustrated children’s book. Kinew is also scheduled to fill in as guest host for a few weeks, beginning December 8, on CBC Radio’s culture program Q, which was also formerly hosted by Ghomeshi.