By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – The woman at the centre of 14-year-old allegations of domestic violence against Manitoba NDP leadership candidate Wab Kinew says she was thrown across a room and left with rug burn on her legs.
In an interview with The Canadian Press Thursday, Tara Hart said she had been dating Kinew for about two years while they were in university.
She said they had lived together for about a year and had friends over one night in the spring of 2003 when the alleged assault happened.
As the friends were leaving, she said she and Kinew got into an argument at the door.
“I asked them to leave, they left. And once they left, he turned on me,” she said. “That’s when he flung me across the living room and I had a big huge rug burn on my legs.”
Hart said what happened prompted her to move out.
“A few days later, or the next day, I left with a laundry bag. My grandmother picked me up … and I had rug burns on my knees and I couldn’t bend my legs to get into her vehicle,” she said, adding she then went to the RCMP to file a complaint.
Kinew, who is widely considered the frontrunner for the leadership of Manitoba’s Opposition New Democrats that will be decided Saturday, has repeatedly denied assaulting Hart.
“The allegation that is being made did not happen,” he said.
“This person was somebody that I lived with, that I was in a relationship with … but with respect to the allegation, that did not happen.”
When asked whether he hit or threw Hart at any time, Kinew replied: “No. No, I did not.”
Court records show Kinew was charged in June 2003 with two counts of assault on Hart. A Crown attorney and Kinew’s lawyer appeared in court several times between January and June, 2004. At some point in the summer, the Crown stayed the charges.
The court records provide no explanation and transcripts from the final court hearings were not available Thursday.
The assault charges only came to light last month via anonymous emails sent to Winnipeg media outlets.
Hart said she can only recall one alleged assault and doesn’t know why two charges were filed. She said after she left Kinew, she was living outside Winnipeg and never heard from the Crown on why the charges were stayed.
“I just left that part of my life behind me after that.”
Kinew, 35, was brought into the NDP fold by former premier Greg Selinger as a star candidate for the 2016 provincial election and won a legislature seat.
The Indigenous activist, broadcaster and author wrote a memoir a year earlier in which he described decade-old run-ins with the law that included convictions for impaired driving and assaulting a taxi driver. He recently received pardons for both convictions.
Kinew has talked at length about his troubled past, which also includes misogynistic and homophobic rap lyrics and social media posts, and has expressed a drive to change and be a force for good. But the domestic violence charges, as well as a conditional discharge in Ontario for assault in 2004, only came to light last month.
Hart said that Kinew reached out to her at that time. Kinew confirmed that.
“I figured that this matter was going to come out into the media, and so I reached out and basically said ‘as one human being to another, here’s a head’s-up,'” he said.
“This is going to come out in the media, it will probably be difficult and so I just wanted to give you advance warning.'”