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Winnipeg’s First Aboriginal Mayor Takes Office

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Winnipeg, Manitoba has the highest indigenous population of any city in Canada, and as of Tuesday November 4 it has its first-ever aboriginal mayor.

RELATED: Top 5 Cities in Canada With the Most Indigenous People

Brian Bowman, who won on October 22 in an unexpected landslide, was sworn in during a ceremony preceded by an elder’s blessing. He and 15 newly elected councilors met with Elder Harry Bone of the Keeseekoowenin Ojibway Nation in southwestern Manitoba before being officially inducted into office on Tuesday evening, CBC News reported, calling it “a break with tradition for city hall and a new acknowledgement of the city's aboriginal heritage.”

“I know I've got a big job ahead of me," he said to CBC News. "There's going to be decisions I'm going to make that not everybody's going to agree with. One thing I can assure everyone is that the best interests of the city is something that is constantly in my mind, and I'll be honest and just work as hard as I can."

Bowman’s first act was to name his executive policy committee as well as a six-member support team comprised largely of people who had worked on his election campaign, CBC News said.

“I have the utmost confidence in this team to deliver real results for Winnipeggers, all bring enthusiasm, practical skills and diverse attributes that will be a tremendous asset for the City,” he said in a statement quoted by CBC News. “We discovered significant opportunities to improve how we can engage with citizens over the past several months and I am very excited to move forward and create a new way of operating at city hall.”

Bowman routed New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who had been projected to win, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. The newspaper cited a plethora of infrastructure issues, ranging from frozen water lines in winter to severe potholes and water main breaks during spring, occurrences that crippled the city.

“Bowman dared Winnipeggers to dream about what their city could become and promised he would make that dream a reality,” the Winnipeg Free Press said. He is the first aboriginal mayor in the city’s 140-year history, according to the Huffington Post. Bowman, a privacy lawyer who earned his degree at Métis University of Toronto, replaces Sam Katz, who had held the office for 10 years.

Bowman, who is Métis, did not run based on his heritage, which derives from Cree on his mother’s side, he told CBC News.

"I've always been comfortable telling people that I'm Métis,” he told CBC News shortly after being elected. “But at the same time, I'm a Winnipegger first and foremost, and I want everybody to be proud of their heritage wherever they come from and know that Winnipeg is a place where dreams can come true.”