Murray Sinclair Park
301 Queen Ave
Murray Sinclair Park was one of a pair of playgrounds built by the Kinsmen Club of Selkirk in the mid-1950s. It was part of a national Kinsmen program to provide improved play opportunities for the new wave of children born immediately after the war.
Kinsmen South Playground on Main Street at Dorchester Avenue was the first to open in the summer of 1952.
The following spring, construction got underway at Kinsmen North Playground on Main Street at Queen Avenue (present-day Murray Sinclair Park). The city-owned land was vacant and being held as a possible site for a new school, though in 1958 the school board informed the city that it no longer needed the site.
The playground was ready for use in July 1953. It included swings, a teeter totter, sand boxes and benches. The perimeter was enclosed with a wire fence.
For more than 50 years the playground did not have a name. The Kinsmen association disappeared in the 1970s, so residents just called it ‘the playground on Queen Avenue’. That ended in 2017 when it was named after Senator Murray Sinclair.
Also known by his Anishinaabe name Mizanay Gheezhik (One Who Speaks of
Pictures in the Sky), the Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair has been a prominent figure in the Manitoba justice system for over 25 years. He became a household name as Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
A member of the Peguis First Nation, Sinclair was born in 1951, just north of Selkirk. A child of residential school survivors, Sinclair lost his mother while just an infant. He and his three siblings were raised by their grandparents. A gifted student, he skipped two grades and was only 16 when he graduated from Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive School as valedictorian and athlete of the year.
After two years at the University of Manitoba, Sinclair put his studies on hold to care for his ailing grandmother. While working at the Selkirk Friendship Centre, he was elected vice president of the Manitoba Métis Federation and befriended the province’s then Attorney General, Howard Pawley. Pawley inspired Sinclair to shift his studies to law and Sinclair was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1980.
With the guidance of elder Angus Merrick, of the Long Plains First Nation, and other mentors, Sinclair built a reputation balancing the western legal system with Anishinaabe traditions and teachings. He was named Manitoba’s first indigenous judge in 1988.
Not long after this appointment, he was called to put his experience with indigenous and human rights issues to the task of co-chair of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry. This sweeping report listed over 300 recommendations for reforming Manitoba’s justice system and is considered a turning point for the treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada. Sinclair’s handling of this inquiry is one of the reasons he was sought after to lead the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Now, a member of the Senate of Canada, Senator Sinclair continues to work to further indigenous rights and reconciliation through advocacy, education, outreach and mentorship.
The City of Selkirk celebrated Sinclair’s achievements at a banquet held in his honour on June 20, 2017. It was announced that the park near where he once lived (the former Kinsmen South Playground) would be named for him. In his speech, Mayor Larry Johannson said, “Beyond just the recognition of Senator Sinclair’s leadership, Murray Sinclair Park will serve as a constant reminder to young people who play there that they too can grow up in our community and accomplish great things”.