Bevington political legacy lives on in Fort Smith

Bevington political legacy lives on in Fort Smith
Outgoing Northwest Territories MP Dennis Bevington is flanked by his daughter, incoming Fort Smith Councillor Anneliese Kikoak, and her daughter, Elizabeth, at the Fort Smith councillor swearing-in ceremony Oct. 21.Photo: Craig Gilbert.

Anneliese Kikoak pauses, looks up and to the right, weighing her response. She stands in the gymnasium at the Fort Smith Community Recreation Centre, her colleagues on council and their friends and supporters scattered and snacking on cake, cold cuts and cheese.

The mother of four and owner of Anna’s Home Cooking had just been sworn in as a Fort Smith town councillor, exactly where her father, outgoing Northwest Territories MP Dennis Bevington, started his own political career in 1984. Bevington, who also served as mayor from 1988 to 1997, watched from the back row.

“I was elated to win, really happy,” Kikoak, now part of a town council that for the first time has more women than men, said. “I feel like this is one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my adult life. I think the timing was almost divinely inspired, to tell you the truth.”

Politics is in her blood, and it runs deep. Her grandfather, Archie Bevington, was also a town councillor for several years, starting in the late 1960s when Fort Smith was incorporated. Her great-grandfather, George Bevington, helped create the United Farmers of Alberta Party, which formed North America’s first social democrat government in 1921. They stayed in power until 1935.

Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau is the most obvious example of political dynasty in Canada, while south of the border two Bush men have served in the Oval Office and a third has the presidency in his sights. Closer to home, NWT Premier Bob McLeod, seeking re-election himself in Yellowknife South, is the brother of new NWT Liberal MP Michael McLeod.

“Politics is a part of families,” Bevington said. “It’s something that happens across Canada.”

Perhaps appropriately, the swearing-in took place on Back to the Future Day – Oct. 21, 2015, the day Marty McFly and Doc Brown transported themselves to via modified Delorean in the movie of the same name.

Kikoak was elected to Fort Smith council on the same day her father was ousted as MP by McLeod in Trudeau’s red tide. She was “elated” to start her own political career but reticent to frame it as a passing of the torch.

“I felt I was in the right place and I was thrilled to have the drum song dedicated to us, because it’s an honour to represent the town and continue the legacy my dad instilled in me,” she said. “I think my dad’s torch is still burning pretty brightly so I’m just excited about what he’s going to do next for himself and his family, Fort Smith and the North.”

Bevington, who lives in Fort Smith, said municipal politics is a natural place to start a career in public life.

“That’s the building block,” he said. “It’s really a great place for someone with a family to start their political career. You’re home, you’re dealing with real issues, with real people. You’re dealing with laws, planning, a whole bunch of things that are essential to the life of a politician and you get them all at the town council level.”

So how did it feel watching Anna take the oath with RCMP Sgt. Richard Brown 48 hours after the election?

“Well, it’s an up moment for me,” he laughed. “Let’s put it that way.”

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