Kinew replaces Jian Ghomeshi, who was fired from the CBC in October after several women came forward with assault allegations.
"I'm not one to ignore the elephant in the room," Kinew told CBC News. "I think the best way we could 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."
Kinew is also scheduled to replace Ghomeshi as guest host of CBC Radio's Q in December.
(Police and an outside investigator hired by CBC are investigating the allegations against Ghomeshi, who has not been charged with any criminal offence, and has said any acts of violence or rough sexual play were consensual.)
Books to break barriers
The theme for this year's literary battle is "books to break barriers" and the Canada Reads team is looking for one fiction or non-fiction work that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues.
Suggestions can be submitted via Twitter using thehashtag #CanadaReads and by Facebook, Instagram or email until Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
A 15-title list will be announced in December, with the five finalists and their champions announced on Jan. 20.
Kinew won last year's debates, defending Joseph Boyden's novel The Orenda against tough competition that included former politician Stephen Lewis, athlete Donovan Bailey and comedian Samantha Bee.
As a past combatant, he admitted that "probably the biggest challenge will be biting my tongue and not trying to argue points with people."
Despite his competitive nature, Kinew admits that the literary clash is not about winning, but what the audience learns in the process.
"Canada Reads is a really amazing show," said Kinew, "because on the surface it's a chance to celebrate some great literature but beyond that it's also a chance to have some meaningful conversations in front of a pretty large audience."
Kinew is from the Onigaming First Nation in northwestern Ontario, and now lives in Winnipeg, where he's a musician, broadcaster and university administrator. He will soon be an author himself.
Kinew signed a two-book deal with Penguin's Viking imprint with a memoir scheduled to be published next fall.
Canada Reads will be broadcast on CBC Radio, CBC.ca and CBC TV in March 2015.