When Omar Kinnarath heard that the People’s Party of Canada was organizing an event at a Winnipeg art gallery last July, he decided he needed to step in.
Kinnarath is a business owner, a Muslim, a father, and a fan of Valour FC. He also organizes with Fascist-Free Treaty 1 (FF1), a local anti-fascist organization in Winnipeg. He’s been involved in the group for a few years.
By reaching out to the gallery where the PPC was planning to hold its event, Kinnarath and FF1 were able to get the venue to pull out. With nowhere to go, the PPC cancelled the event.
Doxxed by the PPC
Then, to Kinnarath’s astonishment, the official Twitter account for PPC’s Winnipeg Centre riding committee began sharing an image of his face, in front of a visible Palestinian flag, emblazoned with the word “TERRORIST.” Next to the image was his full name, phone number, and a former home address, which was presented as the place he still lived.
Kinnarath had been doxxed — the term used to describe the leaking personal of information in order to encourage harassment — using the communications infrastructure of a federal political party.
Now, he’s decided to sue.
Kinnarath sent a notice of intent to sue on Sep. 17, directed towards a number of PPC officials. The notice named Monique Choiselet, the former CEO of the Winnipeg Centre riding association, Winnipeg Centre candidate Yogi Henderson, PPC candidate Steven Fletcher, and party leader Maxime Bernier.
The Winnipeg Centre riding office of the PPC had not responded to Ricochet’s requests for comment by press time.
Choiselet, who was recently relieved of her PPC duties, was named because she shared Kinnarath’s information on her personal social media. Kinnarath believes she was the one in control of the PPC Winnipeg Centre account on Twitter, where the information was also shared.
Fletcher, a former Conservative member of parliament who is also being accused of stealing electronic voter data from the Conservative Party, defended the doxxing to the Winnipeg Free Press, saying that FF1 was “doing exactly what fascists do” and that Kinnarath’s actions were the “original sin.” Henderson, who is also named in the legal letter, also spoke to the Free Press about the issue, saying that it was the result of “heated individuals.”
Finally, Kinnarath said he named Bernier in the lawsuit because, as party leader, Bernier bears responsibility for creating an environment where harassment of political opponents is encouraged.
Barrage of harassment
While the posts from Choiselet and the riding association are no longer online, Kinnarath says that isn’t due to the goodwill of the people he’s now looking to sue.
“Both those posts were taken down because they were mass-reported,” Kinnarath says. “There was no voluntary effort on their part.”
Doxxing runs against both Facebook's and Twitter’s terms of service agreements.
After his information was made public, Kinnarath faced a barrage of harassment online from PPC supporters. Choiselat believed that she had found his workplace at Shaw Media — Kinnarath has never worked there — and called to complain, even claiming to get someone fired.
Kinnarath says he has a cousin with the same name who works at Shaw, who was likely targeted by the PPC but not fired. Kinnarath also visited the address shared by the PPC, where he no longer lived, in order to warn the residents that their address was being shared by “unhinged” far-right activists. Luckily, he said, they never faced harassment at their home.
Just over a month later, Kinnarath had a threatening visit to his business from PPC-supporting far-right activists, and had to call security to have them removed from the premises after they entered his store, chastised him, and filmed the interaction for their YouTube channel. The two individuals, Derek Storie and Todd MacDougall, are both involved in Yellow Vests Canada, a far-right movement unaffiliated with the larger movement of the same name in France.
In the time since, Kinnarath says he has not received any sort of apology from the PPC.
“There needs to be some kind of accountability,” he says.
Support from former PPC members
Since being pushed into the public sphere by the PPC, Kinnarath says that various former PPC members and candidates have reached out to him to offer support.
“They’re all fine folks,” Kinnarath says. “Libertarian-leaning. And right when the racism and xenophobia started hitting, they all left the party.”
The former chief financial officer of the Winnipeg Centre riding association resigned from the party and reached out, Kinnarath says. Another Winnipeg riding’s board had resigned in its entirety in July due to the party’s refusal to distance itself from racist elements.
Kinnarath says he hasn’t received any sort of response to his legal letter yet. The named parties have, however, spoken to local media outlets.
Choiselet referred to FF1 as an “abomination,” and doubled down on her accusation that Kinnarath is a terrorist, saying her efforts were meant to “preserve our civilized, law-abiding country.” Fletcher also stood by his comments from July, but distanced himself from the PPC posting Kinnarath’s personal information.
“I haven’t really been getting harassed or trolled since my legal letter came out,” Kinnarath said. “It’s probably because they see I’m lawyered up.”