A Muslim man has filed an intent to sue the People’s Party of Canada and several of its members, including Maxime Bernier, for defamation, saying he was doxxed and called a terrorist by social media accounts run by the party.
In his notice to sue, Omar Kinnarath, a 40-year-old anti-fascist activist and business owner in Winnipeg, named PPC Winnipeg Centre Chief Executive Officer Monique Choiselat, former conservative MP now running for the PPC Steven Fletcher, PPC Winnipeg Centre candidate Yogi Henderson, and Bernier.
The lawsuit stems from an incident in July, around the time the entire board of the PPC’s Elmwood-Transcona riding quit over what it called “rampant racism” and conspiracy theorists in the party. The PPC was still hoping to have a rally at a local art gallery to introduce a new potential candidate, but after antifascists including Kinnarath publicly protested, the gallery eventually pulled out, thanking the community for “raising their concerns.”
The next day, the PPC Twitter account for the Winnipeg Centre riding posted a photo of Kinnarath with a Palestinian flag and the word “Terrorist.” Below the photo, Kinnarath’s name and contact details including his home address were listed.
“This terrorist shut down our Rally to introduce our PPC Candidate by ruining online the little woman who was renting us our venue. He called this activity, ‘Free Speech’ Definition of terrorism: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion,” said the post.
According to the notice of intent, the tweet was then shared on Facebook by Choiselat.
Kinnarath named Henderson and Fletcher in the notice to sue for comments they made to the media. In a Winnipeg Free Press article the day after PPC called Kinnarath a terrorist, Henderson equated the post with Kinnarath’s attempts to deplatform the PPC and Fletcher said Kinnarath committed the “original sin” by getting the party deplatformed.
VICE reached out for comment from the PPC, its Winnipeg Centre riding, and Fletcher but did not hear back.
Kinnarath said he wasn’t shocked about being called a terrorist. “Being an activist and being a Muslim means being called a terrorist isn't anything new for me,” he told VICE. “What was a shock was them posting up my address, my phone number, and my email.”
“It was about harassment,” Kinnarath added. “The reason was to make me and my family afraid, to send people after me.”
Kinnarath also took issue with the picture the party posted. “They put a picture of me with a Palestinian flag wearing a kaffiyeh but they didn't put a picture of me wearing a Jets jersey or playing in my band,” Kinnarath said. “I have hundreds of public pictures they could have picked from.”
Kinnarath said the address listed in the PPC post was an old one and he warned the current occupants of the home, who he said are now taking precautions to protect themselves. Screenshots provided to VICE by Kinnarath show that posts featuring were only removed when Twitter and Facebook found they violated their policy of sharing personal information.
The PPC party was founded in 2018 by Bernier after he came in second in the Conservative leadership race. The party has faced numerous controversies and since its founding has been drifting further and further into the realm of the far-right and conspiracy theorists.
The amount Kinnarath is suing for has not been disclosed. Kinnararth says he and his lawyer are also looking for an apology from the party. He hopes he can send a message to others out there, that “when this does happen to other folks, there that that is something you can do about it.”
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