Winnipeg activist threatens to sue People's Party of Canada over posts calling him a terrorist
Omar Kinnarath alleges party members harassed and defamed him
A Winnipeg activist plans to sue the People's Party of Canada and its candidates for defamation over social media posts made by party members, unless they apologize and retract their statements.
A Sept. 17 letter from Omar Kinnarath's lawyer, Benjamin Tinholt, says on July 23, the party's Winnipeg Twitter account tweeted a photo of the activist with "TERRORIST" beneath it, along with his full name, home address and phone number.
"This terrorist shut down our Rally to introduce our PPC Candidate by ruining online the little woman who was renting us our venue," the tweet read, according to the letter from the lawyer.
The post surfaced after Kinnarath — who has helped organize rallies against racism in the city with his organization Fascist Free Treaty 1 — asked an Exchange District art gallery to cancel a PPC rally that was planned there. He said the party's views didn't line up with the gallery's pledge to be an inclusive space.
"We kindly emailed the gallery owner as procedure, letting them know that … we feel as you being an inclusive gallery, maybe this shouldn't be a good idea," he said.
The gallery ended up cancelling the event as a result. The social media posts popped up shortly after.
Kinnarath said he intends to sue Monique Choiselat, chief executive officer of the People's Party of Canada's Winnipeg Centre riding association, as well as party candidates Yogi Henderson and Steven Fletcher, the letter says.
Choiselat shared the same post on her Facebook account, the letter from Tinholt says.
Henderson and Fletcher are being sued for comments they made in the Winnipeg Free Press, which Kinnarath says supported and repeated the statements from the social media post.
Behaviour 'shocking': lawyer
Kinnarath's lawyer said part of the case amounts to "doxxing," where a person's private information is shared online with malicious intent.
What's unusual about this case, he said, is that the behaviour comes from people working for a political party, who were easily identifiable.
What's really shocking is that … anybody who thinks this is a good idea thinks that they are a suitable candidate for high federal office.- Benjamin Tinholt, lawyer
"Normally they're just anonymous internet trolls," Benjamin Tinholt said.
"What's really shocking is that … any adult would think this is a good idea, and that anybody who thinks this is a good idea thinks that they are a suitable candidate for high federal office."
Kinnarath demands apology
In addition, Kinnarath alleges members of the party harassed him at his place of business on Aug. 30.
"Mr. Kinnarath has suffered and will continue to suffer serious damage, including visible and provable injury, as a result of the above libel, slander, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of mental suffering," Tinholt's letter says.
Kinnarath is asking the party, Choiselat, Henderson and Fletcher to apologize for the statements on the party's Twitter and Facebook pages by Thursday.
He also wants "clear and unqualified" written apologies from Henderson, Fletcher and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier to be published in the Winnipeg Free Press.
The People's Party of Canada did not respond to CBC's requests for comment.
Tinholt said Wednesday that he and his client will give the parties some time to respond, and that no lawsuit has been filed at this time.
"The purpose of this letter is to put the would-be defendants on notice that they now have an opportunity to avoid litigation," he said.
This isn't the first time Kinnarath has been the subject of online harassment.
In 2017, a photo of him dressed in traditional clothing for Ramadan was made into a meme, claiming he was a threat to women and a danger to society.
With files from Kim Kaschor