Favourite local activist
1. Omar Kinnarath
2. Michael Redhead Champagne
3. Lara Rae / Uzoma Asagwara (tied)
Omar Kinnarath often makes local headlines as a person who steps up to serve the community.
After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, Kinnarath knew it was imperative to monitor far-right activity.
“Outright racism was coming into the mainstream, and there wasn’t any anti-racism, anti-fascism organization in the city going on at the time,” he says.
In 2017, Kinnarath founded Fascist Free Treaty One (FF1) to raise community awareness about the dangers of extreme right-wing political beliefs.
“We keep an eye out for far-right activity locally and nationally. It’s been five years for FF1, and I’m glad it was there to get the ball rolling and to be a counter to the far-right in the city,” Kinnarath says.
He and his group attempt to stem far-right groups like the Proud Boys from gaining a foothold in Winnipeg. Kinnarath claims actively calling out such groups on social media forces far-right groups underground before they can grow. Although he admits this doesn’t eradicate or dissolve extremist groups and there is the possibility that they will return.
“When there’s something that goes on in the city that’s not right, (like) far right, neo-Nazis or anti-trans folks, we get on it right away,” Kinnarath says.
He refers to the Battle at Old Market Square in 1934 when citing Winnipeg’s history of resistance to alt-right groups.
“(Winnipeg has) an overall legacy of having intense anti-racism organizing since the 1930s with the anti-Nazi leagues,“ he says.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, he felt local leaders were failing citizens. In 2020, Kinnarath founded Mutual Aid Society Winnipeg (MAS). He believes the best way for society to survive and thrive in times of crisis is through mutual aid and connecting people in need of resources.
He says grassroot groups like FF1 and MAS actively help communities daily, whereas many politicians spend money that doesn’t always directly support vulnerable citizens.
“One of the reasons I ran for office (is) because I wanted to put that out there, that there are people in the city who do their work at a very intense and high level that our political leaders don’t do. Their care and capacity doesn’t reach the next level,” Kinnarath says.
Published in Volume 77, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 1, 2022)