New Winnipeg Coalition formed to unite against "Far Right" movements: MMIWG2S committee says 'no affiliation' with Freedom Convoy

Diwa Marcelino, a spokesperson for Migrante Manitoba, recalled walking in the front of the Human Rights Museum last year. "Someone called me a racial slur for about two minutes," he said. "If you ask Asian women, Muslim women or Indigenous women, and also men, you will hear that attacks against them, against their person, against their culture, have increased.”

Marcelino spoke on behalf of a coalition calling themselves Community Solidarity Manitoba that included the MMIWG Implementation Committee, CUPE, UFCW, UNE, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, Mennonite Central Committee, and Prairie to Pine Regional Council (The United Church of Canada). According to Marcelino, the spokesperson for the coalition, their goal is to create inclusive communities, while combating politically “far right” movements, such as the Freedom Convoy, and subsequently renamed World Unity Convoy, that was set to hold an event in Dugald MB the weekend of February 16.

Anna Huard told The Leaf that she had felt unsafe when the Freedom Convoy had set up in Winnipeg's downtown last year in February. “On behalf of the Women's memorial march, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre and the families and survivors of MMIWG2S+ we have no affiliation or any working relationship with any freedom Convoy members,” Huard said. “We demand they immediately cease using appropriating and using lives of MMIWG2S+ to further their own white supremacist leanings.”

The coalition stressed that they had no plans to confront Freedom Convoy members at any gatherings outside the city, but Omar Kinnarath, said his organization Defend Winnipeg, would definitely support people if they were being harassed.

Pat Bird, a presenter and co-chair of the United Church in Manitoba, thinks churches can play a greater role in de-radicalization, adding that small church communities can become very insular. “Your little world might be safe and you might know your community very well but you have to challenge yourself to think outside of that and to put yourself in others' shoes.”

Meghan Chorney, one of the members of Bird’s church in Selkirk, recalled an online event they had recently helped organize. Targeted at Christians, the event was hosted by Affirm United (a partner with the United Church of Canada) and featured speakers from Anti Hate Canada, a drag performer, and a United Church minister.

“We talked about where this [hateful way of thinking] comes from and being connected not only in Selkirk, not only in Winnipeg, but across the entire country,” said Chorney. “[Thinking outside your world] is really important because there were so many people [at the Affirm United event] saying ‘I didn't know this was happening in Alberta, in Winnipeg, in Ottawa.’”

Bird said she sometimes has a hard time breaking people out of their shells in order to change their thinking. “For white folks life is easy,” Bird said. “We just sort of move around and don't really have a lot of the [challenges other demographics might face], whereas somebody who experiences these challenges is constantly on guard, worried about if somebody is going to make a shot at you or try to tell you that you don't belong.”

“So we have the responsibility of that, noticing it, witnessing it, and speaking to it,” Bird said. “We have to make sure that we’re listening to the minority voices and not speaking over them.”

CUPE representative Liz Carlyle said that “becoming a part of a union is one of the best ways out of a lot of the challenges people in the convoy are facing,” and Molly McCracken, executive director of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Manitoba (CCPA), said that people have a right to be upset about the many crises that people have been facing since the pandemic.

"We need governments to do their jobs. We need to talk to our neighbours," she said. "Educate ourselves and get out to vote."

Near the end of the press conference, a commotion ensued as several people entered the meeting and a man who wouldn’t identify himself held up a copy of a swastika and yelled that the press should “do their research,” until he was engaged by the minister of Broadway Disciples Church, and left.

The CCPA announced a community forum on the rising cost of living is scheduled for March 23. More info

Daniel McIntyre-Ridd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf