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Memorable Manitobans: William N. Kolisnyk (1887-1967)

Politician.

He was born in the Ukraine and immigrated to Canada with his parents. Upon arriving in Canada, he became involved in radical politics. Among other things, he established a branch of the Social Democratic Party in Portage la Prairie. He became the first Communist elected to any political post in North America when he was elected in Winnipeg’s Ward Three aldermanic race in 1926. He would serve on the Winnipeg city council until 1930. On council, Kolisnyk regularly advocated for improved transportation services for the North End, improved conditions for those on unemployment relief, and worked on behalf of municipal employees to enable them to unionize. In 1932, he ran unsuccessfully for the Communist Party of Canada in the provincial election, being defeated by Nicholas Bachynsky. Kolisnyk was also an influential leader in Winnipeg’s Ukrainian community and played a pivotal role in the establishment and operation of the Workers’ and Farmers’ Cooperative. During World War Two, he, along with other communists, was detained by the federal government. During his detention he went blind. After the war, Kolisnyk spent the rest of his life in British Columbia, where he died in Vancouver on 4 November 1967.

Sources:

We thank Stefan Epp for providing information used in this profile.

Page revised: 1 January 2010

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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