Farell was born in Laventille, Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Morvant in a family of 15 brothers and sisters, 6 of whom were adopted by his parents, Philippa and Medford Farrell. He immigrated to Canada in 1969, and attended the University of Toronto from which he earned his Bachelors of Arts in 1974 and Bachelors of Education in 1976, qualifying to teach both history and mathematics. He earned his Masters of Education in 1980.
Farrell was active in the movement against Apartheid in South Africa and in 1985, Farrell was involved in protesting the appearance of apartheid South Africa’s ambassador to Canada, Glenn Babb, at a debate at the University of Toronto’s Hart House. Farrell was accused of hurling the debating society’s ceremonial mace at Babb during the raucous protest. Charges against Farrell were eventually dropped.
Farrell ran as a New Democratic Party of Ontario candidate in the riding of Oriole in the 1990 provincial election, receiving 33% of the vote to come in second place behind Elinor Caplan. Four years later, he ran for Mayor of North York against incumbent Mel Lastman in 1994, over a dispute over the musical Show Boat being staged in North York, finishing third.
In 1988, Farrell was a founding member of the Black Action Defence Committee.
Also a writer and playwright, Farrell is the author of Poetry Not Amnesia. the musical drama Soul Brother Job, the play Warhoun, as well as essays on race, education, culture and politics.
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