Canadian Anti-Hate Network
After being ordered to pay the highest amount in damages in a cyber libel case in Canadian legal history, Kevin Johnston will serve a lengthy prison sentence now that he's been found in contempt of court for continuing to defame a Toronto restaurateur and philanthropist on his livestreams.
Justice Fred Myers sentenced Johnston to 18 months in prison for six counts of contempt of court for repeatedly defaming Paramount Fine Foods owner Mohamad Fakih, rejecting the self-represented Johnston’s claim that he needed a list of statements he could not make.
Stating there was “obviously no point in considering a monetary penalty,” and noting that Johnson has not paid any amount on the $2.5 million damages judgment already against him, the court determined “There is no basis to have any confidence that Mr. Johnson will voluntarily comply with the court's injunction. In this case, moreover, Mr. Johnson is not willing to stand up and bear responsibility for his actions.”
The plaintiff’s lawyers had requested consecutive sentences of four months for each of the six acts of contempt of court.
Held over video call, Johnston appeared from Calgary where he is currently running for mayor. He is unable to return to Ontario due to currently serving a suspended sentence in Alberta for another contempt of court charge, unrelated to the matter with Fakih.
Johnston asked for 100 hours of community service with the Muslim community in exchange for no longer defaming Fakih or mentioning him on his livestreams, allowing him to be reborn as a "central figurehead of love." This was flatly rejected.
“He’s not being punished for his political opinions,” Justice Myers said repeatedly during his decision, determining that “No sentencing option short of a jail term will bring compliance with the injunction, protect Mr. Fakih or the public.”
Fakih has been a consistent target of Johnston’s for years, with numerous prejudiced and defamatory allegations hurled at him.
“Johnson's deliberate stoking of these currents worries me. I do not consider him a fool to be ignored,” Fakih was quoted saying in his victim’s impact statement. “He has many followers who support him in his views. He obviously believes that he and his followers have something to gain and repeatedly targeting me with hate speech.”
Adding, “the truth is I do not know what to tell my wife and children about what has happened. I want them to believe in the justice system, but I do not know how to explain to them why Johnson can continue to attack me. I feel powerless and unsafe. I fear for the safety of me and my family. I fear for the safety of my family and my employees.
“I think about this every day.”
The hateful nature of Johnston’s continued attacks featured prominently in the sentencing, referencing past decisions in the case where the court deemed the actions of the defendants met the Supreme Court-endorsed Hallmarks of Hate. The defendant’s words met “all the essential hallmarks and attributes of an expression that is not worthy of protection,” Justice Shaun Nakatsuru wrote in 2018.
Justice Myers said that the statements were not opinions and could be proven objectively, "In this case, Mr. Johnston has been found by a court of law to publish untrue, harmful, and hateful things about Mr. Fakih."
“Babies are not political opinions,” the judge added. “Those are factual statements that can be proven to be objectively true or untrue. In this case, Mr. Johnson has been found by a court of law to publish untrue, harmful, and hateful things about Mr. Fakih.”
Myers also remarked on Johnston’s strategy to delay court processes by refusing to hire a lawyer when the option is available to him, referencing an August livestream where Johnston detailed a strategy to avoid being audited by the Canadian Revenue Agency by insisting on the need to hire legal counsel and refusing to do so repeatedly.
“Once again, Mr. Johnston has an incomplete understanding. He had ample opportunity to retain counsel. His effort to carry out his strategy is transparent.”
After serving his first 15 months, Johnson will return to court for the “purpose of allowing the court to consider varying the sentence” based on his attempts to “purge his contempt” in the interim.
Justice Myers also said he rejects Johnston’s submissions that he is “merely a journalist, standing by, reporting on concerns expressed by others,” and states that Johnston “actively undermines the rule of law, and to some degree at least, seems to be calling for supporting the overthrow of our democratic institutions.”
“He paints himself as being above the rule of law. If Mr. Johnston’s portrait has been painted, he supplied the paint.”
Johnston’s Legal Woes Continue
Johnston has had a series of run-ins with the law over the course of his activism. An abominable spreader of disinformation, distorted facts, and outright lies, the pandemic has seen his troubles compound in and outside of the courtroom.
Despite running for office in Calgary, Johnston has also found the time to instigate a confrontation with store employees in Dawson Creek, BC, after he was refused service for not wearing a mask. When the local store owner attempted to record his information, Johnston stuck his phone in the man’s face. When it was batted away, Johnston punched him in the face.
The entire event inside and outside of the grocery store was recorded from several angles by several individuals who accompanied him to the store. Despite claiming to place the store owner under a “citizen’s arrest,” when police arrived, Johnston was taken into custody and charged with assault.
Concerns about Johnston’s behaviour also led the City of Calgary to decline to create a voters list that would be distributed to candidates. Johnston has made repeated threats towards Alberta Health Service employees during his live streams, often categorizing them as criminals. The voters list would contain the name and address of every registered voter in the region.
“I’m coming after each and every one of you. This is something you need to consider. All of you are criminals. I don’t have any respect for anyone with Alberta Health Services,” he shouted on his now-deleted Twitch account. “I’m going to come after you with everything I’ve got. I’m going to come after you with full vitriol and full malice. You have never once come across a guy like me who cannot wait to see each and every one of you suffer the way you’ve made all of us in Alberta suffer.”
Often bragging about his legal prowess to his followers, Johnston has managed to lose every recent foray into the courtroom. He was recently sentenced to pay $20,000 in AHS’ legal fees and serve 40 days in jail over a series of weekends, for his repeated violations of public health orders and contempt of court.
This is after serving roughly seven weeks of jail time in the spring for threatening an AHS inspector.
In early September 2021, the embattled candidate also pleaded guilty to a hate crime in Ontario for his 2017 offer of $1,000 for video footage of Muslim children praying in public schools. Johnston also attempted to walk the guilty plea back during the Paramount Fine Foods trial, stating there “was no hate” in the video, and he only pleaded guilty because what he said could “possibly be construed by some as promoting hatred.”