Published:June 2, 2021
Online postings by mayoral hopeful Kevin J. Johnston decrying public health measures designed to combat COVID-19 show a “frightening … out of control individual,” a judge said Friday in finding him in contempt of three court orders.
Justice Adam Germain agreed with Alberta Health Services lawyer Mark Jackson that Johnston’s conduct in continuing to protest the measures by taking part in large gatherings and refusing to comply with mask requirements was in violation of three different court orders.
Germain said a series of videos posted by Johnston and showed in court were particularly disturbing as they targeted health-care workers simply trying to do their jobs.
“Watching Mr. Johnston on these videos played in open court … reveals an individual who is frightening in his bombast and demeanour. His words could only inflict fear and concern for personal safety for the personnel at AHS who Mr. Johnston targeted,” the Court of Queen’s Bench judge said.
“They are harassing in their nature. He presents as a dangerous, out of control individual. The malice that Mr. Johnston expresses is simply beyond the pale of normal social discourse,” Germain said.
“Reasonable people can reasonably disagree, but in Mr. Johnston’s case, whether for economic or political gain, he clearly reflects an animus to Alberta Health Services personnel that is simply shocking.”
Johnston’s lawyer, Ian McCuaig, had argued the orders and the measures they applied to violated his client’s Charter rights of freedom of expression and the right to run for office.
“He’s a political animal,” McCuaig said Monday, in arguing Johnston was simply exercising his constitutional rights when he took part in gatherings protesting the public health measures designed to curb the third wave of the novel coronavirus.
“He ran for mayor of Mississauga twice; finished second four years ago,” McCuaig said.
The lawyer said a court order granted to a government body such as AHS can’t automatically override individual Charter rights.
“Government … is constrained by the Charter in any action it takes,” the lawyer said.
McCuaig said if the government passed legislation barring citizens the right to criticize their elected representatives, it would lead to pandemonium.
“People would surely riot and try to burn the legislature to the ground,” he said.
But Jackson successfully argued Johnston should be held in contempt of court for repeatedly posting hateful broadcasts directed at Alberta Health Services officials and flouting public health measures.
Johnston is currently in custody on criminal charges relating to some of his anti-masking activity.
He faces allegations of causing a disturbance and breaching a court order in connection with a May 22 incident at the Core shopping centre where Johnston and some of his supporters went into two shoe stores, unmasked, and harassed employees for trying to enforce the regulation.
He’s set to stand trial on July 12 on those allegations.
A hearing to determine what sanctions he will face for his contempt is set for July 27.