Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston has been sentenced to 40 days in jail to be served on weekends for what the judge has previously described as “out of control” behaviour.
For months, Johnston has incited followers to defy public health measures in place to control the spread of COVID-19.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adam Germain accepted the joint sentence recommendation, which includes paying Alberta Health Services’ legal fees of $20,000 and obeying public health orders going forward.
“If Mr. Johnston had used his considerable powers of persuasion to get people to wear masks, socially distance, take vaccines, Alberta would not now be in its fourth crisis wave of this pandemic,” said Germain.
“People in Alberta are dying, some are dying alone, some are dying gasping for breath, some are dying crying for opportunities lost and loved ones missed.”
AHS in ‘death struggle’
Johnston was sentenced for breaching three judges’ orders aimed at controlling the behaviours of pandemic-denying, anti-mask leaders in Alberta.
Not only did Johnston defy the public health orders, he took to various social media channels to post angry, hateful videos encouraging others to do the same.
Johnston was sentenced Wednesday, one day after Alberta announced nearly 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the long weekend with more than 600 people in hospital.
“AHS is frankly in a death struggle trying to keep people alive,” said the judge.
Johnston’s weekend sentence means he will show up at jail on Friday and be released Monday morning. That means come municipal election day, Johnston will not be behind bars.
In Calgary, few rules bar someone from running for mayor. Mayoral candidates cannot owe the city money and cannot have violated election laws. Criminal convictions and pending charges do not preclude a candidate from entering the race.
More court troubles for Johnston
This is the latest in Johnston’s months-long court dealings in three provinces.
In May and June, Johnston spent the equivalent of seven weeks in jail for harassing and threatening an AHS inspector as well as causing a disturbance at a downtown Calgary shopping mall when he berated shop staff who demanded he wear a mask.
Last week, Johnston pleaded guilty to a hate crime in Ontario for numerous anti-Muslim online posts in 2017.
After Johnston targeted a Muslim restaurant owner in 2019, a judge ruled in favour of the Toronto businessman, awarding him $2.5 million in the defamation lawsuit for Johnston’s “loathsome example of hate speech at its worst.”
Johnston was found in contempt in Ontario for continuing to post hateful, harassing comments online and has not yet been sentenced for that crime.
He also has yet to be sentenced for the hate crime conviction.
Johnston also faces a charge of assault in B.C. and has yet to go to trial.