CALGARY — An Alberta judge has delivered a stinging rebuke to a controversial Calgary mayoralty candidate and ordered him to serve 40 days in jail for violating COVID-19 court orders.
Kevin J. Johnston is to serve his sentence at the Calgary Remand Centre on weekends beginning Sept. 17. He must also pay Alberta Health Services $20,000.
Johnston was found guilty of three counts of civil contempt for repeatedly posting hateful broadcasts directed at health officials and for flouting public health measures.
Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Adam Germain was harshly critical of Johnston's behaviour.
"It's clear that Mr. Johnston is an individual of great, charismatic persuasion. Unfortunately, he has manifested that persuasion, at least as it relates to Alberta Health Services matters, in a way in which we could call an attack on societal norms, and AHS and the system have struck back," Germain said Wednesday.
"If Mr. Johnston had used his considerable powers of persuasion to encourage people to wear masks, encouraged them to socially distance, encourage them to take the vaccinations, Alberta would not right now be in the fourth crisis wave of this pandemic."
Germain said Alberta Health Services is in a "death struggle" and should be supported instead of torn down. He said people in Alberta are dying as a result of COVID-19, some are alone and gasping for breath.
Johnston bears at least some responsibility for that, he said.
"Had Mr. Johnston devoted his considerable energies and power of persuasion to that cause today, he would not be sanctioned in a quasi-criminal type of proceeding. Today, he would be lauded for his foresight and his dedication."
Johnston had no comment for the court.
He is one of 28 candidates running for Calgary mayor in the Oct. 18 vote.
C said Johnston, while on the campaign trail, should have been urging people to get vaccinated.
"But he didn't do that. He did the contrary," Germain said. "Frankly, gentlemen, in Alberta, if you breach an order of the Court of Queen's Bench in such a public and defiant way, you may expect a period of imprisonment."
Germain had one final message for Johnston as the case came to an end.
"I urge Mr. Johnston to become vaccinated, if he has already not been vaccinated. Who knows what will exist in the Calgary Remand Centre."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2021.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press