Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston, a leader in the pandemic-denying, anti-mask movement, has pleaded guilty to a hate crime in Ontario in connection with anti-Muslim posts online.
On Friday morning in an Ontario courtroom, Johnston admitted that between January and July 2017 he posted a number of videos to various websites that promoted hatred against Muslims.
Defence lawyer Ian McCuaig told the judge that his client "doesn't hate anybody" but was reckless and "crossed the line."
Johnston was charged in 2017 with inciting hatred against an identifiable group after posting a YouTube video where he offered his followers $1,000 if they submitted recordings of Muslim students "spewing hate speech during Friday prayers."
A date for sentencing will be set later this month.
'Loathsome example of hate speech'
Johnston has repeatedly displayed racist behaviour over the years in both Alberta and Ontario, where he was living until his move to Calgary last year.
In March, Johnston sold coffee he branded "Wasted Native" with an accompanying slogan "Forget gas, huff this."
When he targeted a Toronto restaurant owner in 2019, a judge ruled Johnston's behaviour toward the Muslim man was a "loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion."
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.
Friday's plea is the latest in a string of legal woes for Johnston, who could be in jail come Calgary's election day on Oct. 18.
Johnston has also yet to be sentenced for three contempt convictions in Alberta and Ontario.
Next Wednesday, Johnston is due to be sentenced for two Calgary contempt convictions, and lawyers on both sides have acknowledged he will serve a period of jail time.
Johnston's summer in court
In July, Johnston pleaded guilty to criminal harassment of an Alberta Health Services employee whom he targeted and threatened for months, posting photos of her family online and asking his followers to track down her address, as she enforced public health measures.
In the same proceedings, Johnston was also convicted of causing a disturbance at the Core mall in downtown Calgary for being belligerent with shop employees who told him he had to wear a mask.
For those two convictions, Johnston served the equivalent of 10 weeks in jail and is subject to nine months of probation conditions.
Earlier in the summer, Johnston was convicted of civil contempt for defying two judges' orders aimed at controlling prolific rule breakers like himself who encouraged followers to defy public health restrictions.
Threats to AHS employees
Johnston has said several times on video posted to his social media accounts that he is prepared to arm himself and go to the homes of health officials to arrest those who have taken enforcement actions.
In finding him guilty, the judge called Johnston's behaviour "frightening" and "venomous" and said the 49-year-old is "dangerous and out of control."
Following months of threats against its employees, AHS filed a $1.3-million defamation lawsuit against Johnston.
Johnston has also been convicted of contempt in Ontario for posting racist, defamatory statements about a Toronto restaurant owner after a judge ordered him to stop making offensive posts on his social media channels.
In 2019, Mohamad Fakih successfully sued the wannabe mayor for defamation and was awarded $2.5 million with the judge finding Johnston's behaviour was "a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst."
Johnston had called Fakih a "terrorist" and other "racist slurs," the judge noted.
Niklas Holmberg, who represented Fakih, has indicated he will seek a jail sentence on the contempt conviction.
Johnston also has an outstanding assault charge in B.C. and will go to trial for that in December.