Calgary weighs legal options amid fear candidate threatening health workers will soon have voter addresses
Kevin J. Johnston has threatened to arm himself and go to the homes of Alberta Health Services employees
The City of Calgary says it's working with its legal team regarding legislation that requires a list of voters be provided to mayoral candidates, after CBC News reported one candidate is attempting to track down addresses of Alberta Health Services employees and threatening to show up at their homes armed.
Kevin J. Johnston, who faces assault and hate crimes charges in B.C. and Ontario, will receive names and addresses of all Calgary voters once nominations close in September.
Calgary police officers have also been publicly named by Johnston's followers who are angry with the enforcement of public health restrictions.
On Monday evening, an Elections Calgary returning officer told city council that they will be seeking council's direction on preparing the list of voters once amendments to the city's election bylaw are brought forward in July.
If council directs that a list be prepared, the returning officer said the city is required under the provincial Local Authorities Election Act to provide the list — which includes names and addresses of all registered voters — to any mayoral candidate who requests it.
Elections Calgary said once the list is prepared it can't be withheld from candidates, in accordance with that provincial legislation.
Council discussed the issue behind closed doors Monday evening, and voted for city administration to bring an update on what was discussed to a council committee meeting on May 18.
Coun. Evan Woolley was the sole vote against keeping that discussion confidential and waiting more than a week for the update. He said "stringent" rules are needed.
"It's the job of our administration to protect those people willing to participate in the democratic process … I don't know if I've been given confidence today that's being done," the councillor said.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he's speaking with city officials, looking at legislation to figure out what can be done to keep Calgarians safe.
"It'll be a good question to see whether we should be providing that to any candidate given the heightened tension in political discourse right now," Nenshi said at city hall on Monday.
"When you have a candidate who is currently facing charges for, frankly, violent assault and you have a candidate who has been openly threatening people, then you've got to make sure you're looking out for the safety of citizens and for the safety of other candidates as well."
Johnston recently posted a video suggesting he take a photo of himself in front of an image of Nenshi hanging from a noose.
'A dangerous prospect'
Mayoral candidate Jyoti Gondek said sacrifices should be made by those campaigning to keep the public safe.
"We are faced with a dangerous prospect in this municipal election," said Gondek. "We must band together and ask Elections Calgary not to release voter lists to anyone. It will make our elections harder, but it will protect Calgarians. That should be our first job as candidates and elected officials."
Johnston has already asked his thousands of followers to track down as many addresses for AHS employees as they can, in hopes of doxing them.
On Saturday, he said if police won't take action against health inspectors he would take matters into his own hands.
"I'm coming for you all," he said to health workers in a livestreamed video. "If SWAT won't come, it's simple, I'll arm myself and I'll come right to your doors."
While the city is working with its legal team to determine what action can be taken on a municipal level, provincial Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver does have the authority to intervene.
CBC News has requested information and an interview from McIver but he hasn't responded.
WATCH | Kevin J. Johnston threatens to go after Alberta Health Services employees:
The Calgary Police Service said it's "deeply concerned" the personal information of its members and others in the community is set to be distributed and is working with the city "in an attempt to limit the disclosure."
Johnston is known for organizing and speaking at far-right protests against public health restrictions.
In March, Johnston was caught on video punching a B.C. grocery store worker after he got kicked out of the store for refusing to wear a mask. He was charged with assault. He's also facing hate crimes charges in Ontario after an investigation into "multiple incidents" targeting the Muslim community. Neither of those charges have yet been proven in court.
In 2019, an Ontario judge awarded a restaurant owner $2.5 million in a defamation lawsuit against Johnston. The judge called Johnston's behaviour a "loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion."
Recently, Johnston sold coffee in Calgary using blatantly racist branding, calling it "Wasted Native" with the slogan, "Forget gas, huff this" accompanied by an equally disturbing logo.
Elections Calgary said there's not yet a process in place for voters to remove their name from the list of electors. Voters can contact 311 with any concerns.
Candidates who use the list for reasons other than campaigning can be fined up to $100,000, and/or imprisoned up to one year.
In a Monday video, Johnston said he will not break that rule, adding that once he is mayor he will instead ask police to access health workers' addresses in order to arrest them.