Calgary

Calgary preacher, mayoral candidate released after weekend arrests for attending large gatherings

A Calgary mayoral candidate and a preacher have both been released from custody after their weekend arrests for attending large gatherings, allegedly in breach of a judge's order that COVID-19 public health restrictions be obeyed.

Civil contempt hearings for Kevin J. Johnston, Tim Stephens set for June 16

A composite photo shows Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston, left, and Fairview Baptist Church pastor Tim Stephens. The two were released Monday after their weekend arrests for attending large gatherings, allegedly in breach of a judge's order that COVID-19 public health restrictions be obeyed. (Kevin J Johnston/Facebook, Fairview Baptist Church/YouTube)

A controversial Calgary mayoral candidate with a history of racist comments and a local preacher have both been released from custody after their weekend arrests for attending large gatherings, allegedly in breach of a judge's order that COVID-19 public health restrictions be obeyed.

Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary was arrested Sunday after months of encouraging congregants to break pandemic-related public health rules.

One day earlier, mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston was taken into police custody. Johnston is accused of attending three large gatherings including a meet-and-greet at the local CFL stadium parking lot, a gathering at Prince's Island Park and a church service.

The service took place at Artur and Dawid Pawlowski's church. The brothers were arrested last weekend and held in custody, accused of breaching the same court order that landed Johnston and Stephens behind bars. 

Johnston live-streamed each of the events to his Facebook and Instagram pages.

Johnston and Stephens were released on conditions that they obey public health restrictions from Alberta Health Services (AHS), including masking and physical distancing requirements as well as limits on gatherings.

Johnston was not pleased when he learned he would be required to wear a mask.

"I simply cannot wear a mask," he told the court. "I'm sweating, I'm bothered."

On June 16, both men will go before Court of Queen's Bench Justice Adam Germain for civil contempt hearings. 

Johnston also must obey AHS restraining order 

Johnston is also required to obey conditions of another court order: on Friday, AHS was granted a restraining order against Johnston, which prevents him from obstructing or interfering with AHS and its employees.

Over the past several weeks, Johnston has posted several videos where he threatens to arm himself and arrest health workers if he is elected mayor.

He's posted photos of one AHS employee in particular and threatened to dox her and others. Doxxing is the practice of posting a person's personal information online, often against a person's wishes.

Johnston is currently facing an assault charge in B.C. and hate crimes charges in Ontario.

As a mayoral candidate, Johnston may soon be granted access to a list that includes the names, addresses and phone numbers of every Calgarian eligible to vote.

Calgary police have expressed concern over the potential disclosure and the City of Calgary has said it is exploring its legal options regarding the voters' list.

Arresting pastor a last resort: police

Stephens has previously been fined and ticketed for defying public health regulations by holding over-capacity gatherings and not enforcing mask use or distancing requirements.

Despite being served with a copy of the judge's order, Stephens held a service on Sunday and was then arrested.

Churches in Alberta are currently limited to a maximum occupancy of 15 people.

Police said over the last several weeks, AHS had been attempting to work with the church to address the ongoing public health concerns at the site, and that enforcing the orders and arresting Stephens was a last resort.

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