Calgary

AHS suing Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston for $1.3M

Alberta Health Services is suing Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston for $1.3 million following months of threats on various web broadcasts and online video streams hosted by the self-appointed spokesperson for pandemic deniers and those who oppose public health restrictions.

Johnston is in jail awaiting trial, charged criminally in 3 provinces

Kevin J. Johnston, who has a history of espousing hate speech and has been charged with assault, is now being sued by Alberta Health Services for defamation. (Derek Storie/Facebook)

Alberta Health Services is suing Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston for $1.3 million following months of threats against its employees on various web broadcasts and online video streams hosted by the self-appointed spokesperson for pandemic deniers and those who oppose public health restrictions.

The defamation lawsuit, filed at the Calgary Courts Centre, notes 15 times Johnston posted hateful commentary about two health inspectors in particular, including "suggesting the plaintiffs would likely be 'stabbed' or put in a 'wheelchair' and would deserve it," according to the statement of claim.

"You might want to leave Alberta," Johnston said in a video, addressing an AHS inspector. "You might want to go somewhere I can get to you."

"I don't condone violence but when it happens to you, you're going to deserve it."

Currently, Johnston is in custody awaiting trial on criminal charges of causing a disturbance. 

In his online broadcasts, Johnston has suggested the inspectors deserve to be stabbed and called them "Nazis," threatening to "destroy" them and doxxing them. 

Doxxing is a slang term for publicly identifying or publishing someone's private information, such as where they live, against their wishes.

A CBC News interview with Johnston, which he surreptitiously recorded and posted online, is cited in the lawsuit as one of the occasions where the mayoral wannabe threatened to show up at the homes of AHS employees.

Johnston said it was a "promise not a threat" to put AHS employees in prison.  

Johnston's lawyer 'concerned' 

None of the allegations have been proven in court and a statement of defence has not yet been filed. 

Johnston's lawyer, Ian McCuaig, says he's reviewed the statement of claim and has concerns.

"It is concerning to see a government in Canada pursue a private citizen, regardless of how controversial they may be at the moment, with three proceedings in three different courts, all related to a topic which has been politically sensitive for the current government," said McCuaig in a written statement provided to CBC News. 

Since he moved to Alberta from Ontario in November, Johnston has continued to target and threaten AHS and its employees, two inspectors in particular.

Johnston posted photos of the female AHS inspector and her family, even naming her husband.

"I intend to make this woman's life miserable," he said. "I intend to destroy this woman's life."

Criminal charges in 3 provinces

In April and May 2021, when Alberta hit a third wave, experiencing a "significant outbreak" of COVID-19 cases with daily totals in excess of 2,000 new cases, Johnston's online hate ramped up as the province implemented new restrictions.

In recent weeks, Johnston's threats have quieted since he's been in custody following his arrest last month and denial of bail by a Calgary judge.

Johnston is facing criminal charges in three provinces: hate crimes offences in Ontario, an assault charge in B.C. and is accused of causing a disturbance in Alberta.

Mayoral candidates with a criminal record or facing charges are not precluded from running for office. They simply can't have broken any elections laws or owe money to the city.

Bail denied

For months, Johnston has been in Calgary organizing and promoting anti-lockdown rallies. 

In May, Johnston went into stores in the Core Mall without wearing a mask. 

When asked to put one on, he became verbally abusive to employees, police said. Johnston was charged with causing a disturbance.

He was deemed too high risk to reoffend and was denied bail.

Johnston has now been in custody for more than two weeks with a bail review set to take place Monday. 

Earlier this month, he was charged with civil contempt for promoting and participating in an illegal public gathering. A contempt hearing will take place June 16.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.

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