Former Mississauga Mayoral Candidate Ordered to Pay Restaurateur $2.5 Million Following Hateful Remarks
Yesterday, far-right figure and former Mississauga mayoral candidate, Kevin J. Johnston, was ordered to pay $2.5 million in damages after making defamatory statements about Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih.
On May 13, an Ontario Superior Court of Justice judge ruled that Johnston made "hateful Islamophobic" comments against Fakih in a series of videos and posts, some of which appeared on his Freedom Report website, starting in July 2017.
Johnston is a known anti-Islam activist in Mississauga who gained notoriety when he launched a campaign against the construction of a mosque in Meadowvale in 2015.
According to the ruling, passed down by Justice Jane Ferguson, Johnston has maligned Muslims through various online postings.
The ruling says Johnston uses his online platforms to broadcast hate. The document detailing the decision says he has called Canadian Muslims “terrorists”, “terrorist scumbags”, “racist terrorist scumbags” and ”Nazis”. The decision also notes that Johnston has referred to Islam as “non-civilized garbage.”
The decision says Johnston has repeatedly called Muslims “rapists” and has said that Muslim immigrants bring sexually-transmitted diseases to Canada. He has also stated that Muslims are part of a “system designed to rape, kill and pillage and destroy” the country.
The document says Johnston claims that Muslims are in Canada “to take this country over”, “to kill me, and kill my children, and kill the entire future of this entire nation” and have “the maple leaf removed from the flag to be replaced by the crescent moon”.
The ruling also says he has also publicly encouraged people to “buy guns,” “go to the gym, learn how to fight,” “buy knives and learn how to use them,” and “stock up on arrows for your bow.”
In 2017, Johnston was arrested and charged with willful promotion of hatred. According to the CBC, those criminal charges stemmed from an incident in which Johnston offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could provide him with footage of Muslim students praying in Peel schools.
Johnston ran for mayor of Mississauga twice, once in 2014 and again in 2018. In 2018, he came in second, but lost to current Mayor Bonnie Crombie by a wide margin, garnering 13.5 per cent of the vote.
Johnston, his website, and another anti-Islam activist named Ron Banerjee were named as defendants in Fakih’s original lawsuit, which was filed on Aug. 4, 2017.
Yesterday, the judge referred to Johnston's behaviour as "horrific."
“At its core, the horrific behaviour of the Johnston defendants has been a grievous injustice to a valued member of the Canadian community who deserves nothing less than our respect. That is lamentable enough, but it is more than that.”
“Motivated by ignorance and a reckless regard for acceptable norms, the Johnston defendants’ behaviour reflects a contempt for Canada’s judicial process, an abuse of the very freedoms this country affords them and a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion. Left unchallenged, it poisons the integrity of our democracy,” the decision reads.
The case goes back to a July 20 Liberal Party fundraiser that was held at a Paramount location in Mississauga.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance.
The decision says Johnston and Banerjee (who later apologized for his involvement in the incident) appeared outside of the venue with a camera and a megaphone and made multiple attempts to disrupt the event.
According to the decision, the defendants in the case published eight videos making false and malicious statements. The defendants called Fakih a “racist restaurateur” and “economic terrorist” and claimed CSIS and the CRA were both investigating him. They also suggested that Paramount was a front for the perpetuation of "Islamic discussion" because the restaurant that the fundraiser was held at is located in an industrial area.
The documents say the defendants claimed Fakih “wants to be part of giving money to convicted terrorists.”
The decision also says that Johnston approached Fakih while he was at Erin Mills Town Centre with his three children in 2018. According to the documents, Johnston called Fakih a coward and other names and accused him of supporting terrorism and funding terror organizations “so they can cut babies in half.”
The ruling says Fakih asked Johnston to respect that he was there with his children, but Johnston continued and took photos of the family and recorded the interaction. The ruling states that Johnston followed Fakih and his children into the parking lot.
Fakih, who made headlines in 2017 when he announced that Paramount would pay for funerals for the six Muslim men who were gunned down at a mosque in Quebec City’s Sainte-Foy neighbourhood, praised the court's decision.
"Canada has appeared as a beacon of hope and harmony. We must keep it that way. We must keep Canada warm and welcoming. I did this not for me, but for my kids to know that people who bully and spew hatred are wrong," Fakih said on Twitter.
The court has also ordered Johnston to refrain from communicating with or coming within 100 metres of Fakih, his family or his home. He has also been banned from recording or publishing material about Fakih.
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