A former Mississauga mayoral candidate whose online posts targeting Muslims have prompted complaints was arrested Monday for “hate-motivated crime,” Peel Regional Police said.
Kevin J. Johnston, 45, was charged with a single count of wilful promotion of hatred following what a statement called “a lengthy investigation into numerous incidents reported to police.”
The Freedom Report website where Johnston posts his radio-host style videos, many of them aimed at the Islamic faith and individual Muslims, remained online following the arrest.
Johnston was charged under a section that outlaws promoting “hatred against any identifiable group,” other than in private conversation. He faces up to two years imprisonment if convicted.
The charge was approved by the Ontario Attorney General’s office, which has the final say on hate crimes prosecutions. He was scheduled to appear in Brampton court on Monday.
“This charge is long overdue,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “We welcome this development as an important step towards safeguarding our communities from unchecked hatred that both harms social cohesion and threatens the safety of community members.”
Johnston could not be reached for comment. A recorded message on his phone did not mention the arrest but said his YouTube and Twitter accounts had been suspended.
On Freedom Report, Johnston is described as “an author, editor and in charge of local business, marketing and advertising for the Mississauga Gazette.”
But in recent months he has become known for his remarks about Muslims, particularly in his opposition to an anti-Islamophobia motion in Parliament and weekly prayers in Peel district schools.
He had stirred complaints by offering a $1,000 reward for a recording of “hate speech” during the Friday prayers at Peel district schools. He later increased it to $2,500.
Muslim leaders in the Toronto area had grown increasingly concerned about his videos singling out of their faith, which the website had called “as evil as evil gets” and a “military doctrine” that needed to be banned.
“Today the Muslim community of Peel can sleep safer knowing that there are consequences for promoting hatred and inciting violence against us,” said Rabia Khedr, Executive Director of the Muslim Council of Peel. “We hope that these charges will serve to deter future assaults on our community.”