A man whose behaviour was deemed by one judge “a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst,” says he was fleeing Canada before being arrested in America this week because he was “marked for death.”
Kevin J. Johnston has previously been before the courts for broadcasting racist remarks targeting an Ontario restaurateur and, separately, for lashing out at health officials in Alberta over their pandemic restrictions.
On Wednesday, he offered an explanation for his latest actions in a statement written the night before and issued through his lawyer.
“Recently I have been made aware of a Fatwa after I was attacked on Christmas Eve, at which point I went into hiding to remain safe,” his statement read.
“Being marked for death in my own country was the final straw, that is when I knew I had to leave. … I was hoping for safe haven in the United States, where I could express my views.”
His statement contained links to his websites but no further proof of the threats.
A day earlier, Johnston had been expected to start serving an 18-month jail sentence for contempt in Ontario, on the heels of finishing a 40-day intermittent sentence in Alberta.
Instead, he was arrested after crossing the border into the U.S., having illegally entered Montana from Saskatchewan, according to authorities.
His journey appears to have been problem plagued.
April LaJune, a right-wing YouTuber, said in a video made Tuesday, she had been on her way to help an unnamed person coming to the U.S. with their asylum plea.
“As he was going to enter the United States he got lost, I mean, lost. I’m talking about, like, really lost,” LaJune says in the video. “We couldn’t find him.”
Fearing for his safety in the freezing weather LaJune said, she called border patrol for help.
Johnston was picked up by border patrol agents near the Montana and North Dakota state line, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Then, on her YouTube show Wednesday, LaJune confirmed it was Johnston she was helping. She said Johnston didn’t know how to share his location and was ill-prepared to make the trip, leaving without a flashlight or thermal blanket and other supplies.
“You can’t navigate by the stars when it’s cloud covered,” she had said on Tuesday’s video.
Her version of events has not been confirmed by Johnston.
LaJune did not accept a request to talk about the events, instead offering for the Star to come on her show to talk about it, which the Star declined.
The contempt charges against Johnston — who ran for mayor in Calgary, last year, and in Mississauga in 2014 and 2018 — stem from two separate court cases. In one, he was found to have defamed a Mississauga restaurateur with racist online content in what observers described as a landmark ruling against hate speech. Another defamation case involved statements against Alberta Health Services.
He was supposed to finish serving his Alberta sentence for breaching court orders related to the defamation case there then report to Ontario, but did not serve his final weekend in an Alberta jail and a warrant was issued for his arrest, authorities said.
His lawyer, Ian McCuaig, said Johnston was returned to Canadian authorities and is being held by RCMP in Weyburn, Sask.
McCuaig said his client will likely return to Calgary to finish his Alberta sentence before heading to Ontario. He could also face further charges, McCuaig said.
Johnston still has an assault charge before the courts related to an incident in the parking lot of a Dawson Creek grocery store last year. He said he went on the run for his own safety.
“I have had to appear in court over 266 times, and have served five months of prison time for holding conservative political views. I have also experienced frequent physical attacks by members of ANTIFA,” reads the statement.
In 2019, a judge ordered Johnston to stop making defamatory statements about Mohamad Fakih and pay $2.5 million in damages. He had not paid at the time of his October sentencing and had continued to defame Fakih.
In the 2019 summary judgment, Ontario Superior Court Justice Jane E. Ferguson called Johnston’s behaviour “a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion.”
Johnston was sentenced in Ontario Oct. 4 and expected to start serving the sentence Tuesday.