Canada’s Free-Speech Phobia
Islam-critic charged with “willful promotion of hatred.”
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is charging blogger Kevin J. Johnston with one count of “willful promotion of hatred.” According to a Globe and Mail report, Johnston’s arrest followed a lengthy investigation of his online activism but news reports played up a recent story by the blogger, who operates the FreedomReport.ca website.
In late April, after a head-on crash on Highway 3 near Windsor, police searched the Lexus in which Tariq Elamin and Satvir Singh were riding and found a sawed-off shotgun and .22 rifles. Police arrested the pair, now facing firearms charges, including possession of an illegal weapon and carrying a concealed weapon.
Johnston claimed the pair were Muslim “maniacs” and “on their way to kill people — shoot up St. Clair College,” in Windsor. Johnston cited “city staff” as his source but police and college officials deny any threat. A lawyer for Singh said Johnston’s video was “entirely fabricated” and “obviously racist.”
As Canadian journalist Ezra Levant notes, even among conservatives Johnston is known as a troublemaker and loose cannon, with the nickname of “Jackal.” Johnston has opposed the federal anti-Islamophobia measure M-103 and accused member of Parliament Iqra Khalid of being a “terrorist.” He has suggested that a Muslim member of Parliament might get shot by a Canadian patriot, but Attorney General Naqvi, a Pakistani-born Muslim, did not mention this post in the charge.
Johnston told Levant his major issue is the indoctrination of children in public schools. Johnston has been critical of local schools for providing spaces for Muslims to conduct what news reports describe as “congregational” prayers on Fridays. As Levant explains, the Muslims effectively turn the school into a mosque. Johnston also offered a reward of $1,000 for recordings of Muslim students “spewing hate speech during Friday prayers” at schools in the Peel Region.
Rabia Khedr of the Muslim Council of Peel, told reporters, “We have been dealing with the rise of Islamophobia and such instances in question from a particular individual for several months now. It was certainly taking a toll on people, fostering a sense of exclusion and making people feel they weren’t welcome – that they don’t belong.” This complaint most likely triggered the charge against Johnston.
“In a multicultural and inclusive province like Ontario, the promotion of hatred stands in direct opposition to our fundamental values of equality and diversity,” Attorney General Naqvi explained. “Hate divides people and communities.”
Richard Moon, law professor at the University of Windsor, told reporters that section 319 of the criminal code targets “speech that, if taken seriously, you’d have to conclude we need to take radical action against members of a group — violent action or total exclusion from society.” The government “may also have decided that it is important to take action in response to the growth — and greater virulence — of anti-Muslim speech in Canada.”
As Moon explained, “We do have limits on free speech at different times. It’s certainly the view of lawmakers and our courts that there is good reason and justification for limits on speech.”
The criminal prosecution of Kevin Johnston marks a stark contrast to other Ontario cases.
Windsor’s Arabic-language Al Forqan has called knife attacks on Jews in Israel a “sacred duty of Jihad.” Michael Mostyn of B’nai Brith Canada charged that the Muslim publication was “directly contributing to the radicalization of Canadian youth by glamorizing murder as a sacred religious duty.” No criminal prosecution resulted from the Al Forqan editorial, “The Duty of Jihad.”
According to police in Bangladesh, Canadian University of Windsor student Tamim Chowdhury masterminded a July 1, 2016, terrorist attack on a popular Dhaka restaurant that killed 24 people. According to survivors, the attackers took hostages, “separating out those who identified as Muslim from the rest and executing a number of patrons for being foreign non-Muslims.”
Chowdhury took part in a Muslim study group in Calgary, Alberta. Another member, Salman Ashrafi, became a suicide bomber, killing 46 in Iraq. No prosecutions for hate speech or incitement to violence emerged from this Muslim study group.
The same week of charges against Kevin Johnston, the College of Nurses of Ontario revoked the nursing license of Elizabeth Wettlaufer. The disciplinary action came long after Wettlaufer had killed eight elderly nursing-home residents by overdosing them with insulin.
Wettlaufer is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. She started killing in 2007 but Canadian authorities discovered nothing until the nurse admitted the murders in the fall of 2016.
The troublesome Kevin Johnston, by contrast, is being prosecuted because of things he said and videos he posted. Ezra Levant warns that the trend in Canada is to call any criticism of Sharia law a hate crime while, on the other hand, Muslims indoctrinate and indulge hatred with impunity.
Johnston’s prosecution follows Canada’s award of $10.5 million to Omar Khadr the Canadian-born al-Qaeda militant who killed an American soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer, in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.
Khadr was captured and served some 10 years in Guantanamo before a deal allowed him to finish his sentence in Canada. In addition to the $10.5 million ($8 million in Canadian funds), the Canadian government issued an official apology to Khadr.
“On behalf of the government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to his ordeal abroad and any resulting harm,” the apology states. “We hope that this expression, and the negotiated settlement reached with the government, will assist him in his efforts to begin a new and hopeful chapter in his life with his fellow Canadians.”
Khadr, now living in Edmonton, enjoys skiing and “goes to movies with friends and delights in using his King’s University student card to get discount pizza.”
Kevin Johnston, meanwhile, remains defiant and has announced plans to run for mayor of Mississauga. The blogger next appears in court on September 8. Advocates of free speech and critics of Sharia law will want to stay tuned.