Former Mississauga mayoral candidate to pay $2.5mn in hate speech case

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Ontario Superior Court Justice Jane Ferguson ordered former Mississauga mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston to pay a total of $2.5 million in damages for defamation to Mohamad Fakih, the owner and founder of Paramount Fine Foods.

Johnston, who operated websites including FreedomReport.ca and recently came in second place in Mississauga’s mayoral race, posted multiple videos attacking Fakih.

In the videos, Johnston made a series of incendiary statements including a claim Fakih was an “economic terrorist” with backing from the Pakistani spy agency.

He also alleged restaurant policy barred staff from admitting anyone who wasn’t a “jihadist.”

Ferguson says Johnston’s words amounted to hate speech that called for particularly strong condemnation from the court.

Johnston did not respond to a request for reaction to Ferguson’s ruling, and the paralegal who represented him during the defamation suit could not be reached for comment.

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According to Ferguson’s decision, Johnston and another man shot the video footage on July 20, 2017, while a fundraiser for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was taking place at Paramount’s flagship location in Mississauga.

The videos also featured Paramount’s facade and logo and a photograph of Fakih altered to present him with blood on his hands, Ferguson wrote.

The other man who appeared in Johnston’s videos and who was originally named in the defamation suit saw the action against him dismissed after he issued an “unqualified apology” for his words and actions.

At one point, her decision said he went so far as to accuse Fakih of launching the suit in league with the woman who ultimately defeated him during Mississauga’s 2018 mayoral race. While the incumbent was re-elected with 76 per cent of the vote, city election results show Johnston took 13.5 per cent of ballots cast and placed second in the contest.

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Ferguson awarded Fakih damages based on his standing in the community, the seriousness of the defamatory statements, the extent of their publication, the lack of an apology from Johnston and the defendant’s conduct.

She accepted Fakih’s contention that both his business interests and personal reputation were impacted by Johnston’s baseless claims. -CINEWS

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