Mississauga resident Kevin J. Johnston has been charged with wilfully promoting hatred toward the Peel Muslim community, Peel Regional Police said on Monday.
The charge relates to information published on “various social media sites” over the past five months, but police would not be more specific on the content of the postings.
Police said “numerous incidents” were reported to them, sparking the “lengthy” investigation.
Police had to ask for consent from the Ontario Attorney General’s office to lay the charge which was given Monday allowing the police to arrest and formally charge Johnston with one count of wilful promotion of hatred.
Johnston has been a prominent figure in the debate centred around Muslim prayer in Peel schools.
In March, he offered a $1,000 “reward” for any video students secretly could take of Muslim students praying at school.
The school board accused Johnston, a former Mississauga mayoral candidate, of encouraging hatred with the reward offer, an allegation Johnston refuted.
Following disruptions of Peel District School Board meetings this spring, where the issue was dealt with, Johnston was banned from attending future meetings. He was escorted off school board property by police during a meeting March 22.
Last October, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie filed a hate-motivated-crime complaint with Peel police after Johnston’s website published an article claiming the mayor was trying to convert the city to Islam so “they can kill her son just for being gay.”
Peel police would not comment on whether or not that article was one of the postings that lead to the charge, but it was posted more than five months ago, and police said the charge relates to postings made in the past five months.
Peel police said more information about hate or bias-motived crime is available at www.peelpolice.ca/hate.
The decision to arrest and charge Kevin Johnston has led to plenty of online debate about issues such as M103, hate crimes and free speech. Some online commentators are now hoping that other polarizing figures who have called for the elimination of Jews and other speeches that vilify ‘infidels’ will also be held to the same scrutiny. Other commentators worry that there is too fine a line and wonder when is genuine criticism considered hateful. – CINEWS