Kevin Johnston, the man behind the far-right Freedom Report, is facing hate crime charges in Ontario, just days after he tried to confront Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a fundraiser.The prolific publisher has uploaded hundreds of videos across his various social media platforms, mostly focusing on denigrating Muslims and peddling conspiracy theories about the purported threat of Islam in Canada.
Johnston’s publishing career has drawn the attention of Peel Regional Police, who charged him with one count of wilful promotion of hatred — a crime that could come with up to two years in prison.“The charge stems from a lengthy investigation into numerous incidents reported to police, involving Kevin J. Johnston and concerns information published on various social media sites,” reads a police press release.Johnston is well known around the Toronto area for being the co-owner of the Mississauga Gazette, an online website that accused the mayor of the Toronto suburb of “converting Mississauga into a dangerous Islamic war zone.”It was at the Gazette that Johnston got his first hate crime complaint, from Mayor Bonnie Crombie, after specifically going after her son. “Racism and flat-out lies have no place in Mississauga,” the mayor said in a statement.Most recently, though, Johnston has been the man behind FreedomReport.ca, a website and Youtube channel that has become a loud voice of the alt-right in Canada.But he’s also scored interviews with leading members of the Conservative Party and has become a frequent source for The Rebel, Canada’s flagship website for the alt-right.One of Johnston’s more high profile stunts — which now seems rather ironic — was his declaration of a $1,000 bounty for videos of Muslim students “spewing hate speech during Friday prayers.”Johnston was alarmed that Muslim students were allowed to pray in schools, even though private prayer has been going on in Toronto-area public schools for decades.
More recently, Johnston staked out a fundraiser at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Mississauga where the prime minister was scheduled to meet with supporters from the Arab community. Over the course of four rambling videos, wherein he repeatedly suggests that the restaurant was used for “nefarious” purposes like “terrorist talk.”After Johnston’s arrest, fellow right-wing commentator Ezra Levant called on journalism organizations to get behind the FreedomReport publisher.While it’s not clear exactly what statements that Peel police are basing their charges on, there’s no shortage of offensive material in Johnston’s video library.Last week, Johnston proclaimed: “You have to keep Islam out of the United States every bit as much as Canada has to keep Islam out of Canada.” In an earlier video, Johnston called Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid a “creature” and insisted that “she wants everybody’s who’s not a Muslim dead.” Khalid has been a frequent target for Johnston because she is, herself, Muslim and has fought to have the federal government adopt a strategy for fighting Islamophobia.Johnston has also targeted the prime minister, with the rhetoric ramping up after Ottawa’s decision to settle a lawsuit with former Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr. In one video, Johnston, speaking to Trudeau, says he hopes “other terrorists just like him break into your homes and rape you and your family.”Johnston, despite being prolific, doesn’t have much of a base. His patreon is supported by just five people, pulling in just $25 a month. His Youtube account, which has been pulled down and suspended previously, has just 295 subscribers.