Opinion: A court has finally said ‘enough’ to my harasser – and that’s a win for Canada

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Mohamed Fakih is the founder and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods.

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I am an immigrant – a proud Canadian and a proud Muslim. I have built a restaurant business and raised a family in this country. If there is such a thing as the “Canadian Dream”, I have lived it.

But I have also faced the hatred that is growing in the dark corners of our society. And so, when an Ontario judge sentenced a man named Kevin Johnston to 18 months in prison for contempt of court this week, that decision was important, to me, to ensure that Canada is a diverse, Be an inclusive and welcoming country.

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In 2017, Mr Johnson made a variety of false and false allegations against me. He used hate speech at rallies and online. He stalked and harassed me and my children in public. He refused to back down. To protect my family, my reputation and my livelihood, I took them to court for defamation. Ultimately in 2019, I won a financial judgment against him.

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In that case, Ontario Superior Court Justice Jane Ferguson described Mr. Johnston’s behavior as “a sobering example of hate speech that targets people solely because of their religion. It is our democracy, if left unchallenged. Poison dissolves in its integrity.”

However, unexpectedly, Mr Johnson refused to pay a penny of what he had said. But even worse, he continued to use the same hate speech against me.

I felt powerless and insecure. I feared for my family and my employees. I was also disappointed as to why this was allowed to happen.

I had won my court case; The law was on my side. So why hasn’t anything changed? In an online video, Mr. Johnson was heard boasting: “Eleven times I’ve been arrested just for talking, and I’m still smiling. And what they’ve done has made me more than ever.” popularized.”

Was it really justice?

Part of me wished I could ignore the man and be with him, but I thought of Mr. Johnson and what he represented every day. I couldn’t stop asking myself: Do we want to live in this kind of Canada? A Canada where haters have no fear of being held responsible for their dangerous words?

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I decided to once again put my faith in our justice system. And this week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Frederick Myers sentenced Mr Johnson to prison on six counts of contempt. As he wrote in his decision: “There is a need in this case to have a sentence that makes the public rise and take notice.”

Justice Myers’ broad point was the one that really mattered. “The thin veneer of civilization represented by the rule of law needs protection,” he wrote. “Our society runs only when people respect the law voluntarily. Canada is not a society populated with machine guns at every turn, with the police on the sides of the streets. It is our shared values, including our commitment to the rule of law, that differentiate our democracy from many other cultures.”

Free speech is the foundation of a strong democratic society. Hate speech is a perversion and violation of that right. It is against the law, for good reason. It threatens the safety of many in our country, and threatens the values ​​and ideals that our country strives to represent.

To combat hate in Canada, we need action and accountability. Law enforcement must take action against those who promote hatred; The courts should hold these people accountable and they should pay the price. It is a way for Canadians to believe that the law can protect them, and to meaningful detention. Thin veneers should be protected. Those who knowingly violate the law – and disregard its restrictions – should be punished.

Justice Myers acknowledged, “Perhaps prison is a blunt tool and risks making Mr Johnson a martyr because of them.” “But at some point, society simply needs to protect its members and itself from those who will deliberately use our democratic freedoms to hurt others and attack the democratic and charter values ​​and democratic institutions of Canada.”

The sentencing against Mr Johnson is not a solution to the wider problem. There are many more who echo and amplify his hateful words. But it is a start. After four long years, I can tell you that this Canadian was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief that a measure of justice had finally been served. It shouldn’t have required so many years of hard work, but I’m grateful to be able to live in a country where, in the end, its institutions have said: That’s it.

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