(Advocate file photo)

Pastor, candidate under restraining order arrested for allegedly breaking COVID laws

CALGARY — A Calgary mayoral candidate who is under a restraining order and a pastor both face charges for allegedly violating COVID-19 laws over the weekend.

The Calgary Police Service alleges Kevin J. Johnston was in violation of a court order when he attended an illegal gathering Saturday morning.

The injunction, obtained by the province’s health delivery agency on May 6, mandates that event organizers comply with public health restrictions, including masking, physical distancing and attendance limits.

Police also say Pastor Tim Stephens was arrested Sunday afternoon for organizing a church service that was held earlier in the day at Fairview Baptist Church, which police allege did not comply with public health orders.

Police say they received repeated calls from concerned citizens about services at Fairview Baptist Church in recent weeks, and that Stephens was proactively served a copy of the May 6 order last weekend.

On Friday, Alberta Health Services said the Court of Queen’s Bench imposed a restraining order on Johnston, requiring that he stay at least 100 metres away from health officers and must not publish any threats or hate speech directed at them.

Johnston is running in this fall’s municipal election and has been a vocal supporter of anti-lockdown protests.

“We are at a critical point in our province’s response to the pandemic and citizens must comply with public health orders in order to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being,” police said in a news release announcing Johnston’s arrest.

They didn’t say what event he allegedly attended.

Alberta Health Services has said Johnston has been aggressive and threatening towards two particular health workers as well as to the general AHS workforce.

Johnston appears regularly online, promoting far-right ideology.

Premier Jason Kenney tweeted Saturday that he was glad the restraining order was issued, calling Johnston a “nutbar.”

Police, meanwhile, said they did not enter Fairview Baptist Church during Sunday morning’s service, and that Stephens was arrested in the afternoon.

“The Pastor acknowledged the injunction, but chose to move forward with today’s service, ignoring requirements for social distancing, mask wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees,” police stated in a news release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2021.

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