A Toronto man has been fined and must cover court costs for taking photos of an Alberta judge and an Alberta Health Services lawyer, then posting them online.
Donald Smith, who appeared in court via video before Justice Adam Germain on Wednesday, had taken screenshots of a virtual court hearing hosted on Webex that was related to violations of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules. He told his followers that he realized he could go to jail for his actions. He also questioned the judge’s integrity.
His lawyer and the counsel for Alberta Health Services agreed to a joint recommendation and Smith was fined $1,000 for contempt of court and must pay $1,500 in court costs. He’s also prohibited from using social media to threaten or harass individuals.
“I’m terribly sorry for taking the screen shot. I felt bad,” Smith said.
“It kind of sucks to pay the ($2,500), but I do take full responsibility for my actions.”
His lawyer, Ian McQuaig, said Smith had moved from Vancouver to Toronto and was on disability related to mental issues. He said Smith understands the gravity of what he has done.
“He recognized that he should have known better and he chose to post those images,” said McQuaig.
“He’s had a quite long — I don’t know if I would call it a career — interest in amateur journalism. He posts a lot of material on the internet, sharing his commentary with the world, and there are social issues that are important to him.”
At one point Smith attempted to address his use of social media with Germain.
“Mr. Smith, when you’re in a bit of a hole we kind of recommend that you stop digging,” Germain interjected.
The judge told the court that in other similar cases a contempt of court charge would result in a “short, sharp period of imprisonment.”
Germain said Smith admitted that what he had done was wrong and that he knew the consequences.
“The movie that he made of himself expressing his political views and expressing his views about the character and integrity of myself as a judge were well displayed, and in that video he indicated a perception and awareness where he said, ‘I may go to jail for this.’”
Judges have thick skins when it comes to criticism, but Smith’s actions crossed the line, Germain said.
“When people challenge our integrity or suggest we’re doing something unlawful or inappropriate — and if their words become hostile — it upsets us.”
Meanwhile, Calgary mayoralty candidate Kevin J. Johnston is to learn his fate Sept. 8 after he was found guilty of violating three COVID-19 court orders.
McCuaig, who also represents Johnston, and Alberta Health Services lawyer Mark Jackson, expect to have an agreed position on what the sentence should be.
“We are … close to a sanction that’s inclusive of a significant term of incarceration, without getting into specific details,” said Jackson.
McCuaig said his client wants the matter resolved.
“He’s certainly approaching this very seriously. I think we have an agreement almost in principal that will resolve this matter.”
—Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press