A Saskatchewan Facebook enthusiast was fined $500 on Monday for his online threats against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which included assassination.
In addition to the monetary fine, Christopher Hayes, 41, received nine months probation, during which time he is banned from attending any events where Trudeau is present. He is also prohibited from owning a firearm for three years.
On March 6, 2016 Hayes posted on Facebook his intention of assassinating Trudeau. Hayes wrote: “Imma buot [sic] to go shoot this mother fucker dead.”
Hayes added that “if the Canadian liberal voters won’t stand up for all fn [sic] Canadians and demand better conduct by the Trudeau government I’ll cut off the head of the snake myself and go down in the history books as the man who saves Canada.”
Then two days later, he said he backed away from saying he would personally commit any harmful acts against the prime minister but suggested that someone else should shoot Trudeau. “Am I going to kill JT? Nope. Physically harm the guy? Nope. I do think however he should be shot dead…and I would personally thank the person who did kill him.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police only charged Hayes after the second post because the Mounties were prepared to give Hayes the benefit of the doubt and trust that he had learned from his error and would not repeat it.
Hayes told police after the second time that he agreed he had gone too far.
Hayes’s defence argued that the Facebook regular was only stating an opinion, not uttering a threat, and that in the context of social media, no reasonable person would constitute the words as a legitimate threat on the life of a prime minister.
But the provincial court judge did not agree.
In his decision Ross Green said that the threats would be interpreted by a reasonable person as a threat against the prime minister.
“I accept that Mr. Hayes did not intend to kill the prime minister and I further accept that he was frustrated by the economic problems he was facing when he made the posts on Facebook,” Green wrote.
“But … I am satisfied that he intended the threatening words he used in both of his posts, regarding causing death to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to intimidate and to be taken seriously.”
Facebook threats against political leaders are not uncommon in social media jousting.
Left-wing New Democratic Party Premier Rachel Notley of Alberta was the subject of a report this week that suggested social media threats are on the rise. Notley has apparently been the target of more threats than any of her predecessors.