Charges laid against two then-serving members of parliament – both federal and provincial – for violation of pandemic-related Public Health order violations have been dropped, according to a national legal advocacy organization.
On Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said they were “pleased to announce” that the Crown has dropped charges against Randy Hillier, former Independent MPP for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, and Derek Sloan, former Independent MP for Hastings—Lennox and Addington. Those charges, laid in late June 2021, were for violations of Public Health orders under the Reopening Ontario Act.
“After negotiations with Bally Hundal, a lawyer retained by the Justice Centre, the Crown dropped all charges, stating that prosecution was no longer in the public interest,” the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in a press release. Charges against Pastor Henry Hildebrandt and “private citizen” Mike Stasko — all stemming from the Norfolk County protest — have also been dropped, the Justice Centre said.
The release went on to detail that approximately 200 to 300 people were at the “outdoor demonstration against the COVID measures implemented by the Ontario government,” stating that Hillier, Sloan, Hildebrandt, and Stasko were “concerned” with restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which “significantly curtailed the right to peaceful protest.”
“For exercising their Charter rights to assemble peacefully and protest the government measures, they were charged with offences carrying potential fines of $100,000 to each individual as well as up to one year in prison,” the Justice Centre said.
It should be noted that, prior to the June 2021 events resulting in these charges, Sloan and Hillier attended a service at the Church of God in Aylmer, Ont. where Hildebrandt serves as Pastor in April 2021. Both Sloan and Hillier were charged for violating pandemic-related Public Health measures at that time, as well.
Kingstonist reached out to Sloan and Hillier for confirmation that the charges were, indeed, dropped, and request comment from both men. Sloan did not respond by time of pubication, however, Hillier did respond by email, and said that the understanding that the charges under the Reopening Ontario Act against him were dropped is “wildly incorrect.” Requests for Hillier to explain or expand on that assertion were not fulfilled by time of publication. Sloan confirmed that the charges against him had been dropped in various social media posts.
“Peaceful demonstration is an essential pillar of a democratic society,” Justice Centre lawyer Henna Parmar said in a statement.
“Citizens have the right to make their opinions known. We are pleased in this case to hear that the Crown will not proceed with prosecuting citizens who spoke out against harsh government lockdowns.”
Kingstonist also reached out to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, requesting documentation of the dropped charges and an interview with solicitor Hundal. Henna Parmar, spokesperson for the Justice Centre, responded, indicating that “client disclosure is private and confidential,” and official documentation around the dropped charges would not be supplied, but agreed to answer any questions. When asked about the assertions from Hillier seemingly refuting that the charges were dropped, Parmar assured that was not the case.
“I can confirm that the charges against Mr. Hillier were dropped in relation to the June 2021 protest,” Parmar relayed, indicating that confusion may have stemmed from the fact their organization is representing Hillier on separate but similar cases.
“The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing Mr. Hillier on two of his other matters. We have brought an application at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and has yet to be heard.”
Kingstonist will update this article or provide further coverage if/when more information becomes available.