Independent MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston Randy Hillier was temporarily suspended from Twitter after posting tweets denying the COVID-19 pandemic and encouraging followers to mock mask-wearers.
Hillier posted a tweet at 10:45 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, falsely asserting that “there is no (COVID-19) pandemic & never was, we were duped”, and another about 30 minutes later, telling his followers that “we must start shaming those who wear a mask, as they shame others, the masks are coercing us to live their lie.”
To date, 866,000 people have contracted COVID-19 and nearly 22,000 people have died from the virus in Canada, with over 114 million cases and 2.5 million deaths worldwide.
Hillier drew the ire of many on Twitter for these posts. “I work in a hospital and have seen so many people die. This disease is like nothing I have encountered in 20 years in health care. Your denial is cruel,” said Twitter user @sarahkbingler. “People die,” Hillier responded plainly.
Hillier’s pandemic-denying tweet was blocked by Twitter for contravening its terms of service, and his account was suspended for about 24 hours. He posted late Sunday morning that the suspension had been lifted, blaming “trolls and bots” for the “time out.”
“I’m Back!” said Hillier. “Thanks for all the support. The trolls and bots got a workout yesterday reporting me. To appease the unruly mob Twitter put me in time out. I’m recharged and ready for more.”
With both the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) as well as the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District (LGLD) Health Units operating under the “Green – Prevent” framework, public health requirements stipulate that most public settings may be open with precautions in place, and that masks are mandatory in indoor public settings, unless a person has a specific exemption. As of Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, the KFL&A region had 14 active COVID-19 cases, while LGLD had 10 active cases.
Randy Hillier’s tweets follow his continued anti-lockdown protests, which have included attending an in-person service at a Waterloo, ON church while such services were prohibited under provincial law, and as the church and its leadership faced several fines for contravening Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) laws put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Hillier is also facing public scrutiny and charges under the Reopening Ontario Act after allegedly organizing an anti-COVID-19 lockdown rally in Toronto’s Queen’s Park on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Hillier has similarly faced public criticism for allegedly hosting an in-person family Christmas gathering with numbers exceeding public health rules, but to date no charges have been laid following that event.
In December of 2020, Hillier’s actions and rhetoric prompted dozens of local physicians to pen an open letter stating that he was spreading “misinformation that minimizes the seriousness of COVID-19 to support your personal anti-lockdown and anti-mask beliefs.” The letter, which has since been co-signed by over 100 local physicians, urged the public to “ignore (Hillier) and heed the advice of trained health care professionals, continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, and keep everyone safe.”
Kingstonist has made multiple attempts to reach Hillier for comment on his activities related to COVID-19, but has not received a response.