“Disgusting.” “Despicable.” “Dangerous.” These are just some of the adjectives used by commenters regarding independent MPP Randy Hillier in the 48 hours since he posted a meme to social media depicting recently deceased and ill Ontarians, implying that they had been injured or killed by COVID-19 vaccinations. A number of family members and friends of those pictured in Hillier’s post say they were not asked for permission to include their loved one’s photo and name.
The post by Hillier was originally made on the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, and reads, “Lost lives and suffering from adverse reactions shortly after receiving their first or second dose of the vaccine. Were these healthy & active individuals harmed by a drug they were told was completely safe? #Iamtheleper #MakeReady #WeMustResist #ONPoli #CDNPoli.” Beneath this are photos of 11 people, their names, and a brief description of the circumstances of their death or illness, accompanied by the words “Vaccine Related Injuries & Deaths Across Ontario.”
Some of the friends and families of the individuals pictured have expressed shock, disbelief, and anger.
“I do not think my son Jacob’s death was in any way related to the COVID vaccine!” wrote Peter Downey, father of 18-year-old Jacob Downey, a first-year student at Queen’s University who passed suddenly after a medical emergency on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. The picture of Jacob from his online obituary was used without the family’s permission or consultation.
Downey stated that Hillier’s actions toward the involved grieving families are “horrible,” saying, “It’s just any chance to grasp at straws for the anti-vaxxers’ conspiracy theories.”
Jacob was in his first year of studies in Kinesiology in the Faculty of Arts and Science, with the goal of pursuing a career in sports medicine. Jacob was known as an excellent student and athlete, and was a recipient of the Peterborough Petes Education Fund Minor Hockey Scholarship program that helped fund his university studies at Queen’s.
Two other recently deceased students from Queen’s University, Rachael Anne Smith and Kamilla Label-Farrell, were also included in Hillier’s meme.
“Who is it electing this man?” asked Natalie Preddie, whose good friend was named and pictured in the first iteration of the post. That image has since been changed into a silhouette with the words “young mother” as identification, and the family has asked that she not be named in this article either.
“She was amazing. She had two daughters who she adored and a husband. She was funny. She was stunning. She was kind. She was thoughtful,” said Preddie of her friend.
In a twist of bitter irony, Preddie said, her friend would have been “furious and fuming” at the “slap in the face” of being pictured in an anti-vax post. “When COVID first came on the scene, [she was very concerned] about COVID safety and ensuring that employees were safe, shutting down her place of work, just to ensure that people were looked after. She was always advocating for one’s health. We got our first shots together,” Preddie expressed.
“Her husband actually wrote on [Randy Hillier’s] post,” said Preddie, “He wrote, ‘Hi, this is the husband of the woman top right, she actually died from an undetected genetic disorder, and this man is putting out misinformation to further his political agenda. This is completely incorrect and I need everyone on here to know that,’ and his comment was deleted and he was blocked.”
She and mutual friends have also written on Hillier’s post, she said. “We have been saying our friend did not die [from the vaccine]. It’s been proven by the coroner and autopsy done, we’ve just gotten the result.”
Preddie added, “It’s not our responsibility to prove your theories wrong, [Hillier], that was despicable in itself.”
“So, we were all blocked. Anyone who said anything against anti-vaxxer rhetoric was blocked. And [another woman pictured] Risa, her family was speaking out as well, and they said the exact same thing. They said she didn’t pass away because of COVID and they were blocked, as well. So, [Hillier] is literally trying to block everyone who does not support his story, he’s just trying to get rid of them, which is disgusting.”
Preddie said she called Hillier herself, but that he hung up on her after stating that he would only speak with her friend’s family. However, after the family asked him to take the woman’s picture and the entire post down, according to Preddie, the post was simply changed, with the woman’s picture replaced with a silhouette and her name removed.
Dr. Piotr Oglaza, the new Medical Officer of Health for Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington Public Health, was asked about Randy Hillier’s actions at his first online press conference today, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. He said, “Any and all adverse reactions following immunizations are reported to Public Health. And with that, this is personal health information, so due to health privacy, we cannot comment on any specific cases or allegations made, and that limits my ability to respond to any specific report shared by a non-health professional. But I can reassure the public that these vaccines have consistently proven to be not only effective, but also safe.”
“In my [previous] role as Medical Officer Health,” he continued, “I would see all of the adverse reactions following immunizations when I worked in Hastings Prince Edward. And the overwhelming majority of adverse effects following immunizations were mild, self-resolving symptoms that we were anticipating. So, someone may feel that they have a lymph node enlargement or something like that, or feel unwell for a day or a few hours; that’s expected from the vaccine. That goes away, and it means that the body is now better prepared to fight the real virus. We see some of the more serious [reactions], but they’re also self-resolving with treatment.”
“I do want to reiterate that these vaccines are safe: they’re monitored closely. Not only have they been monitored, we had robust safety data prior to them being approved for use in Canada and Ontario, but we continue monitoring for side effects. As we administer doses, now with millions of doses administered, we have a very robust data-set of what could potentially happen with these vaccines. And that still conveys that message they’re very safe interventions, and the benefits far outweigh any risk of the vaccine.” Dr. Oglaza stated that he “would tell MPP Hillier the same.”
Natalie Preddie had a message for Hillier’s supporters and constituents.
“Please, do not vote for this man again. Clearly, he pushes information with no backing, with no proof. And someone with that much political power and that much of a presence should be more responsible, and be promoting things to help their citizens. And he’s just not doing that,” she implored of voters in the Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding.
“He is literally telling lies. Literally hurting people. What he’s doing is harming real people. What he’s doing is dangerous and [infringes on people’s] privacy.”
Contacted on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 for comment, MPP Randy Hillier had not responded at time of publication.