Former MPP Randy Hillier Challenges COVID Protest Charges, Alleges Lockdown Laws Infringed Charter Rights

Former MPP Randy Hillier Challenges COVID Protest Charges, Alleges Lockdown Laws Infringed Charter Rights
Former Ontario Independent MPP Randy Hillier speaks to anti-lockdown protesters at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Nov. 26, 2020. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
Amanda Brown

Former Ontario MPP Randy Hillier, a prominent figure in the protest movement against pandemic lockdowns, argued a Charter challenge contending that the province’s stay-at-home order and restrictions on outdoor gatherings unjustly encroached on his right to engage in peaceful protest, according to a July 27 press release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).

On April 7, 2021, the Ontario government imposed a stay-at-home order that required residents to remain in their homes with the exception of essential visits to the pharmacy or the grocery store. The order effectively banned outdoor protests and gatherings in the province.

“Mr. Hillier was a sitting MPP at the time, and he heard from many of his constituents that they were experiencing significant harms from the many lockdowns already imposed by the Ontario government,” the JCCF said. “He heard that people had lost their businesses which had taken a lifetime to build, and mental and physical health was deteriorating after a year of isolation. Mr. Hillier believed that as their elected representative he had a duty to voice their concerns publicly.”

Responding to the lockdown measures and the most recent stay-at-home order, Mr. Hillier actively participated in a protest at the South Bank Bistro in Brockville, Ontario, on April 8, 2021. On May 1, he joined a protest in Cornwall, Ontario, where he spoke to protest attendees on the subject of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“For exercising his right to peaceful protest, Mr. Hillier was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for failing to comply with the Order, and faces a possible fine of up to $100,000 and up to one year in jail,” the JCCF said in the release.

Mr. Hillier’s legal team will present evidence arguing that the protest ban was unnecessary for the government to achieve its pandemic public health objectives. They will also provide evidence that pertains to the social, economic, and health consequences resulting from the lockdowns, arguing that the ban lacks demonstrable justification under the Charter, the JCCF said.

“Emergencies don’t just become Charter-free territory,” Henna Parmar, one of Mr. Hillier’s lawyers, told Ontario Superior Court Judge John Callaghan.

JCCF lawyer Marty Moore argued that the lockdown orders were not based on science and were counterproductive.

“Ontario’s stay-at-home orders essentially confined people to house arrest for months on end, only allowing them to leave for approved purposes,” Mr. Moore said.

“While getting pet food was an approved purpose, the Ontario government did not permit people to engage in peaceful outdoor protests, completely disregarding the freedom of peaceful assembly guaranteed by our Charter. The evidence in this case shows that there was no scientific or medical justification for this ban on outdoor protest, and rather that the government’s lockdown measures have created significant and enduring harm to Canadians.”