Over a year after a former MP, former MPP, and pastor of the Church of God in Aylmer, Ont., were charged with violating public health orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Crown announced that all charges have been dropped.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) announced the news Monday that the charges against former MP Derek Sloan, former MPP Randy Hillier, Pastor Henry Hildebrandt and private citizen Dan Stasko have been dropped.
According to the JCCF, the three men were allegedly involved in “peaceful rallies” against COVID-19 measures in June 2021 and were charged with violating the Reopening Ontario Act.
Last year, the province implemented attendance and gathering limits on events under Ontario’s stay-at-home order.
During that time, religious services had a limit of 10 people. The outdoor demonstration against pandemic measures and restrictions in Aylmer involved approximately 200 to 300 people.
The Crown said Hillier, Sloan, Hildebrandt and Stasko “were concerned with the Covid restrictions (and) health orders which significantly curtailed the right to peaceful protest.”
After negotiations with Bally Hundal, a lawyer retained by the JCCF, the Crown dropped all charges, stating that prosecution was no longer in the public interest.
The offences carried potential fines of up to $100,000 for each individual as well as up to one year in prison.
“Peaceful demonstration is an essential pillar of a democratic society,” JCCF 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.”
Global News has reached out to the Ministry of the Attorney General for comment but did not receive one by the time of publication.
Over the course of the pandemic, both Sloan and Hillier have shared some “increasingly controversial” opinions, according to various politicians.
In January, “the Conservative caucus voted to remove Derek Sloan not because of one specific event, but because of a pattern of destructive behaviour involving multiple incidents and disrespect towards the Conservative team for over a year,” then-Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement.
On top of also “peddling misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines,” one of the incidents occurred when he asked whether Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, was working for China. He refused to apologize, insisting he was not questioning her loyalty to Canada.
Prior to this, Hillier was kicked out of the Ontario PC caucus in March 2019 after being suspended for allegedly saying “yada, yada, yada” when addressing parents of children with autism in the public gallery of a debate over the controversial changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
Additionally, Hillier has also taken part in several rallies across the province, also comparing Ontario’s COVID-19 public health measures to the Holocaust, among other incidents.
— with files from Global News’ Jacquelyn LeBel, John Lawless and Amanda Connolly.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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