Charges against a controversial Aylmer pastor, a former MP, and former MPP involved in an anti-COVID-19 restriction rally last year have been dropped.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represented pastor Henry Hildebrandt, former MPP Randy Hillier, and former MP Derek Sloan announced Monday the Crown dismissed the charges against the three men.
The men had been charged with violating public health orders under the Reopening Ontario Act for their part in a demonstration that bucked the pandemic rules in Norfolk County in June 2021. Approximately 300 people attended the rally against public health measures that were put in place by the province to slow the spread of COVID-19. At the time, there were limits on the number of people who could gather both indoors and outdoors. Religious services were included in the attendance cap.
According to the justice centre, the Crown felt it was no longer in the public interest to pursue the charges.
“Citizens have the right to make their opinions known,” Henna Parmar, a lawyer for the justice centre, said in a statement. “We are pleased in this case to hear that the Crown will not proceed with prosecuting citizens who spoke out against harsh government lockdowns.”
The Norfolk Crown attorney’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.
Hildebrandt was repeatedly fined and ticketed and eventually deemed in contempt of court for violating COVID related gathering restrictions over several weeks throughout the pandemic. His church, the Church of God Restoration in Aylmer, frequently held in-person services in direct violation of provincial pandemic rules. The John Street church was eventually locked by court order on May 14, 2021. It was one of two southwestern Ontario churches to launch a constitutional challenge of the province’s COVID-19 religious gathering restrictions. The challenge was dismissed by the Ontario Superior Court in March of this year.
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