MPP Hillier charged for attending Kemptville anti-mask rally

MPP Randy Hillier at an anti-mask rally in Kemptville on April 8, 2021. He is among four people who attended the rally charged under the Reopening Ontario Act.

An Eastern Ontario MPP who has spoken out against COVID-19 lockdowns and mask-wearing has been charged for his role in an anti-mask rally in Kemptville, Ont. earlier this month.

Randy Hillier is one of four people charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for attending the illegal gathering outside the South Branch Bistro, police confirmed Thursday.

About 200 people attended the rally, which happened on April 8, the day Ontario’s latest stay-at-home order came into effect.

Video CTV News captured at the protest shows Hillier, the MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, leading the maskless crowd in chants of ‘freedom’ and addressing them from an outdoor fire escape.

“We’re in a conflict with ourselves, a struggle with our society,” Hillier told the crowd. “It’s like we’re in a war with ourselves, and we have to win this war. If we surrender, we’re victims.”

The restaurant owner has also been charged, along with two other people, police say. They said more charges may be laid.

Along with police, officials from the local health unit, bylaw and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario all attended to document the rally.

The AGCO suspended the restaurant’s liquor licence two days after the rally.The interim suspension was ordered "for reasons of public interest and safety," the agency said in a notice on its website.

Hillier has been outspoken in his claims that the pandemic is overblown and has taken part in rallies across the province. In December, he posted a photo of a Christmas gathering with 15 people in one room, which was against restrictions at the time.

Last weekend, Hillier was among those at a packed indoor church service in Aylmer, Ont. that resulted in six people being charged under the Reopening Ontario Act. Derek Sloan, the MP for Hastings–Lennox and Addington, also attended the service.

In response to a question about whether he had received a summons in relation to the charge, Hillier directed CTV News Ottawa to a Facebook post featuring a photo of several summons posted on a wall, suggesting he would fight the charge.

"As promised, I have begun using these unconstitutional charges as wallpaper," the post says. "There are currently 8 summons representing 12 different alleged offences. Each charge represents the bricks FordNation is using to build his own wall of shame."

"I look forward to the day I can tear down his wall of deceit in a court of law."

Hillier is an independent MPP; Premier Doug Ford kicked him out of the PC caucus in March 2019.

Several municipal councils, including Carleton Place and Smiths Falls, have formally denounced his rhetoric during the pandemic.

People who violate the Reopening Ontario Act can be fined up to $750. Those who host gatherings in violation of the rules can face a maximum fine of $10,000.