MPP Randy Hillier charged after organizing Kemptville anti-lockdown rally

·2 min read
Randy Hillier, seen here arguing with a police officer at a protest in Peterborough, Ont., last week, has now been charged in connection with an anti-lockdown rally that drew dozens of people to the South Branch Bistro in Kemptville, Ont.  (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press - image credit)
Randy Hillier, seen here arguing with a police officer at a protest in Peterborough, Ont., last week, has now been charged in connection with an anti-lockdown rally that drew dozens of people to the South Branch Bistro in Kemptville, Ont. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press - image credit)

Ontario Provincial Police have charged independent MPP Randy Hillier for his role in an anti-lockdown rally last month that drew dozens of people to a restaurant in Kemptville, Ont.

Hillier was one of four people charged Thursday for defying COVID-19 restrictions at the South Branch Bistro on April 8, 2021.

Police identified Hillier, the MPP for Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston and a vocal opponent of the province's COVID-19 rules, as an organizer of the rally.

The other three people charged with violating the Reopening Ontario Act were two of Hillier's sons and his daughter, Const. Dave Holmes told CBC.

The restaurant — which has since had its liquor licence suspended by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) — was also charged, OPP said.

People gather outside the South Branch Bistro in Kemptville, Ont., on April 8, 2021. Ontario Provincial police have charged the business and four individuals, including independent MPP Randy Hillier, with violating the Reopening Ontario Act.
People gather outside the South Branch Bistro in Kemptville, Ont., on April 8, 2021. Ontario Provincial police have charged the business and four individuals, including independent MPP Randy Hillier, with violating the Reopening Ontario Act.(Dan Mellon)

Charged earlier for attending church service

Officials who showed up to the "No More Lockdown" rally found people drinking alcohol inside the restaurant, on its patio and in the parking lot, the AGCO said at the time.

They also saw patrons who weren't observing physical distancing rules or wearing masks, including children and South Branch Bistro staff.

When AGCO officials returned the next day, they found liquor was again being served on the patio.

The charges against Hillier come the same week he was charged with attending a large religious service at the Church of God Restoration in Aylmer, Ont., where hundreds gathered Sunday without wearing masks or physical distancing.

In a statement posted to Facebook Thursday afternoon and shared with CBC, Hillier accused Premier Doug Ford of attempting to "arrest political opposition and dissent."

"[People] do not need to be afraid of charges and tickets like these, they will not hold up in court, and I am confident the courts will nullify all of Doug Ford's unlawful charges," Hillier wrote.

Hillier is scheduled to appear in court in Brockville, Ont., on June 24 in connection with the Kemptville rally.

Additional charges could still be laid against other people who were there, OPP said.