The outgoing mayor of West Lincoln Dave Bylsma is still waiting to hear whether he will face punishment for his role in an anti-lockdown protest in St Catharines.
Bylsma spoke at the rally on April 10, 2021 and was later told to appear at the provincial offences court in Welland to answer to two charges: failing to comply with an order made during a declared emergency and failing to comply with a continued 7.0.2 order, which prevented people from attending certain gatherings of 10 or more people.
Since he was charged, the case has been adjourned around 10 times, and faced its latest delay on Oct. 25, one day after Bylsma lost his bid for re-election as mayor.
At a hearing at the Welland Provincial Offences court, Sandra Pollock, the legal representative for Bylsma, successfully argued that the case should be deferred until a case going through the Ontario Superior Court system reaches its conclusion.
The outcome of that case could impact Bylsma’s, since they are about similar issues.
In that case, Randy Hillier is taking on the Province of Ontario after he was charged under the Provincial Offences Act for his role in protests in Brockville and Cornwall in spring 2021.
The former member of provincial Parliament for Lanark — Frontenac — Kingston was charged by the province with breaching the stay-at-home orders as an organizer of the protests.
According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), whose lawyers are representing him, Hillier was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for failing to comply with an order. If found guilty, he could be fined up to $100,000 and spend one year in prison.
“In addition, Mr. Hillier was charged with hosting and organizing a public event where the number of those in attendance exceeded the number permitted under an Order, for which the minimum penalty is $10,000,” read a statement put out by the JCCF on Oct. 20.
However, Hillier’s court case argues that the stay-at-home orders unjustifiably infringed rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Charter and therefore has “no force or effect.”
“Although the Stay-at-Home Order and Outdoor Gathering Restrictions are no longer in effect, the consequences of these authoritative measures continue to exist for Ontarians, who are faced with fines and potential imprisonment as a result of the offence provisions contained in the Reopening Ontario Act,” said the JCCF statement.
“As part of the court challenge, the lawyers will argue that the Stay-at-Home Order, Outdoor Gathering Restrictions, and Offence Provisions violated Charter-protected rights, such as the right to assemble peacefully and the right to free expression.”
The outcome of that case could set a precedent about the stay-at-home orders, as if the Hillier case finds that the stay-at-home orders were unconstitutional then the provincial regulation could be struck down.
That case does not yet have a date set, so at Bylsma’s court hearing, it was decided that his case would be deferred until December.
Pollock opted not to provide a comment.
Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News