TORONTO: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms filed expert evidence in court on October 20, 2022, for the Charter challenge on behalf of former Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), Randy Hillier. Mr. Hillier was charged in connection with protesting Ontario’s lockdown measures in the spring of 2021 in Cornwall and Brockville. The filing included Mr. Hillier’s affidavit.
In response to Covid-19 infections, the Ontario government issued several lockdowns as well as a stay-at-home order in April 2021. These orders completely banned outdoor peaceful protests. In response to the lockdown measures and stay-at-home orders, Mr. Hillier attended a peaceful protest at South Bank Bistro in Brockville, Ontario, on April 8, 2021. After an extension of the stay-at-home orders, Mr. Hillier attended another protest in Cornwall, Ontario, on May 1, 2021. He spoke to a group of protestors about the importance of Canadians’ fundamental freedoms as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
For exercising his right to peacefully protest, Mr. Hillier was charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for failing to comply with the order, and he faces a possible fine of up to $100,000 and up to one year in jail.
At the time that Mr. Hillier was charged for exercising his right to peacefully protest, a Montreal film production company shot scenes for an upcoming Netflix movie in downtown Cornwall.
The Ontario government has stated repeatedly that these measures were necessary for saving lives. However, Dr. Tom Stewart, CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System in Hamilton and Niagara Region, went on a Caribbean vacation in December 2021, when the Ontario government was issuing stay-at-home orders and advising against non-essential travel. Dr. Stewart resigned from several government advisory panels, including the Ontario Science Table when this information was revealed.
The Justice Centre will argue that the above restrictions and the orders are an unconstitutional violation of Mr. Hillier’s rights to peaceful assembly and peaceful expression, which are guaranteed under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In support of this application, three expert reports have been filed.
Medical anthropologist Dr. Bardosh sets out the harms of lockdown measures and other Covid-19 restrictions in Canada. He examines the social cost of the measures, including increased depression, substance abuse and suicide, along with decreased trust in public institutions.
Another expert report prepared by Dr. Joel Kettner, former Chief Medical Officer of Manitoba, discusses the factors governments need to take into consideration before implementing onerous public health measures. In particular, Dr. Kettner states that public health measures should have clearly defined goals that are measurable and time-defined and shown to significantly contribute to these goals. The measures should also be monitored for any harms.
Finally, a report prepared by an infectious disease specialist confirms that the risk of outdoor transmission is extremely low.
“The right to peacefully protest is engrained in our Charter and is the hallmark of a free and democratic society,” says Henna Parmar–one of the lawyers for Mr. Hillier. “We are asking the Court to find that a complete ban on this Charter right is unconstitutional and goes against the fibre of our democracy,” Ms. Parmar concludes.
“A ban on peaceful protests is an irredeemable attack on our democracy, when our own elected representatives are prevented from and punished for assembling with constituents and supporters to voice concerns over what they feel is an injustice,” said Chris Naimi–another lawyer representing Mr. Hillier.