MPP Randy Hillier released after arrest on 'Freedom Convoy' charges
Ontario MPP Randy Hillier has been released with conditions after being criminally charged in relation to his participation in the ‘Freedom Convoy’ occupation of downtown Ottawa.
Hillier, 64, arrived at Ottawa police headquarters early Monday morning and surrendered to police. He faces nine charges, including assaulting a peace officer.
His release comes with strict conditions, including a $35,000 bond and an order not to post on social media about the ‘Freedom Convoy’ and COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.
Hillier is facing two counts each of obstructing a public officer, counselling mischief and mischief/obstructing property over $5,000.
He is also charged with obstructing a person aiding a peace officer, assaulting a peace or public officer and counselling an uncommitted indictable offence.
Hillier, the MPP for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, told reporters outside the station that police called him Sunday morning and told him about the charges.
"We know that they're all related to my opposing views that I expressed very often at the Freedom Convoy, at the truckers' protest," Hillier said.
Hillier has spoken out against COVID-19 public health measures and vaccine mandates, and was a prominent voice during the convoy protest that occupied downtown Ottawa for three weeks. He was suspended from Twitter earlier this month for violating Twitter's COVID-19 vaccine misinformation policy.
A statement issued by his office later Monday said Hillier looks forward to the opportunity to defend himself against the charges.
The charges relate to Hillier’s attendance at the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest and his “active encouragement” of others to bring vehicles downtown and attend the protest, prosecutor Tim Wightman told court on Monday.
Hillier directed people to park on streets obstructing traffic, organized and spoke at news conference on behalf of the convoy protesters, court heard.
Hillier also encouraged his social media followers to call the Ottawa police 9-1-1 emergency line after police urged people not to clog the phone lines.
When police asked people to stop calling, Hillier tweeted: “Keep calling. In a democracy expressing yourself is a fundamental freedom #FreedomConvoy2022,” court heard.
The Crown said that led to an increase in malicious calls to the 9-1-1 as well as the police non-emergency line.
Incident on Parliament Hill
Three of the charges, including assaulting a peace officer, relate to an incident on Jan. 29, the first Saturday of the protest, court heard.
Hillier and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier went to the west gate of Parliament Hill. A Parliamentary protective services officer stopped a group of people Hillier was with because one of them had a megaphone, which was prohibited on the Hill. The officer told the group they could go on the Hill, but couldn’t bring the megaphone.
The Crown alleges Hillier threw the gate out of the way to allow people to flood the checkpoints while yelling “let’s go,” and used his shoulder and hip to push an officer out of the way.
The Crown also alleges as the occupation dragged on, Hillier posted several times on social media counselling others to obstruct police, even as officers began moving in to break up the protest.
“His encouragement of others to participate in the occupation of downtown Ottawa, and his participation in that same protest, had the effect of placing the residents of the city of Ottawa at risk,” Wightman said.
Before he surrendered to police, Hillier denied assaulting a police officer, saying he doesn't know where that charge is coming from.
"I had thousands of interactions. I only ever greeted people in with love and affection and embraces and handshakes," he said. "Unless handshakes and warm embraces are now considered assault…I have no idea."
Hillier released on $35,000 bond
Hillier was released on a combined $35,000 bond between him and his surety. He will not be allowed to visit downtown Ottawa except to meet with his lawyer.
Hillier is also prohibited from posting on social media about the ‘Freedom Convoy’, COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates. He is also forbidden from attending or providing any support to the ‘Freedom Convoy’ or any anti-mask or anti-vaccine organizations or causes.
Hillier’s lawyer argued those conditions were too restrictive, and Hillier should just be prohibited from posting about, attending or providing support for the ‘Freedom Convoy.’
But Justice of the Peace Christina Logue sided with the Crown, citing the “undeniable concerns with respect to the safety of the public in relation to these protests.”
In her ruling, she noted that the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest against COVID-19 mandates “is not over,” referencing a convoy that passed through Ottawa on the weekend.
Hillier is also banned from communicating with a number of other people facing charges in relation to the protests.
Hillier is also facing previous charges stemming from protests he organized last year in relation to COVID-19 public health measures. He told reporters Monday that he is facing 25 charges in relation to those rallies, which could result in $2.5 million in fines and 25 years in jail if he's found guilty.
"Differing and dissenting views are now apparently criminal," Hillier said. "So that's a disturbing trend."
Hillier was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2007. He was permanently kicked out of the Conservative caucus in 2019, and is not running for re-election this year.
In Carleton Place, Ont., part of Hillier’s constituency just west of the capital, area resident Bill Janes says there was perhaps a time when the long-standing MPP was performing his role, but it’s not like that anymore.
“I think Randy’s abdicated his duties, he’s gone off on a certain track and I think that it left me as a constituent unrepresented,” says Janes, a retired nurse. “I couldn’t go to Randy Hillier for advice or his office for advice around COVID or COVID-related things or vaccination and because of the way he went … I’m looking for someone who’s actually going to represent me at the provincial level and I think I’m going to get it now that he’s withdrawn from the race.”
Terry Ritchie, who lives just west of Perth, Ont., has similar views and says Hillier anti-COVID attitude moved far past politics.
“He wasn’t representing the population of his riding at all, he was representing himself,” says Ritchie. “And just made a fool of himself if you ask me.”