Randy Hillier, an independent member of Ontario’s legislature, has been released with several conditions after he surrendered to Ottawa police Monday.
He faces nine charges related to his involvement in the protest that seized the core of the national capital last month.
The Crown consented to the Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston member’s release with $35,000 bond after he made an appearance in court by telephone Monday afternoon.
Justice of the Peace Louise Logue released him with several conditions, including a prohibition from posting on social media about the so-called freedom convoy protest, COVID-19 mask or vaccine mandates, or the anti-vaccine cause.
Hillier arrived at police headquarters early in the morning and told reporters he was advised by police on Sunday that charges had been laid and he understood they were related to the occupation of downtown Ottawa.
“Differing and dissenting views are now apparently criminal, so that is a disturbing trend,” the 64-year-old said before heading into the police station.
The nine charges include two counts of obstructing or resisting a public officer, one count of assaulting a peace or public officer and three counts of counselling an uncommitted indictable office, two of which are considered mischief.
Before his arrest, Hillier said he has had “thousands of interactions” with people and has no idea what led to the charge of assaulting a peace or public officer.
“I only ever greeted people with love and affection, an embrace and handshakes, so unless handshakes and warm embraces are now considered assault, I have no idea,” he said.
Crown counsel Tim Wightman told the court the assault charge dates back to Jan. 29, the first weekend of the protest, when Hillier, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier and a group of supporters tried to access Parliament Hill with a megaphone.
The Crown alleged they were blocked by a metal gate, and a Parliamentary Protective Service officer attempted to stop them.
Wightman said Hillier threw the gate out of the way and shouted “let’s go,” in an attempt to overwhelm the checkpoint.
When that didn’t work, Hillier used his shoulder and hip to push the officer out of the way so the group could force their way past, he alleged.
Hillier also encouraged supporters to flood 911 phone lines, limiting the police’s ability to respond to emergencies, the Crown said.
The police statement said an investigation began in February after “multiple complaints” were received about an individual’s social media posts and other activities.
Hillier’s next court date is scheduled for May 4.
Protesters arrived in Ottawa on the last weekend in January to voice discontent with COVID-19-related public health measures and the federal government in general.
Hillier became a familiar face during the three-week protest, as large trucks and crowds of people blocked streets and filled the core with the blaring sounds of air horns and the smell of diesel. He appeared at several press conferences in support of the protesters.
Police moved in on Feb. 18, after the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act, to disperse the crowds and reclaim the roads around Parliament Hill.
Hillier was first elected to provincial office in 2007, but was removed from the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus in 2019.
He announced earlier this month that he will not seek re-election in June.
Earlier this month, Twitter suspended Hillier’s account over concerns about his posting what the social media platform considered misleading and potentially harmful information about COVID-19.
During the pandemic, Hillier has frequently posted COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories and has been ticketed for allegedly breaking public health rules. He also called federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra a terrorist and labelled public health measures as “fascism.”
The Ontario legislature first passed a unanimous motion condemning Hillier’s “disreputable conduct” after he posted the names and photos of dead people to suggest without evidence that they had died due to COVID-19 vaccination.
He later apologized, but the legislature again condemned him and authorized the Speaker to not recognize Hillier for what government House leader Paul Calandra called racist and discriminatory statements about Alghabra.
Hillier denied that his posts labelling Alghabra as a terrorist were racist, because he didn’t reference Alghabra’s religion or ethnicity.
Laura Osman, Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2022.