An MP and an MPP were among those on hand for a Sunday service in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions in Aylmer, Ont., that’s resulted in several provincial and criminal code charges.
Hastings–Lennox and Addington MP Derek Sloan and Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier, both independents, spoke at a packed indoor service at the Church of God on Sunday, led by 57-year-old Pastor Henry Hildebrandt.
Religious services currently have a limit of 10 people, both indoor and outdoor, under the province’s stay-at-home order.
Aylmer police say six people have been charged under the Reopening Ontario Act while three others face criminal charges of obstructing police and assault.
Among those charged under the Reopening Ontario Act are a 57-year-old Aylmer man and a 36-year-old Stirling man, as well as a 63-year-old Perth man.
While police would not name those charged with provincial offences, the ages and towns match up with Sloan and Hillier.
Hillier tweeted about the charges, though he told Global News just after 4 p.m. Tuesday that he had not yet received any summons.
In a separate incident, Hillier is facing a ticket under the Reopening Ontario Act from Peterborough police after an anti-lockdown protest on Saturday.
Sloan told Global News just before 1 p.m. Tuesday, “I suspect I fit the description of one of the charges though I have not been personally notified.”
“The government has been too afraid to actually follow through on fighting any of these tickets in court, for fear of the obvious — that they will be ruled unconstitutional,” he continued.
“Therefore, I will appeal this ticket without any expectation of actually being convicted.”
When asked if those facing charges have been notified, Aylmer police chief Zvonko Horvat told Global News that the summons were issued Monday and have been sent to their respective jurisdictions “for service on the individuals charged.”
Both Sloan and Hillier have been increasingly controversial figures during the pandemic.
Sloan was ejected from the Conservative caucus in January over “a pattern of destructive behaviour involving multiple incidents.”
Last year, he questioned whether Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam was working for China. He refused to apologize, insisting he was not questioning her loyalty to Canada. He has also peddled misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines.
Hillier was kicked out of the Ontario PC caucus in March 2019 after being suspended for allegedly saying “yada, yada, yada” when addressing parents of children with autism in the public gallery there to watch a debate over the controversial changes to the Ontario Autism Program.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Hillier has taken part in several rallies in cities across the province, posted a photo of a Christmas gathering with 15 people in one room, and has compared Ontario’s COVID-19 public health measures to the Holocaust, among other incidents.
The church service came amid a surging third wave of the pandemic in Ontario, with the province requesting support from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Red Cross.
The N5H postal code, which covers Aylmer, has been listed as a COVID-19 hot spot by the province.
In nearby London, Ont., the London Health Sciences Centre has been preparing more critical care beds as it faces both increasing pressures locally as well as extreme pressures on the health-care system in the Greater Toronto Area.
On Tuesday, the province reported 3,265 new COVID-19 cases and 29 more deaths.
— with files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly, Alexandra Mazur, Greg Davis, Nick Westoll and Mercedes Stephenson.