Ontario independent MPP Randy Hillier is drawing ire from the family and friends of recently deceased individuals after he posted names and faces of those who died to his social streams, falsely claiming their deaths were related to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Loved ones of two recently deceased women whose identities were posted to Hillier’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook channels, say Hillier shared their information without their permission, and without proper facts.
“I want them to know that she did not pass away from the vaccine, and my sister’s life is so much more than an image to be plastered around social media to be labeled with a false claim,” said Ammarah Navab, of Cambridge, Ont.
Her sister, Farisa Navab, was one of several people’s images and names used in a post from Randy Hillier claiming the COVID-19 vaccine led to death or serious illness.
His post, which Global News has decided not to link to, references 11 people and their alleged illnesses or causes of death, saying the following:
“Each person here lost their lives or is suffering from a permanent adverse reaction shortly after receiving their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Were these perfectly healthy and active individuals harmed by a drug they were told was completely safe and would protect them from a disease they are at no serious risk from?”
Ammarah said when she launched a GoFundMe, for a charity in the name of her sister, a rumour started online that she died from the vaccine. In fact, Farisa died of a rare blood disease, a condition Ammarah said was genetic.
She said at first, she got dozens of messages from people telling her Farisa died of the vaccine, then the harassment started to take place in person. It got so bad that she had to delete her Instagram account.
It was that day she saw the post from Hillier.
“I was so mad because like, not only are you taking someone’s picture without consent, you don’t take the family’s emotions into consideration,” she said.
Natalie Preddie, a friend of another woman in the post, said she was appalled to see her friend’s face on Hillier’s Instagram feed, knowing full well she died from something completely unrelated to the vaccine.
“I was angry. I was disgusted. I know that she would feel the same way,” Preddie said.
Preddie says her friend passed away from an undetected genetic disease that had nothing to do with the COVID vaccine.
She said she felt compelled to speak out on behalf of her friend’s family, who is still grieving her loss.
“They just lost a wife and mother, a sister, a friend. And to see her face part of this disgusting campaign has really hurt them,” she said.
Preddie said she called Hillier to complain, but he hung up, claiming he would only speak with the woman’s family. She says the family then got in touch, and asked him to take the woman’s picture down, along with the entire post.
Hillier did take the post down that included the woman’s picture, but then added a new post with a blank image that simply read “Young mother, 38 years old, died of cardiac arrest while on a run.” All the other people’s faces and names were posted again.
Ammarah said her family’s pleas to remove Farisa’s picture and name were completely ignored by Hillier.
What’s more, she says she and her family members were blocked by Hillier after urging him to take Farisa’s picture down.
“It’s very immature and it’s very insensitive. And as a person who is in the government, you should at least consider family’s emotions,” Ammarah said.
Despite the complaints, Hillier did not apologize but rather doubled down on his convictions in a statement sent to Global News Wednesday.
“I call on Commissioner Thomas Carrique and the Ontario Provincial Police, as well as local law enforcement agencies to begin immediate criminal investigations to determine the facts of these and other tragic deaths, and determine if the administration of a pharmaceutical product was either a contributing factor or cause of death and injury.”
Preddie says she’s unsure how Hillier connected her friend’s death with the COVID-19 vaccine, but in any case, she said it was a complete fabrication.
“He made some guesses. They were obviously not correct. But that was him taking some liberties with some information he found just by Googling.”
Preddie says that along with her friend’s family, she has filed official complaints to Instagram, as well as with the Ombudsman’s office, the Speaker of the House and the Ontario legislature’s Integrity Commissioner.
The latter told Global News it cannot launch an investigation unless an MPP files a complaint.
Over the last year and a half, the independent MPP has made a name for himself by coming out strongly against COVID-19 regulations, including hosting several large gatherings at the height of the pandemic and comparing COVID regulations to the holocaust.
The rural Ontario MPP now has nearly 50,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram and more than 100,000 on Facebook.
Hillier has represented the Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston region since 2007, but was kicked out of the PC caucus in 2019.