Charges against family for holding private gathering dropped

GODERICH, ONTARIO: The Justice Centre is pleased to announce that charges against an Ontario family who were charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for having a small birthday party were dropped on November 2, 2022.

On April 8, 2021, Ontario issued a stay-at-home order that restricted residents from leaving their homes except for certain activities the government deemed to be important. On April 23, 2021, the family gathered at the home of their mother to celebrate a birthday.

An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer showed up at around 8:30 PM that evening and informed them that they had to disperse within 10 minutes or be ticketed for obstructing an officer and violating the stay-at-home orders. One of the family members departed at this point, but the rest of the family decided to remain in the home.

Five of the family members, including the individual who had departed, received a summons for obstructing an officer, and attending a gathering contrary to the stay-at-home orders. The mother and homeowner were given an additional charge for hosting a gathering contrary to the stay-at-home orders. They each faced fines of about $1850.

The Justice Centre retained Mr. Bally Hundal to represent the family in this matter. Mr. Hundal was successful in negotiating with the Crown to drop the charges in exchange for the family making a modest charitable donation. The Crown agreed that prosecution was no longer in the public interest when it dropped the charges.

“While we are pleased that the charges have been dropped, it is concerning that these charges were laid at all. This is the kind of story you hear in authoritarian regimes, where police knock on your door at night for merely holding a gathering,” says Chris Naimi, “The right to peaceful assembly is an enshrined constitutional right, whether it is a public political demonstration or an intimate family gathering.”