On April 30, 2023, the Crown stayed three charges against Pastor Aaron Rock relating to a May 2021 protest in Waterloo. Earlier their year, the Crown had dropped three other Covid-related charges against Pastor Rock.
In April 2021, Ontario implemented Regulation 253/21 (“Stay-at-Home Order”) following a declaration of emergency in response to Covid-19. The Order effectively banned any form of peaceful protest, even if it occurred outdoors. Ontario had previously implemented Regulation 82/20 (“Rules for Areas in Stage 1”) which limited outdoor gatherings to 10 persons.
Pastor Rock was alleged to have attended an outdoor protest on May 30, 2021 at the Town Square in Waterloo, contrary to both of the Regulations. If he were to have been convicted of all the offences for which he was charged, the maximum fines would have been $300,000.
Just two days after surveilling the May 30 protest and charging alleged participants, on June 2, 2021, the Waterloo Regional Police Service announced that it would not attend a vigil for indigenous children found whose remains were located at a former British Columbia residential school. The vigil was held just minutes from the site of the May 30 protest. Police stated that attendees should respect the Regulations but did not show up to the event. The event had 100s of people attend, and no one was ticketed, despite participating in the same type of prohibited activity that Pastor Rock partook in only two days earlier.
After discussions with the Crown, it was agreed that charges would be stayed following a modest donation from Pastor Rock to a registered charity.
The Justice Centre has provided legal representation for Pastor Rock in several jurisdictions across Ontario. All charges have now been either withdrawn or stayed at the request of the prosecutor.
Pastor Rock’s lawyer, Chris Fleury, says that “while it is unfortunate that Pastor Rock was ticketed in the first place, we are quite content that all his charges across three jurisdictions have now been either withdrawn or stayed. We are continuing to defend other individuals who have charges arising from the same May 30, 2021 protest. Our client, Randy Hillier, is also continuing to litigate the constitutionality of Regulations 253/21 and 82/20, on behalf of all Ontarians.”