Ontario pastor charged for attending protests

R v. Hildebrandt

Ontario pastor charged for attending protests

R v. Hildebrandt

On April 3, 2021, Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, with his wife and son, participated in a “No More Lockdowns” rally in Brantford, Ontario. Pastor Hildebrandt spoke to approximately 1,000 attendees about their guaranteed Charter rights to worship and assemble. Martha and Herbert attended the protest as onlookers. Each were ticketed $880 because of their choice to exercise their fundamental right to peaceful assembly.

The protest was entirely peaceful. Attendees gathered outside to protest the arbitrary Covid-19 mandates implemented by the government of Ontario, mandates that enforced stay-at-home orders and limits on outside gatherings and worship of healthy Ontarians. The police presence at the rally had been minimal; they were operating unnoticed in the background. Pastor Hildebrandt had no interactions with any of the officers during the protest.

After leaving the rally the Hildebrandt family stopped at a Tim Hortons for refreshments before heading home to Aylmer, Ontario. About 15 minutes later, as their vehicle was about to enter the highway, Pastor Hildebrandt’s son noticed police vehicles behind them. The first thought of the family was that there must be a dangerous criminal on the loose to warrant the presence of so many police which seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

When the police flashed their lights, the Hildebrandt’s were shocked to discover that they were the ones that the police were pursuing. The entire police cavalcade pulled over to the side of the road and Pastor Hildebrandt and the family members were given a $880 Provincial Offence Notice ticket for attending a gathering of more than 5 persons.

There had been ample opportunity for the police to serve Pastor Hildebrandt and his family with the tickets during the peaceful rally, however, they chose to have multiple police vehicles follow and pull him over to serve him and his family with the tickets.

“Covid-19 mandates are political in nature and not based on science,” says Pastor Hildebrandt.

“At a time when government leaders were decreeing that thousands of people could attend a BLM rally in London, Ontario, over and over again, church congregations were getting tickets for gathering to worship. That’s when it became clear that we were dealing with a political rather than a health issue,” concludes Pastor Hildebrandt.

Rather than feel defeated by the unfairness of the system, Pastor Hildebrandt has been stirred to speak in defence of the truth, justice, and his faith. When he learned that the charges were being withdrawn, he took to Twitter to herald the good news, writing, “Thank God, all charges are being withdrawn after we declined a plea deal. I’m grateful to the @JCCFCanada for their continued legal representation.”

“I am encouraged that some Crown Attorneys are beginning to prioritize the prosecution of serious criminal and quasi-criminal offences. Prosecuting individuals such as Pastor Hildebrandt, whose wrongdoing was attending a public rally and giving a speech critical of government policy, has always been a waste of the Court’s time”, said Chris Fleury, counsel representing Hildebrandt’s. Mr. Fleury commented further, “Pastor Hildebrandt continues to face prosecutions in other jurisdictions including in Elgin County where his Church is located. We will continue to fight these charges aggressively.”

On February 27, 2023, charges against Pastor Hildebrandt, his son Herbert Hildebrandt, and his wife Martha Hildebrandt were all withdrawn.

In June 2023, further charges against Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, this time charged for allegedly attending a protest in Chatham, were withdrawn at the request of the Crown Prosecutor.

Pastor Hildebrandt allegedly attended an anti-lockdown protest on April 26, 2021. At the time, Ontario had instituted its most draconian pandemic management scheme by banning virtually any form of outdoor gathering. About 200 people attended the April 26 protest. Pastor Hildebrandt was alleged to have attended and to have spoken to the Crowd.

At a pre-trial conference, counsel for Pastor Hildebrandt noted the significant evidentiary gaps required to prove Pastor Hildebrandt was in attendance. The officer who observed the protest left midway through and watched the rest of the event on a livestream available online. The Crown was unable to produce the livestream video evidence. Without this evidence and a witness who did not observe Pastor Hildebrandt at the event, the Crown withdrew the charge on the ground that there was no reasonable chance of conviction.

Former Ontario MPP, Randy Hillier, was also alleged to have attended this protest.

Christopher Fleury, counsel for Pastor Hildebrandt, stated that: “While it is unfortunate that it took two years to get to this point, this is an excellent outcome for Pastor Hildebrandt. My client and I are very pleased the prosecution finally made a realistic assessment of the strength of its case.”

Pastor Hildebrandt faced more charges for organizing nine church services between January and June 2021 in Elgin County, Ontario. These services exceeded the gathering capacity restrictions in place at the time under the Reopening Ontario Act.

On August 24, 2023, the Ontario Court of Justice ruled on these charges. Pastor Hildebrandt shared the outcome on his social media platforms, saying, “After the Supreme Court declined to hear our appeal, we were in court today and settled dozens of outstanding charges. I told the Justice I was guilty of obeying God rather than man. All charges except one were dropped. I was sentenced for holding an outdoor service on June 6, 2021 to a fine totalling $65,000.”

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