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Ontario police can't lay charges 'solely on photo' in regards to MPP Christmas gathering

Last Updated Jan 25, 2021 at 12:32 pm PDT

The Ontario Provincial Police say the photo of Randy Hillier's Christmas gathering, which violates public health rules, isn't enough to lay charges. (Courtesy Randy Hillier/Facebook)

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will not be laying charges in relation to MPP Randy Hillier's Christmas gathering

According to a statement, the OPP 'cannot lay a charge based solely on a photo posted on social media after the fact'

A picture of the gathering was posted a day after Ontario lockdown

OTTAWA – A picture isn’t enough to lay charges, according to police in Ontario in regards to a Christmas gathering held by a provincial politician that violated public health rules.

Randy Hillier, an independent MPP from Lanark-Kingston-Frontenac, posted a photo on social media on Dec. 27, showing a large, private gathering with at least 15 guests who were not physically distancing or wearing masks.

The photo is timestamped a day after Ontario went into a provide-wide lockdown.

Bill Dickson, a spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) East Region, says in an emailed statement that the matter is a health issue.

He adds that OPP “cannot lay a charge based solely on a photo posted on social media after the fact” and they would need to be there at the time of the offence.

Provincial police and health officials work in tandem on issues like this one.

“If people call to make a complaint about gatherings, we will respond and investigate accordingly. Officers have discretion to issue warnings or to issue tickets or charges,” Dickson said.

Hillier was criticized for the photo, which he confirmed was real, and a petition was launched calling for his removal.

CityNews has reached out to the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit for comment.