Ontario MPPs call for investigation into politician's anti-vaccination posts

Two Ontario NDP MPPs are calling on the integrity commissioner to investigate anti-vaccination posts shared by another MPP. Last week, CBC News spoke to a woman who says her sister was included on Randy Hillier's posts, but died after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. 

Woman says MPP Randy Hillier's social media posts last week included misinformation about her sister

NDP MPPs Caterine Fife, of Waterloo, left, and Peggy Sattler of London West have submitted a co-written letter to Ontario's Office of the Integrity Commissioner asking for an investigation into MPP Randy Hillier's anti-vaccination posts. (Submitted)

Two Ontario NDP members of provincial parliament are calling on the integrity commissioner to investigate anti-vaccination posts shared last week by another politician on his social media.

Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife and London West MPP Peggy Sattler, who is also the NDP's Opposition House leader, on Friday submitted a co-written letter to the integrity commissioner's office, after images of several people appeared in posts on the online accounts of Randy Hillier, an Independent MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston.

The Tuesday posts suggested the individuals died or suffered from a "permanent adverse reaction shortly after receiving their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine."

CBC News spoke to Ammarah Navab, a family member from Cambridge of an individual featured in the posts, who said her sister Farisa Navab died on Sept. 11 after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. 

Ammarah Navab, left, says her sister, Farisa Navab, right, died on Sept. 11 after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. (Submitted by Ammarah Navab)

Navab said her sister's private health information was used without permission, and demanded that Hillier take down the posts and issue an apology. 

"It's not like regular people making assumptions. It's somebody in power who's posting to thousands of followers, lying about my sister's death and using it as 'proof' ... It's disgusting," Navab said last week.

Hillier has not removed the posts or publicly addressed the concerns stated by the family and others who commented on the posts. 

He has not responded to requests for comment by CBC News about what's in the posts or the call for an investigation.

Inquiry request 

The letter, obtained by CBC News, calls for an investigation under the Member's Integrity Act or Ontario Parliamentary Convention provision, and asks that the commissioner determine if a contravention has occurred. 

"We believe that the conduct of MPP Hillier constitutes an egregious and reprehensible breach of Ontario parliamentary convention," Sattler and Fife say in the letter. 

It says family and friends of some of those pictured are outraged their "loved ones' deaths are being used as propaganda on social media."

"Mr. Hillier did not seek consent for using these pictures and has also blocked family and friends from his account when they request that he not use their family's grief for his political purposes," the letter says. 

Navab confirmed to CBC News that her sister's picture and personal information were used without permission. She also said she and her mother have been blocked by some of Hillier's social media accounts.

"As members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, it is our job to respect, protect and advocate for our communities, not to use Ontarians' personal information without their consent to push forward a dangerous, anti-science agenda. Mr. Hillier has shown contempt for his role as an elected member,and disrespected these grieving families and their loved ones," the letter reads.

It says "appropriate penalties" should be imposed to hold Hillier accountable. 

Complaint needs to be in writing

A spokesperson for the Office of the Integrity Commissioner said in an emailed statement to CBC News that Fife and Sattler have been informed of the process to make an investigation request

Hillier, shown speaking with journalists outside the Ontario Legislature in 2018, has not responded to requests for comment by CBC News about accusations of misinformation in the posts or the call for an investigation. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

"The request must be in writing and set out the grounds for the belief and the alleged contravention. The act also requires that a copy of the request be given to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly," the statement reads.

Once a request is made, the commissioner will review it and determine whether it's subject to an inquiry. If the commissioner conducts an inquiry, then he will file a report with the Speaker for consideration by the assembly. 

 A spokesperson for Fife and Sattler confirmed they are following through with the standard process. 

Premier reaction 

Hillier's posts have received widespread attention and garnered hundreds of comments online.

Premier Doug Ford also reacted to the posts, in a news conference Friday, after being asked about the alleged misinformation.

"I think it's appalling an elected official would do that, put someone who has passed away for another reason and post it, and say it's because they had vaccinations. It's disgusting in my opinion. That's the reason Randy Hillier is not part of our party. That's the reason Randy Hillier will not win the next election if he decides to run."

Hillier was expelled from the Ontario PC Party caucus in 2019 after making "disrespectful" comments to parents of children living with autism.

On Friday, Ford also said Hillier's riding has high vaccination rates and his own constituents "don't believe in him either."

"The cheese slipped off the cracker with this guy; he's gone rogue. The guy's lost his mind, in my opinion, and I just ignore him. I think it's ridiculous. I wouldn't even give him time of day if I were the media. That's what he loves."