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May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
Local News
Anti-mask rally in NOTL draws hundreds of people
Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, former Progressive Conservative Randy Hillier and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier. (Richard Harley)

Hundreds of people gathered at Queenston Heights in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Saturday for a political rally for Maxime Bernier, leader of the People's Party of Canada.

The event doubled as an anti-lockdown rally, with speakers also addressing a long list of concerns about COVID-19, Canada's safety measures, masks and vaccines — among other alt-right topics and conspiracy theories.

Across the field at the Queenston Heights bandshell, people could be heard talking about Donald Trump returning to office in the U.S., or randomly shouting the word "freedom," while others discussed false claims about vaccine death rates being alarmingly high.

Others held signs supporting debunked conspiracies about Bill Gates, calling Canada a "communist" country, and all around there were talks and unfounded fears of a planned "new world order," totalitarianism and complaints about freedom and vaccine passports.

No masks were seen among the crowd, including dozens of children and seniors.

The event had a minor focus on lockdowns, but ended up being more of a convoluted narrative featuring several alt-right fringe topics.

Welland resident Beata O'Connell, who runs an art studio in NOTL and has admitted she was operating illegally during lockdowns, helped to MC the event.

She spoke of her fears of Canada becoming a communist country and compared the democratic nation to her homeland of Poland, which she said she fled from for her freedom.

The event also saw disgraced pastor Henry Hildebrandt speak, along with Bernier and former Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier.

Hildebrandt and his Church of God in Aylmer, Ont., has been charged several times with operating full church gatherings in violation of COVID-19 safety measures.

Bernier was arrested for attending an anti-lockdown rally in Manitoba in June and Hillier was removed from his position with the PC party for making "disrespectful comments to parents of children with autism," according to Premier Doug Ford.

The People's Party of Canada won no seats in Parliament in the 2019 election.