Letters to the Editors

Taser plan alarming

Dear Editors,

RE: “Police Services Board agrees to Tasers” (Journal, Nov. 1, 2005).

I am incredibly alarmed and concerned about the connection the Kingston Police are making between Homecoming and Tasers. Of even more concern is that the city and the Police Services Board do not seem to see anything wrong with planning for a violent response to a future event.

The city of Kingston’s newly-struck Homecoming Committee, [with] the disturbing title “Committee to Restore Order,” met for the first time on Nov. 3. The committee’s mandate states that it will report to city council with recommendations about a course of order by July 15, 2006. If the city created this committee with the intention of “restoring order” by making recommendations for action next year, then we should be very troubled about the plans already being made by the Kingston Police Force. The proposal made to the Police Services Board by Inspector Cookman was submitted on Oct. 19, less than a month after Aberdeen. Within one month, how was there possibly time to evaluate the causes of the escalation of damage and violence that occurred on Aberdeen this year? We cannot accept violence as the solution.

We should be alarmed for a number of reasons. First, Tasers are dangerous, period. It is illogical to propose a means of ensuring public order and safety that endangers others. The safety of students should not be compromised so that police can have the opportunity to test new toys on party-goers. Not only does the use of Tasers put student safety at risk, we should be troubled by the casual way in which the Kingston Police refer to Tasers as the next natural course of action. Inspector Cookman told the Journal that Tasers would be helpful if he and his officers were confronted with a situation like the one that occurred this year. While I’m sure Tasers would be helpful insofar as they would disperse crowds, I’m sure they would also serve to jeopardize our safety and well-being. In this atmosphere of antagonism between the city and the students of Queen’s, plans to use Tasers at next year’s Homecoming will most certainly not make for a more positive Aberdeen next year. Have we learned nothing?

Naomi Lutes
AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner

Graffiti bylaw against freedom of expression

Dear Editors,

RE: “City takes tough line on house signs” (Journal, Oct. 25, 2005).

The City of Kingston’s recent bylaw enforcement in the Ghetto seems disingenuous in light of the recent Homecoming event, the years of neglect of property standards in general in the Ghetto, and the city’s blind eye to dilapidation elsewhere in its precincts, including some city-owned property.

But regardless of motive, the city’s interpretation of its graffiti bylaw and indeed the bylaw’s constitutional validity are questionable.

The “graffiti” section (s. 4.17) of the City of Kingston Bylaw 2005-100 (property standards) states, “Written slogans and graffiti on the exterior of any building, wall, fence or structure shall be prohibited, including painted or chalked titles or messages.”

According to the City, proper nouns such as “The Lodge” constitute a slogan or graffiti and are therefore prohibited. However, property standards officer Steve Murphy apparently determined (upon what basis we do not know) that proper nouns such as “The Smiths” are somehow different and therefore acceptable. The distinction seems overly subjective, lending the bylaw to possible abuse by the city.

The more fundamental concern is with the constitutionality of Kingston’s broad and vague graffiti bylaw. Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes that everyone has the fundamental “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication ...” subject to a reasonable limit that may be demonstrably justified.

In the not-too-distant past, appellate courts have struck down bylaws prohibiting postering on a city’s utility poles (Ramsden v. Peterborough), mobile signs on private property (Stoney Creek v. Ad Vantage Signs Ltd.), and billboards and third party signs on private property (Vann Niagara Ltd. v. Oakville). In each case, the courts found that the constitutionally protected freedom of expression had been violated in a manner that the respective municipalities could not justify. If the targeted Ghetto residents have the desire and wherewithal to challenge Kingston’s graffiti bylaw, the city just might taste the same humiliation.

D. Morrow
Kingston resident

Responsibility key in Ghetto

Dear Editors,

RE: “So-called ‘graffiti’ a hallmark of Queen’s Ghetto culture” (Journal, Nov. 1, 2005).

Early in his discussion on the enforcement of signage bylaws in Ghetto houses, Matthew Puddister wrote “some [think] that the crackdown is a response to student request to improve Ghetto conditions.” Interpreting this suggestion could have made for a great editorial piece. Alas, Mr. Puddister did as many students, or those typically represented in the Journal, do: he joined into the Queen’s versus Kingston conflict.

Why not look at this enforcement as a step in improving Ghetto conditions? Perhaps minor changes to the external appearance of the buildings—through garbage, couch and sign rules—will lead to bigger changes in conditions overall. Consider the following: a house name begets an identity; Mr. Puddister pointed this out at the end of his discussion. What do you think about when you see one of these house names, such as the Manor or G-spot? These names last over generations of students, and subsequently, so do the identities.

This isn’t too far-fetched. When I say “Aberdeen Street”, what do most students think of? It’s no longer a Homecoming party that happens to occur on Aberdeen Street, it’s a known fact that the “Aberdeen Party” is the place to be—a named location associated with one hell of party. This party’s reputation has been passed on, upheld, and, yes, escalated through generations. Even if Aberdeen residents don’t host a party, the street itself—with its longstanding reputation—becomes a Homecoming destination just the same.

Maybe enforcing signage rules limits the creation of identities of properties, thereby decreasing the likelihood of a generation-spanning reputation. Students may be more responsible for their treatment of a property without a house identity to deflect the “blame.” More responsibility tells landlords that you respect their houses. This becomes an assurance that, when a landlord makes an effort to maintain their rental property, that effort will not be lost with the next group of tenants. Given recent increases in property taxes, it’s easy to see why few landlords would choose to cut further into decreasing profits to maintain houses if their efforts are “ruined” the next year.

This isn’t the first time Kingston has tried to enforce signage bylaws in the Ghetto. In the past, houses complied and officers could look after more important issues. But as people forget about the enforcement, the signs return. Inevitably, someone notices when they reach a critical threshold, and thus, enforcement returns. It doesn’t seem so “perverse,” now, that “the crackdown is a ‘response’ to student requests to improve Ghetto conditions.”

As both a Queen’s student for many years, and a “townie”, I acknowledge that these bylaws might seem like Kingston trying to make students’ lives a bit more difficult. However, there are other interpretations for these issues that deserve equal consideration. The real point of my letter? Maybe we should be less defensive, and put our “Kingston is out to get Queen’s students” goggles on the shelf for a little while.

Jennifer Waugh
MSc candidate

Sign violations not a priority

Dear Editors,

RE: “City takes tough line on house signs” (Journal, Oct. 25, 2005).

During the January 1998 ice storm, my Johnson Street apartment was without power for seven days. While my housemates and I sat in the dark for a week while the city of Kingston’s emergency response failed to appear, I often wondered when the city would get around to more important matters, like taking down the house sign in front of the “Brock Beer Gardens.” To my knowledge, the city has taken no action in the last eight years—like burying the overhead power lines that dot the Ghetto—to make sure people have access to heat and electricity during the next winter ice storm. That’s what “property standards” are about, and the day the city actually guarantees safe housing for all of its residents, I am sure they’ll happily take down their wooden signs.

Gabriel Desjardins
Sci ’99

Union Gallery will survive referendum disappointment

Dear Editors,

The Union Gallery has suffered a blow, yet I have faith that the Union Gallery will be maintained as a forum for contemporary art. Should we lose our building, we’ll go underground, create a guerrilla art movement—we’ll infiltrate the community. And Queen’s will acquire the space formerly known as the Union Gallery, and they will hang art on the walls.

I have been involved with the Union Gallery for four years now and here are some musings and reflections. Let me preface this by stating that the Union Gallery is not a club. It is an established voice of contemporary arts and plays an important role in the community.

I have struggled for four years with the frustrations of being involved with an art organization within an academic institution where there is very little visible support. The Queen’s community has a diverse, but small, group of highly creative individuals—creative writers, experimental musicians, filmmakers, actors, visual artists and performance artists. The support for one another may be there, but I would ask for support from the people who benefit from our creativity, who enjoy the art galleries, the plays, the theatres, the concerts, the literary journals and magazines. The Union Gallery provides you with an opportunity for your creative inspiration. Show your support, not just for the Union Gallery, but also for the arts, for independent thinking, for progression of thought and development of experience, of skill, of responsibility.

Beyond that, the Union Gallery is a benefit to everyone, providing a forum for contemporary art, an art that is continually growing more socially relevant, more community-based, more interactive, more important. Contemporary art isn’t about paintings that we hang over fireplaces or couches—though there are painters among us. It’s about creating a dialogue between artist and viewer, between communities, creating one community. Social cohesion is generated through the arts. Artists have power as communicators, but one needs to be active on the receiving end of this relationship. The passive environment is disheartening at best. Artists work hard in order to communicate through chosen means, they are intellectuals, they have incredible reasoning skills, they are masters at problem solving and they are intuitive people.

The Union Gallery wants the support of students. We pride ourselves on being student-run, on representing the student needs and providing a cultural service of benefit to students. We have a paid staff and an operating board, the same model as the AMS. The Union Gallery was the first student-run art gallery to originate in Canada, and continues to be one of the only, governed by a unique structure that differs from many other campus galleries. In order to maintain our integrity as an art institution, we rely heavily on student fees. We are unique too in showing both student and professional art by artists who are proud and pleased to be associated with a gallery such as the Union Gallery. We have funding for many reasons, but also to provide free access for our viewers.

I hope the Union Gallery will maintain its level of professionalism and continued (and increasing) success through this frustrating time. I want for nothing more than a supportive community, encouraging the arts and nurturing creativity in its many facets.

Lisa Visser
BFA ’06

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