Student responds to COVID-19 restrictions in letter addressed to University, Kingston Mayor

Call for action details ‘basic human need for social connection’

Call-for-action letter written by Reily Morrison.

Amidst new COVID-19 regulations implemented by the City of Kingston, Reily Morrison, ArtSci ’21, wrote a call-for-action letter addressed to the University, Kingston’s Public Health Unit, Mayor Bryan Paterson, and Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen to express her frustration.

The letter urges the University to respond to COVID-19 restrictions and support students “by advocating for a public health approach that is rooted in a framework of human rights and respects the dignity, autonomy and lived realities of students.”

The letter also alleges disproportionate targeting of law enforcement towards Queen’s students, calling the student neighbourhood a “convenient target” for the enforcement of public health measures.

“We ask that the government review the appropriateness of police enforcement directed at university students in light of the objectives of public health measures,” the letter states.

The call for action addresses the importance of outdoor social gatherings and the negative impact of a lack of available outdoor public spaces on students’ mental health. Morrison told The Journal this was in response to restrictions implemented by the City of Kingston, including the temporary closure of Breakwater Park.

Morrison believes there are consequences to closing public green spaces for sedentary activity, particularly for students who lack outdoor spaces in their own homes. According to Morrison, student housing accommodations often don’t have backyards, severely limiting the opportunities for students struggling with mental health to combat their isolation with the nice weather.

Morrison feels the University has failed to adequately address the circumstances students are facing.

“We’re paying tuition here and the students are suffering, I don’t think there’s a lot of attention drawn to that,” Morrison said in an interview.

“Queen’s needs to take a bigger stance against this.”

Morrison also discussed a lack of sensitivity towards students from the City.

“The messages [the City] have been spreading fuels the shaming and blaming of students instead of supporting us in a time of mental health crisis,” Morrison said. “As much as there is a pandemic, there is equally a mental health crisis.”

Morrison said anger from the Kingston community has positioned socializing by students as a driving factor for the spread of COVID-19. She believes that other potential methods of transmission are overlooked through this lens.

“Students are more likely to live in more damp, cramped student housing, more likely to have to work essential jobs, more likely to have to take transportation to those jobs,” she explained.

Morrison said she has yet to receive a response from any of the recipients of the letter.

The Journal reached out to Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health for comment regarding Morrison’s letter.

“The provincewide shutdown and the stay-at-home orders that are in effect fall under the Province of Ontario,” Jenn Fagan, a communications officer of KFL&A Public Health, wrote in an email statement to The Journal.

“KFL&A Public Health continues to follow the provincial regulations and by-laws in place to help keep our community safe and limit the spread of COVID-19 in our region.”

In an email to The Journal, Mayor Bryan Paterson said he is “very concerned about the mental health of our students and toll this pandemic is having on them.”

“I know they have lost out on employment opportunities, had their education upended, and missed out on social gatherings that are a key part of the university experience,” Patterson wrote. “That said, as Mayor I’m concerned for everyone in our community and must consider that everyone is facing different forms of hardship and sacrifice.”

The University said they are grateful for the majority of students who are carefully adhering to the government’s restrictions and public health guidance in a written statement to The Journal.

“We are very sensitive to the heightened stress of students as they work to adhere and stay informed of the evolving government regulations, while also completing exams and end of year assignments,” the University wrote.

The University stated that if a student receives a ticket from Kingston Police for violating COVID-19 restrictions and wishes to appeal it, the institution will provide assistance. Students who wish to speak to someone at the university are encouraged to email


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