University street party task force takes shape

Mayor and Queen’s Legal Aid director share thoughts on street parties 

Large street parties take place during Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day.
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Students have received fines between $500 and $25,000 at unsanctioned gatherings in past years—specifically during Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day.
 
Queen’s University Task Force on Street Parties will release recommendations to address unsanctioned street gatherings this fall. The task force was established by the University and announced earlier this year by Principal Patrick Deane.
 
In a statement to The Journal, the University said the task force has 24 representatives—13 of which are community partner representatives. The University will release a report outlining the resulting recommendations following the group’s consultations.
 
Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson would like recommendations to serve students and neighboring residents, in accordance with city bylaws.
 
“We’re trying to sit down at the same table with all of the stakeholders, and have good discussions and hear perspectives, and come up with recommendations collaboratively,” Paterson said in an interview with The Journal.
 
Most of the senior officials in the City of Kingston are sitting on the main task force, according to Paterson. Community members, some from local district associations, are sitting in on discussions to provide resident perspectives.
 
“Listen, you’re welcome in Kingston, we’re happy to have you,” is the message Paterson has for students. “While you’re here, you should have all the same rights, but also the same responsibilities as any other Kingston resident. We ask people to respect each other.”
 
In Paterson’s experience, he said most students are cooperative, but students obviously want to enjoy themselves—which he thinks is great. It’s a minority of students, he said, that gives everyone a “bad name.”
 
“It’s really important to me that not everybody is painted with the same brush.” 
 
Unsafe behavior, such as climbing utility poles and partying on rooftops, are concerns for personal safety and disruptions, Paterson said.
 
“As a city, we’ve done everything that we can do from an enforcement side, so we’re referring to come to the table and help be part of solutions that we can come up with as a group.”
 
The Kingston Police and Bylaw officers are a part of the task force—from the City’s perspective, they are “always respectful” and careful when dealing with students, Paterson said.
 
“The job of Police and Bylaw is to keep everyone safe—not only students, but residents as well [...] I think [the Police force] has done that to the best of their ability.”
 
The University District Safety Initiative (UDSI) and Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs) address unsanctioned gatherings and nuisance behaviors in Kingston. 
 
The City established them to hold students accountable for behaviors prohibited by provincial or municipal laws, Blair Crew, director of Queen’s Legal Aid (QLA), said in an interview with The Journal.
 
UDSI Laws are implemented during times of the year nuisance parties are most likely to occur —namely the weeks surrounding and including Orientation Week, Homecoming, and St. Patrick’s Day.  
 
Instead of getting a typical provincial offence notice of around $85 for underage drinking or public intoxication, the UDSI requires all students to come to court for even simple offences—punishable by a fine up to $25,000. The minimum fine, a plea of guilty, is $500 for partiers and $2,000 for hosts.
 
“There’s still an awful lot of police discretion in, in what process they use, what charges they lay or AMPs they issue,” Crew said. “It’s never wise to get into a confrontational stance, with the person that has discretion over whether or not you’re about to be charged.”
 
AMPs were developed under the Municipal Act, giving the City the right to fine individuals on the spot for participating in a nuisance party or unsanctioned gathering—at any time during the year.
 
According to Crew, the laws lack sufficient publicity and may not be strong enough to deter students.
 
“The City doesn’t do a good enough job in publicizing that they’re going to be seeking a $500 fine,” Crew said. “It’s been a very, very negative relationship [between students and the City], in which each side shows a tendency to try to one up the other.”
 
Increasing measures against unsanctioned parties causes students to increase nuisance behaviors, he said.
 
A “superior” model, in Crew’s opinion, would be for the University to acknowledge their limits.
 
“There’s a natural tendency to want to celebrate the start of your Queen’s career, in the way that famously, you’ve heard that many people over the years have celebrated the start of their Queen’s career,” he said. 
 
Finding a way for students to have large gatherings—at university sanctioned venues—is Crew’s solution.
 
“I think the notion that students are never going to party at all is—it’s just […] not going to come to be.”
 
Kingston Police did not respond to The Journal’s request for comment. 
 
—With files from Asbah Ahmad
 

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