More than 100 fines handed out after raucous weekend in Kingston, Ont.
KINGSTON, ONT. -- The City of Kingston, Ont. says at least 100 partygoers could be facing permanent police or court records as a result of large gatherings in the city's University District over the weekend.
Kingston police said as many as 8,000 people packed the streets on Saturday as part of unsanctioned homecoming activities. At least one police officer was said to be injured when objects were thrown at them. Police officers from neighbouring municipalities and the Ontario Provincial Police were called in to assist the enforcement effort.
Under Ontario's COVID-19 restrictions, outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people and indoor gatherings are limited to 25. Kingston police twice announced aggravated nuisance party declarations, threatening $2,000 fines for anyone who remained in the area.
In a press release Monday afternoon, the City of Kingston said 36 people were arrested over the weekend and between city Bylaw and Kingston police, more than 100 tickets were issued.
Eight people were arrested for breaching the peace and 28 were arrested for public intoxication. Police also issued 33 tickets for open alcohol, five Highway Traffic Act fines, and $30,000 worth of fines for attending or hosting an aggravated nuisance party. Three people are facing criminal charges for obstructing police.
The city also said one person was stabbed in the lower back during a mass gathering early Sunday morning in Victoria Park and was treated for non-life threatening injuries in hospital. Police are also investigating vandalism to a city bus.
"I am strongly condemning the continued aggressive, volatile, and disrespectful behaviour that has been directed at our officers and by-law partners. It is completely unacceptable," said Kingston Police Chief Antje McNeely in the release. "They are there to ensure our community is safe, and any illegal behaviour will be addressed proactively through appropriate fines and charges. To those who cannot comprehend the seriousness of their actions, I can’t stress this enough: don’t risk putting your future in jeopardy by having a criminal record."
Bylaw services handed out 43 aggravated nuisance party fines, 14 fines for noise violations, one for obstructing an officer and one for yelling or shouting.
In addition to the fines, under the city's emergency orders, the identities of 59 people could be made public as a result of the gatherings.
Individuals who receive a court summons will have their identity retained as part of a permanent court record and individuals who are arrested and charged will have a permanent police record. A reciprocal agreement is in place with Queen’s University to facilitate the disclosure of identities who have received a fine during the University District Safety Initiative with the intent of providing to Queen’s University to facilitate non-academic sanctions, where necessary," the city said.
The city also said it is aware of reports of even more parties this coming weekend.
"Kingston Police and Bylaw Enforcement are preparing to respond to reports of additional gatherings planned for the weekend of Oct. 23, with the potential of partiers visiting from out of town. Community partners are preparing additional measures including staffing additional officers," the city said. "Behavior that risks COVID-19 transmission and puts a strain on emergency services, puts all community members at risk. While many community members may be vaccinated, visitors from out of town for gatherings that make physical distancing and other public health measures almost impossible are extremely concerning."
Medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health, Dr. Piotr Oglaza said he understands COVID-19 restrictions have been tough on young adults, but large gatherings are counterproductive to public health goals.
"We all have a role to play in keeping emergency rooms clear, roads open for emergency vehicles, and COVID-19 cases low in our community," he said.
Politicians call on Queen's to get tougher with students
Speaking on MOVE 98.3 in Kingston Monday morning, Mayor Bryan Paterson said he was frustrated and disgusted with the behaviour on display over the weekend and he thinks Queen's University needs to be tougher with students.
"Queen's needs to be firm on their student code of conduct," Paterson said. "We saw, I believe, a lot of behaviour that certainly went against that code of conduct and consequences need to be clear… For the minority of Queen's students that just aren't getting the message, I think that there needs to be not just financial consequences from the city but also consequences from the university as well."
Paterson noted, however, that the crowd was made up of more than just Queen's students.
"A key piece that I heard from police over the weekend is that they estimated that probably about half of the crowd were not Queen's students. They weren't even from Kingston. They just showed up because they heard there might be a party," he explained. "It's become a bit of a circuit. You go to McMaster one weekend, and then Western the next weekend, and then you come to Queen's. That travelling road show, I think, is a real issue and I think that that’s something we need to tackle with other university towns."
The principal of Queen's University, Patrick Deane, condemned what he called the "reckless behaviour of some students and individuals" in a statement on Sunday, but he did not say anything about possible consequences.
"We will be assessing the damage to our campus and the surrounding neighborhoods, working with student volunteers to clean up, and speaking with the City of Kingston and local police," Deane wrote. "We know the last few years have been a struggle for young people, but such behaviour is dangerous, irresponsible, and ultimately inexcusable."
A second letter from Deane, issued Monday, condemned the display of sexist and misogynistic banners on some houses in the University District, photos of which were seen on social media. Deane said the occupants of the homes pictured were told they would see action taken under the Student Code of Conduct.
"If there was ever a time when cultural mores permitted such behaviour at Queen’s, that time has most definitely passed," Deane wrote. The University exists to serve an inclusive, equitable, just, humane and forward-looking vision for society, and while it does not expect perfection in the behaviour of its members, it does insist as a baseline that they be respectful, considerate and acutely sensitive to the impact of their actions on others. Sadly, this weekend revealed that amongst us there are still problematic and violent assumptions being made about gender that reflect a complete disregard for their impact on individuals and indeed, our entire community."
Mark Gerretsen, the Liberal MP for Kingston and the Islands and a former mayor of Kingston, also weighed in on the weekend's events. In a Facebook post on Sunday, Gerretsen said he believes Queen's students who violate these rules should face expulsion.
"Queen’s needs to wrap their head around the fact that they are the only part of this equation that can affect the outcome. It doesn’t matter what the police, city bylaw officers or the mayor and council do," Gerretsen wrote.
"What Queen’s needs to do is simple: If a student is charged and convicted of an offence of this nature, they will be expelled. Period. That’s not something any student wants to tell mom or dad was just ‘added to their tab’. It’s the only meaningful solution which will change things."
He included a photo showing a sign hung above a home that said "@ Bylaw, add it 2 our tab"—in reference to the $2,000 fines for taking part in nuisance parties. The image was circulating on social media during the weekend.
On MOVE 98.3, Paterson said while the threat of fines can convince some people, others may need additional consequences.
"There's lots of students that are definitely convinced by the threat of a $2,000 fine," he said. "But, for others, maybe a $2,000 fine isn’t that big of a deal for them. I think that that's where you need those university consequences. Maybe a $2,000 fine isn't going to impact you but sanctions, suspensions or expulsion from the university, those things probably would have a bigger effect."