Ontario city testing initiative aimed at curbing public drunkenness

The Canadian Press
Thursday September 06, 2018
Written by The Canadian Press
An Ontario city that's frequently been home to large, rowdy student parties is enlisting a local university and the court system in an effort to curb public drunkenness.

The mayor of Kingston, Ont., says a pilot program dubbed the University District Safety Initiative creates tougher consequences for those partying on city streets, particularly during times of the year when high-profile student gatherings take place.

Under the terms of the project, people violating Kingston's nuisance party bylaw, or flouting liquor or noise bylaws during certain times of the year, will have to answer to charges in person at a local courthouse rather than paying a fine online or by phone.

Any Queen's University student issued a summons during the year will also have their name disclosed to the school, which may impose some non-academic sanctions.

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson said the project, which launched last weekend, has already had a noticeable impact.

"Having to take account of your actions in person, in my view, is a better way of conveying the concern of the community about the importance of safe and respectful behaviour," he said in a telephone interview. "You can't just mail in your ticket or be anonymous."

Those who host unsanctioned street parties year-round, and those who attend such events during the university's orientation week, homecoming weekend and the days around St. Patrick's Day will be subject to the rules of the pilot project.

Local police said the project has already resulted in more than 100 charges since Saturday.

Kingston has long struggled with public parties at key times during the academic year — at one point popular homecoming celebrations were cancelled for a five-year stretch due to a rash of arrests. Once the festivities resumed in 2013, police reports indicated the arrests picked up where they left off and frequently numbered in the hundreds.

Paterson said the city was spurred into action after St. Patrick's Day celebrations earlier this year, during which several people narrowly avoided serious injury when the roof of a garage they were gathered on collapsed.

"There was really a feeling that to address unsafe, dangerous and disrespectful behaviour, there really was a need for something else," Paterson said. "That's really what ... led to the University District Safety Initiative rolling out."

While forcing students to appear in person to face charges is the most high-profile plank of the program, Paterson said enlisting the co-operation of Queen's was another crucial step.

University Principal Daniel Woolf said students facing charges under the initiative will have their names released to the school, at which point they will go through the official student misconduct process and be referred for additional support if needed.

Woolf said some of the potential consequences include loss of certain privileges, community service "tied to the harm caused," compensation for harm caused and formal warnings from the school.

"Finding ways to encourage good citizenship, address these large parties and promote student and public safety and community well-being is a high priority," Woolf said in a statement.

"I have spent countless days and nights dealing with the consequences of these parties and worrying about the potential harm that can come from these activities not only to our students, but also to our neighbours, community partners, and the broader Kingston community."

Woolf said parties need to be "lawful and safe," adding the "vast majority" of the student body doesn't engage in activities barred under the pilot project. Those include public intoxication, drinking underage and having liquor in an open container.

The initiative is in a trial period and will be evaluated after one year, Paterson said.

Kingston police, who didn't immediately respond to a request for an interview, reported that they laid 132 charges between Sept. 1 and Sept. 6, with 17 recorded in the past two days.

The City of Kingston is not the only body that has recently taken steps to regulate student drinking.

In a nearly unanimous vote last week, the 66 men's fraternities of the North-American Interfraternity Conference adopted a rule prohibiting hard liquor with more than 15 per cent alcohol by volume from fraternity chapters and events unless served by licensed third-party vendors.

The member fraternities, which include a number of Canadian chapters, have until Sept. 1, 2019, to implement the rule across their more than 6,100 chapters on 800 campuses.

One international fraternity with chapters in Canada, Beta Theta Pi, implemented a no-substance housing policy and aims to have all fraternity properties be alcohol, drug and tobacco-free by August 2020.

— Michelle McQuigge

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2018

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