Police in Ontario and Nova Scotia called to large, unruly university street parties
By Michael MacDonald and Tara Deschamps
Police were called to deal with large, rowdy homecoming parties Saturday near Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.
In Kingston, local police confirmed that an officer was taken to hospital after projectiles were thrown at police as a crowd of thousands swarmed the city’s university district on Saturday afternoon.
Police said numerous arrests were made during what they declared an “aggravated nuisance party,” which allowed them to fine attendees up to $2,000 each.
Kingston Police posted a video online showing hundreds of what they described as “intoxicated students” gathered in the dark near the Victoria Park area.
Other video and photos circulating on social media that were allegedly from this weekend showed Aberdeen Street and surrounding roads teeming with people dressed in Queen’s University’s blue, red and gold colours.
The footage showed them hoisting and surfing a couch through the neighbourhood, where a banner hung from one home emblazoned with “?Bylaw add it 2 our tab.”
Police haven’t said whether anyone else was hurt, or what charges may be pending, but they confirmed that additional officers from the Brockville, Ont., and the Ontario Provincial Police in Durham were called in to help with crowd control.
Queen’s University opted against holding its traditional in-person homecoming event this weekend for a second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahead of the weekend, Mayor Bryan Patterson released a video pleading with students to gather only in small groups and avoid the large parties he heard were being planned.
Patrick Deane, principal and vice-chancellor of Queen’s University, was disappointed that advice wasn’t heeded and called the scene that unfolded over the weekend “reckless.”
“We know the last few years have been a struggle for young people, but such behaviour is dangerous, irresponsible, and ultimately inexcusable,” he wrote in a statement issued Sunday.
The university would be speaking with police and the city, assessing campus and neighbourhood damage and working with student volunteers to clean up Sunday, he added.
Meanwhile, the Kingston Police Association issued a brief statement on Twitter, condemning the unsanctioned event.
“This behavior and total disregard for public safety is appalling,” the association said. “Our members and policing partners have been working around the clock.”
In Wolfville, the RCMP confirmed that arrests were made and fines were handed to students who gathered by the hundreds on the town’s streets and in backyards.
RCMP Sgt. Andrew Joyce said some of the partygoers were handed tickets for carrying open liquor containers and violating health-protection orders that prohibit informal outdoor gatherings where more than 50 people assemble without wearing masks or physical distancing.
“We received numerous calls about large gatherings, Liquor Control Act violations, COVID violations and some Criminal Code mischief violations,” Joyce said in an interview.
“Those calls started early on Saturday afternoon and continued into the early morning hours … There were large gatherings, open liquor, persons standing on vehicles.”
Video footage shared on social media shows hundreds of young people gathering in the streets, few of them wearing masks or practising social distancing.
Ian Murray, a spokesman for Acadia University, issued an emailed statement Saturday saying the university was “deeply disappointed” in the conduct of students who “gathered noisily” and damaged property.
“The University condemns unruly behaviour and extends apologies to neighbours in Wolfville who were troubled or inconvenienced by the disrespectful attitude of some students,” he said. “These actions are inconsistent with Acadia’s values.”
Murray said the university plans to work with the Town of Wolfville and the RCMP to determine what went wrong.
“Acadia students who broke laws, by-laws, or COVID health and safety protocols will be sanctioned and disciplined by the university,” Murray said, adding that students who attended on-campus homecoming activities were required to follow health protocols, including mask wearing and providing proof of vaccination.
Earlier this year, disorderly street parties were also reported at the University of Guelph in southern Ontario and McMaster University in Hamilton.
Late last month, Halifax Regional Police responded to a flood of noise complaints from streets near Dalhousie University, where thousands of people gathered — first for a party in the afternoon and then for a larger event that night.
Police arrested nine men and one woman for public intoxication and issued numerous summary offence tickets for illegal possession of open liquor.
Frank Harvey, the university’s provost, said the illegal gatherings posed a safety risk to the Dalhousie community. That’s why university officials urged students who attended the parties to stay away from classes for a week and get tested for COVID-19.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 17, 2021.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2021.