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Queen's student leaders search for answers after party-filled long weekend

Student leaders at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., say they're trying to come up with safer alternatives for young people returning to campus following a party-filled long weekend that left the city's mayor "appalled."

11 people in university district charged under the Reopening Ontario Act

Over the Labour Day weekend, Kingston police charged 11 people in the city's university district under the Reopening Ontario Act, estimating the crowds there ranged from 3,500 to 5,000 people. (Kingston Police)

Student leaders at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., say they're trying to come up with safer alternatives for young people returning to campus after a raucous long weekend that left the city's mayor "appalled."

Over the Labour Day weekend, Kingston police charged 11 people in the district under the Reopening Ontario Act, estimating the crowds there ranged from 3,500 to 5,000 people.

From Friday night to Tuesday morning, police were called to 106 noise complaints, three of which resulted in fines. Bylaw officers issued an additional 35 fines, also for noise. 

One person was arrested and charged with public intoxication. Police also handed out 53 fines for open liquor and dealt with seven Highway Traffic Act violations. 

Step 3 of Ontario's reopening plan prohibits parties of larger than 100 people in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. If convicted, a person can face a fine of between $10,000 and $100,000 and up to one year in jail.

'Obviously disappointed'

Despite those numbers, the students fined or charged over the weekend represent a "fairly small minority of the Queen's population," said Ryan Sieg, vice-president of university affairs for the Alma Mater Society, the main undergraduate student association.

"We're obviously disappointed by a lot of the behaviour that we saw," Sieg told CBC Radio's All In A Day Thursday.

"A lot of these students are trying to find ways to connect ... right now I think there's a lack of opportunities for them to do this, so they end up [at] these parties."

Sieg said the association had an emergency meeting Wednesday night with other student leaders at Queen's and vice-chancellor Patrick Deane to brainstorm ways to divert people away from street parties.

That could include more extracurricular and student club events that would follow all the COVID-19 health guidelines, he said, while also allowing students to still make "meaningful connections."

"We've heard anecdotes from students in residence saying [they] don't really want to go [to big street parties because] they don't think it's the best decision, but they aren't really sure what else to do," said Sieg.

"We want to come up with more good alternatives."

When police and by-law officers tried to break up crowded parties in Kingston last weekend, they say some students threw bottles and hurled insults at them. We talk to Queen's University's student association about how it is working to ensure students follow public health rules.

Students could be expelled

On Wednesday, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson told All In A Day that he was "appalled" by the long weekend's events, which included reports of people throwing bottles at police officers.

"Perhaps [they're] not realizing what an issue and concern it is to us as a community, to residents that are in the neighbourhoods [who] are having to put up with noise and other disruptions," said Paterson.

"We're seeing a level of concern and disruption that is beyond what we have seen before. And so I think that we need to respond to that — both the city and the university."

In a statement Thursday, Queen's University said it was upset by both by the size of the weekend parties and the "aggressive behaviour" that was witnessed.

The university does not condone this behaviour, and we will not tolerate any activity that puts others at risk.- Queen's University

The past weekend was an "unprecedented" situation, the university said, with thousands of students returning to in-person classes after more than a year of remote learning.

Some students could face sanctions under the code of conduct at Queen's, including expulsion.

"The university does not condone this behaviour, and we will not tolerate any activity that puts others at risk, especially our police, campus security and city bylaw officers who are trying to keep others safe," the statement said.

With files from Sara Frizzell

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