Ottawa

Queen's students who 'flagrantly' break pandemic rules could be expelled

Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., has threatened to discipline students caught partying through the pandemic as part of an effort to cut down on "superspreader" events.

City of Kingston, Ont., also approves harsher penalties for 'nuisance parties'

Queen's University campus in Kingston, Ont., on March 18, 2020. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., has threatened to discipline students caught partying through the pandemic as part of an effort to cut down on "superspreader" events.

The most serious offenders who "flagrantly" disregard public health measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 will be formally reviewed, said Queen's principal Patrick Deane.

"Should they be found guilty under the student code of conduct, they'll be subject to sanctions as stipulated in the code," Deane said.

"Those sanctions do include the possibility of expulsion from the university."

Deane said there would be due process before anyone is kicked out of the school, and such punishment would be reserved only for those who have seriously jeopardized public safety.

"When there are students who persist in flouting those regulations, obviously the university must have some kind of recourse against them," he said.

Higher fines

The announcement came a day after the region's medical officer of health told Kingston city council the school should take that action.

On Kieran Moore's advice, the city also hiked fines to $2,000 from $500 for first-time offenders holding "nuisance parties" in violation of public health protocols.

Repeat offenders could be referred to the courts, where they would face fines of up to $100,000.

"Our assessment centre continues to be very busy and testing in our case management is getting stretched," Moore told council.

"I think the response of increasing the fines is proportionate to the risk. We need further deterrents that would protect our community."

City officials said most of those fined in recent weeks have been in the university neighbourhood heavily populated by students.

While Queen's has limited in-person learning to about 4,400 students — roughly a sixth of its total enrolment — many learning online have returned to the city.

Mayor Bryan Paterson said the city is working with the school to curb the partying, taking actions that include closing a popular pier and beach due to crowding.

Young people gather at the Breakwater Park, near Gord Edgar Downie Pier, without any physical distancing in Kingston, Ont., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. The area has since been closed. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

He said it was necessary to boost the potential fines because the parties didn't stop after the go-to spots closed.

"While we have seen the vast majority of students that have been very conscientious and careful to abide by those rules, there are some students that are clearly not taking it seriously," Paterson said.

"The fact that we have seen some very large house parties over the last week or two indicates that the message is still not getting through to some students."

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