Candidate proposes ‘University District Safety Council’

Kingstonist file photo from past Queen’s University Homecoming weekend. Inset: Dylan Chenier, council candidate for Sydenham District.

Homecoming weekend for Queen’s University starts today, bringing up the annually-present issues of student partying that often pours out onto city sidewalks and streets.

Sydenham District City Council candidate Dylan Chenier, himself a Queen’s student, has proposed a concept he feels will address that exact issue. Should he be elected to council, Chenier has proposed the formation of a ‘University District Safety Council,’ which would bring together the councillors of the districts most impacted by student life, students, area residents, first responders, University administration and organizations such as the Alma Mater Society (AMS), and health and safety experts.

Chenier’s reasoning and inspiration for the proposal is two-fold, he explained.

“Two years ago when I started going to Queen’s, I was aware of the immense issue that was student parties, specifically around Homecoming and Frosh Week and St. Patrick’s Day, and understanding that something needed to be done to avoid any potential safety issues that could arise,” he began.

“And then the City, this year, implemented the Nuisance Party By-Law, in which if students were caught during those three events, mainly, they would be ticketed and, if they did receive a ticket, they couldn’t pay it off, they had to go to appear in front of a Justice of the Peace,” Chenier continued.

“Seeing how, not only when that was implemented there was really no consultation, but also the fact that it treats students as secondary citizens, giving them rules to follow that don’t apply to anyone else in the city, I sort of saw those two issues and thought ‘Maybe there’s a way forward where we can consult with everyone to ensure that we’re really putting the best plan forward, and it’s one that everyone can agree on.’”

Chenier said that, ideally, the University District Safety Council would be a committee of city council, particularly because student partying during those periods of time where it historically becomes a problem is an issue that concerns the whole city.

“Not only do these parties affect people living near the district, but we talk a lot about how the parties have an impact on first responders throughout the entire city,” he said.

But Chenier also said that, if elected, should he not receive widespread support from his fellow councillors, the concept would be one he would try to implement himself, meeting with residents, university administrators, students, and the other councillors concerned – namely the councillors for Williamsville and King’s Town Districts, which have high student populations.

To get input from residents and students alike, Chenier said he would like to hold town hall meetings, collecting input from the public to build a plan around.

“It’s probably going to be that the student groups and the residents have different ideas of what they’d like to see, but you’re really just trying to find any areas of common ground,” Chenier expressed.

“But I’d like to bring everyone’s voice together, and I think town hall meetings are a good way of doing that.”

Although Chenier has yet to speak with University administration, or the AMS, he said he is confident the University would be willing to work with the City and other involved parties as part of his proposed initiative. When asked for comment, the AMS reflected just that.

“Working to strengthen and enhance harmonious relationships with all stakeholders in Kingston is an ongoing priority of the Alma Mater Society. Any opportunity for student representation in a group working towards this goal is welcome,” the AMS communications office said in a statement to Kingstonist.

For the reasons he outlined above, Chenier said he is “not totally supportive” of the current Nuisance Party By-Law, which came into effect in June of this year as part of the University District Safety Initiative. However, he pointed out that the current initiative and by-law are part of a pilot project, and one that could be altered and addressed by his proposed Council.

“There would be a process of reviewing it and seeing if we want to go forward with it permanently, or if we want to make necessary changes to it,” he said.

“My hope would be to put forward a bylaw that has the support of everyone involved and can really deal with the problems head on.”

And does Chenier actually think his proposed idea would make a difference to the issue long term?

“I do. I think in the long term, one of my visions for the city and for Sydenham is to include residents in a lot of decision making processes,” he said, noting that one of his major concerns generally is increasing transparency at City Hall.

“This is not the only issue where I want further consultation with the community. I think it’s a good way to start, but I think we really need to change the way we approach governing in Kingston, and we need to make it a process that is inclusive of everyone.”

And while Chenier said he’ll spend most of this weekend canvassing leading up to election day on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, he said he’ll certainly partake in a few Homecoming events. To those who will be partaking in Homecoming partying, Chenier urged students and alumni alike to enjoy themselves, but to consider the city as a whole while engaging in the revelry.

“Have fun! It’s a great time to celebrate what it means to be a Queen’s student. And welcome back to everyone who is visiting from out of town,” he said, noting that his favourite part of Homecoming weekend is seeing the interaction between alumni and current students at Queen’s.

“I hope that people are sensible in what they do and are aware that their decisions not only impact them directly, but have an impact on residents around the University, and, as we see, what happens at Queen’s has an impact on Kingston at large.”

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