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Queen’s Principal addresses students’ return, large parties, closure of park

Approximately 2,000 people gathered for an impromptu street party on University Avenue on the night of Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, resulting in street closures, fines, and the subsequent closure of Breakwater Park to avoid large gatherings occurring there, as well, during the ongoing pandemic. Despite messaging from the City of Kingston, Kingston Police, and Queen’s University, similar activity occurred again on the night of Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Photo by Cris Vilela.

 As some doors close, others will open in Kingston’s University District this week, as students prepare to attend classrooms and lecture halls in the wake of Kingston Police dispersing a 2,000-person illegal street party on University Avenue, which subsequently resulted in the closure of Gord Edgar Downie Pier and the beach area at Breakwater Park.

On the same day the City of Kingston ordered the closure of the popular waterfront park, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, Queen’s University Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Patrick Deane, expressed that new measures coinciding with provincial vaccine mandates will be put in place to ensure the safety of students, faculty and visitors for the foreseeable future.

When asked what the university was doing to quell these nuisance parties – particularly in light of the ongoing fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and spread of the delta variant – Deane stated:

“The first line of our approach is to work with our partners on the appropriate measures. I was in talks this morning with the Mayor and [Kingston Police] Chief McNeely about the closing of the pier and we fully support the police and the City – we are very pleased to be able to bring students into academic studies in person, but that is a very special privilege, and the price of that is to conduct themselves properly, and in a considerate and compliant manner. Any student who is caught breaking the law or behaving in an inappropriate manner will be referred by the authorities to us and disciplined under our student code of conduct – as we’ve done all year.”

The party that led to these events took place on the night of Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 and well into the next morning. University Avenue was declared a Nuisance Party at 12:10 a.m., with police notifying those gathered verbally via police cruiser PA systems. University Avenue was cleared at approximately 1:30 a.m., and police on scene estimated approximately 2,000 people had attended the impromptu party. Kingston Police provided the following response to the gathering from an enforcement standpoint:

  • Four arrests and subsequent Liquor Licence Act PONs (Provincial Offence Notice) for being intoxicated in a public place
  • 10 Part 1 Summons for having open alcohol contrary to the Liquor Licence Act
  • One Part 1 Summons for Person Under 19 having/consuming alcohol contrary to the Liquor Licence Act Police supervisor who was at the scene estimated approximately 2000 people were at the street gathering.

With regard to preparedness for potential outbreaks as students return, Deane said that a vaccine mandate is in place at the university for anyone who wishes to step foot on campus, and that, as of Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, documents have circulated which will allow students and faculty to provide proof of vaccination status, primarily through an app that will go live in the coming days. He added that exceptions to this mandate would only be granted for provable medical reasons and matters of statutory human rights.

Just last week, Queen’s released a letter to instructors that stated “Instructors who are fully vaccinated may deliver lectures without a mask if 2-metre distancing from the students can be maintained while lecturing. Masks are to remain on at all other times. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated instructors must wear a mask while in the classroom, even while lecturing.” While the statement, which seems to somewhat juxtapose the new mandates, Deane clarified.

“Those individuals would be individuals who are unvaccinated by virtue of having been granted an exemption under those two considerations. I think, in the next couple of weeks there will be individuals in transition – those whom have had their second shot and are in their waiting period – and so on. In very short order, the only individuals to be permitted to be involved in any on-campus activities will be those who comply with the mandatory vaccination order.”

Deane also stated that it was “extremely regrettable” that student actions led to the closure of Gord Downie Pier and the adjacent beach, resulting in the larger Kingston community losing access to one of the City’s most convenient water access areas while the summer heat still looms. He expressed that, ideally, the closure of a public facility such as Gord Downie Pier due to student carelessness should be “completely unnecessary.”

In terms of a message to the student community regarding these events, Deane offered the following statement:

“When you come to Queen’s, you’re not just members of a university community, but part of a city. The good health of the whole community – which includes the student body – depends on everyone behaving in a responsible manner. Students are welcome members in this community so long as they are considerate, good neighbours, complying with public good sense.”

Despite this, street party activity continued to take place on the night of Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, and into Friday morning. With the Labour Day long weekend ahead, Deane had implored students to curb such behaviour in order to allow the school year to begin as planned during the ongoing pandemic just hours prior.

“We have come so far and it would be a travesty if we could not get back to what we have all been waiting for so long. Universities are for learning. Please remember that this weekend and over the coming months and let’s be sure that we will be learning in classrooms next week and all the months to follow,” he wrote in an email to the entire student body on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.

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