On Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University, released a statement to various media outlets and through University social media pages, urging students to “re-think” participating in any planned parties for the upcoming weekend.
While Queen’s Homecoming festivities for 2021 took place last week – and all sanctioned activities took place virtually – authorities at the University, the City of Kingston, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, and Kingston Police have all said they are aware of large, unsanctioned parties being planned for the weekend beginning the evening of Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. According to some sources, events planned for the coming weekend are to be larger than the parties that saw approximately 5,000 people in the streets of the University District during the actual Homecoming weekend, largely due to the fact that many students at Queen’s had travelled home for reading week the same week as Homecoming.
Additionally, the statement was issued just days after a stabbing took place in Victoria Park during Homecoming revelry, and after two individuals tragically lost their lives in a double-homicide – while the latter case doesn’t seem to have a direct connection to Queen’s or Homecoming, according to Kingston Police, the two men were killed after attending the Homecoming weekend street parties in the University District.
“Last weekend, Queen’s and Kingston experienced large unsanctioned gatherings as well as tangential acts of violence, vandalism and theft that put members of the community at risk. Most regrettably, among the many injuries reported, two people who had been attending the street gatherings in the University District violently lost their lives elsewhere in the city later in the day. The fact that they were not students does not lessen the relevance of that tragedy to all of you,” the statement read, urging students to practice a measure of self-restraint before potentially compromising their futures with reckless social gatherings.
Still, the question for many Kingstonians remains: What does Queen’s University plan to do in terms of disciplining those responsible for the unsanctioned events, and to quell the nuisance parties allegedly planned for the days ahead.
“The Universities penalties – or at least the disciplinary measures that are at its disposal under the Code of Conduct – are limited and specific. Due process has to be followed. In the community, people do wonder sometimes why we can’t simply expel students on the spot for being at a party of this sort. The point about that is that the Code [of Conduct] doesn’t allow that to happen,” Principal Deane explained in an interview shortly after issuing the statement.
“Before a student can be expelled, they have to be made aware of the charges being brought against them, and they do have the right to defend themselves.”
Deane further elaborated, “The Code, as is in the case of our legal system at large, is premised on the notion of proportionality – that discipline has to be proportional to the infraction. So, the issue with us is that, for the most part, students at these street parties come under the Code of Conduct by virtue of being referred to us by the city authorities. Then, they are considered, and penalties are assessed. We are very committed to doing what we can to contain these events, but I think that the important point is that our policies under which students are disciplined do place very real control over how serious those penalties can be, and under what circumstances they can be imposed.”
While Principal Deane said that he has yet to receive the numbers in regards to how many Queen’s University students had been charged during last weekend’s parties, he said that, since September, approximately 46 students have been “brought in” for the non-academic discipline process due to charges that include (but aren’t limited to) bylaw infraction tickets, hosting a nuisance party, attending a nuisance party, not complying with city regulations, and disorderly conduct.
“There are a small number of vaccine policy violation cases that are ongoing, as well, so we have quite a number of cases that have accumulated over the past several weeks. We will have numbers arising out of last weekend, I think, within the next week or two,” said Deane.
Kingston Police, however, released a more detailed statement on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021,which detailed the number of charged individuals during the homecoming weekend parties, wherein approximately $24,000 dollars in fines were issued to partiers – though, to be clear, many of those in attendance at the parties self-identified as students at post-secondary institutions other than Queen’s. Regardless, the events prompted Kingston Police Chief Antje McNeely to issue the following statement:
“I am strongly condemning the continued aggressive, volatile, and disrespectful behaviour that has been directed at our officers and by-law partners. It is completely unacceptable. They are there to ensure our community is safe, and any illegal behaviour will be addressed proactively through appropriate fines and charges. To those who cannot comprehend the seriousness of their actions, I can’t stress this enough: don’t risk putting your future in jeopardy by having a criminal record!”
Mayor Bryan Paterson offered a somewhat sobering statement on the matter, as well.
“To say we are frustrated, angry, and exhausted only begins to describe the feelings among police, enforcement staff, paramedics, hospital personnel, the community, and myself. I don’t know how to make the message any clearer,” said Paterson. “We will continue to fine, ticket, and penalize anyone who ignores the law. If you are a student, you really need to consider how one night of partying and reckless behaviour could affect your future. If you are coming here from out of town to party, be prepared to come back for a summons to court.”
For information on preparations in advance of this weekend on the part of Kingston Police and the City of Kingston, click here.