AMS Delegation at the Kingston Police Services Board
For those interested, please see AMS Commissioner of External Affairs Julian Mollot-Hill’s presentation to the Kingston Police Services Board on Thursday, October 19th, 2023. This excludes the question period with the board. See below for the script.
Good afternoon, my name is Julian Mollot-Hill and I am the Commissioner of External Affairs for the Alma Mater Society of Queen’s University, the student union representing 22,000 undergraduate students. Today I will be speaking on behalf of the AMS and the students that we represent. We are here today to bring you the student perspective on a recent change in policing policy that was formally reported in a digital media release by the Kingston Police on September 19th of this year. I would like to also start off by saying that we are here in good faith, and that the AMS shares in your goal of keeping all residents of Kingston safe.
The University District Safety Initiative, or UDSI, was in effect from August 28th to September 11th along with its usual conventions regarding the enforcement of the Nuisance Party By-law, Noise Bylaws, as well as mandatory Part 1 Summons for violations of the Liquor License and Control Act, or LLCA, such as open alcohol and underage drinking. This program has been continued from previous years, and the AMS understands its reasoning as an emergency measure around critical times like move-in, Homecoming, and St. Patrick’s Day. However, the media release on September 19th stated an intent to continue the issuing of mandatory Part 1 summons for LLCA offences beyond the communicated dates of the UDSI.
“As part of the continued enforcement strategy, individuals who are charged with an offence under the Liquor License and Control Act will receive a Part 1 Summons which requires them to attend a mandatory court appearance and potentially face increased fines that are above the legislated set fines.” – Kingston Police Media Release, September 19th [IMPORTANT EDIT: As of October 20th, this link no longer works and the page containing the media release has since been deleted from the Kingston Police’s website]
As far as we know, and according to continued reports we have received from students, this policy continued for more than a month between the UDSI periods from September 12th to October 13th. It is our position that this policy is unwarranted outside of UDSI dates, that it can result in a disproportionate impact on socio-economically disadvantaged students, that its enforcement is intrusive and overbearing on the University District, and that Kingston Police should have communicated this change in policy far in advance of its implementation rather than in a post-hoc fashion.
As the September 19th media release states, if students are issued a Part 1 Summons they are required to appear in court, “… and potentially face increased fines that are above the legislated set fines.” These increased fines have been of wildly varying amounts, with reports from students being as low as $150 and often around $500 according to surveying the AMS has conducted. Importantly, in all cases we have heard of, these fines are uniformly above the standard amount set for these LLCA offences by the Ontario Court of Justice in Schedule 61 items 63,64, (which are for underage drinking and possession) and 79, and 80 (which are for open alcohol or drinking in an unlawful place) which are all set at $100. This increased cost can be of little significance to wealthy students, but it is of dire cost to students who are financially strained. According to the report from Queen’s University’s SHIFT student survey, 39% responded “sometimes or often true” to the statement “I couldn’t afford to eat nutritious meals.” To someone struggling to afford food for themself, a fine the size of a month’s worth of groceries could be devastating. Additionally, from the summons that students have received in this period between UDSI periods, many of the court dates have been set during the winter break (December 22nd to January 7th). For students who can’t afford to feasibly travel to and from Kingston multiple times, this could also stop them from going back home for the holidays.
Many students are reporting that this policy feels like it is arbitrarily and unfairly targeted towards students. In an anonymous survey conducted by the AMS, students had many things to say. To quote some: (Disclaimer: these are unedited quotes from different students in an anonymized survey and not official statements by the AMS)
“It is unbelievable how out of proportion these fines and court dates are for the actions of students. There are many other citizens who act in the same way (open alcohol, noise complains etc.) who don’t receive the same “punishment” just because they are not a student.”
“They are overcharging for tickets and making it unaffordable for students. I was unaware of the law until I recieved a ticket and now have to pay $500.”
“I think the increased policing of Queen’s students alienates them and creates an unsafe environment for students. They are made to feel unwelcome in the city, and are forced to worry about police presence in their neighbourhoods and campus.”
“Fining $500 to broke university students over an open drink is not bettering the community. They have to reevaluate their priorities and figure out how to work with the university student community to better the community rather than, for some weird antagonist reason, fighting against them.”
“Overall, students need to receive the same treatment as the rest of the citizens in the City if Kingston.”
In this same survey, 28/34 (82%) of respondents who lived in the same area last year as they do now stated that they have noticed an increase in police presence as compared to last year. Personally, as someone who has lived in the heart of the student district for 4 years now, on University Avenue at Earl St., I can corroborate that this is the highest consistent police presence I have seen outside of a UDSI period. On weekends and at night it is regular for me to see a police car, marked or unmarked, or a bylaw car drive by my house every 2-5 minutes. I can further attest that the increased enforcement and monitoring for Open Alcohol necessitates intrusiveness since it requires police to slowly cruise by you to inspect what you are holding and may ask you to come and show them the can/bottle/container if they suspect something. This creates a sense of constant surveillance and may contribute to why students report that the police make them feel unsafe.
We believe that this new policy, the enforcement outside of UDSI dates of mandatory Part 1 Summons for LLCA violations as opposed to the regularly scheduled fines, is also unproductive towards the goals of the city and the goals of the Kingston Police outlined in the 2023-2026 strategic plan. The city and many if its residents regularly express a desire to reduce extreme, loud, and dangerous partying but we maintain that this policy doesn’t address this nor has it been justified properly. In the Kingston Police 2023-2026 strategic plan the first two strategic objectives are: 1. Reduce the weighted crime rate by 10%, especially in the downtown core, and 2. The people of Kingston, including marginalized and/or disadvantaged persons, feel safer and are more satisfied with the Kingston Police. Due to the weighting factor for crime, and the very low weight for LLCA offences of this nature, this policy isn’t driven from the first objective. For the second, the AMS and the students we represent also constitute the people of Kingston, and many of us are marginalized and disadvantaged. We believe that this policy would also harm the pursuit of the second goal.
We understand and agree that the law must be enforced, and that it is a provincial law not a municipal one. It is our position that outside of times of emergency like the UDSI, the Schedule 61 provincially set fines for the LLCA are a sufficient enforcement system, and that the increased amount of police patrolling in the University District is unnecessary. We hope that you will take this complaint seriously and consider amending this new policy.
Thank you all for your time.