City of Waterloo issues warning over street parties ahead of homecoming weekend

A Wilfrid Laurier University sign. Ahmad Fareed Khan / Global News

Ahead of homecoming weekend, the City of Waterloo says it is working alongside emergency service personnel as well as the two area universities to put a stop to the unsanctioned street gatherings that have plagued it over the past few years.

“Everyone must respect the emergency orders and public health direction on gatherings, as well as local city laws for safe, respectful neighbourhoods,” stated Nicole Papke, who heads Waterloo’s municipal enforcement services.

“Large street gatherings can be dangerous and put everyone at risk. We’ll be working with our partner agencies to make safety a priority.”

To illustrate the dangers of homecoming weekend, the city says that in 2019, paramedics responded to 48 calls for help. A total of 27 people were taken to area hospitals, with five of those in serious or critical condition.

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“Although illegal street gatherings are a concern at any time, during a global health crisis, the issues have been further amplified as concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and its variants continue to be top of mind,” the city’s statement read.

It is warning that anyone who breaks rules under the Reopening of Ontario Act could face fines as a result.

The city also noted that anyone attending illegal gatherings could get a ticket, including those responsible for the property such as tenants or organizers.

Waterloo says students who are identified in connection with incidents could face suspension or expulsion.

“Laurier students take great pride in being part of the Waterloo community and most are doing their part to ensure a safe and healthy semester for all,” Laurier University VP Jason Coolman said in a release.

“The behaviour of any student who chooses to not follow the mandates around gathering limits will not be tolerated as it is putting the most vulnerable in our community at risk and tarnishing our student and university reputation.”

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Already, with students back on campus over the past few weeks, Waterloo Regional Police, along with other emergency services, have responded to street parties on Ezra Avenue that have had as many as 2,500 people in attendance.

The city says between Aug. 24 and Sept. 20 bylaw has already levied 26 noise charges as well as another 11 under the ROA while police have laid 108 charges under the Liquor Licence Act and 91 charges under the Highway Traffic Act.

In addition, Laurier constables have also arrested three people and issued 57 provincial offence notices.

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