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Fredericton to double fines in bid to keep raucous university parties safer

Click to play video: 'Fredericton doubling nuisance fines to curb parties'
Fredericton doubling nuisance fines to curb parties
Watch: The City of Fredericton is doubling fines under its nuisance bylaw to help curb out-of-control parties. Nathalie Sturgeon has the details on what led to the swift change in rules. – Apr 25, 2023

The City of Fredericton is planning to introduce a new nuisance bylaw for parties with stiffer fines in the city following an incident in September 2022 where first responders were assaulted.

Graham Avenue, Windsor Street and College Hill are the streets surrounding the universities, including New Brunswick Community College, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and St. Thomas University.

It’s an area known for student housing and for its parties.

One party, in September 2022, was one police chief Martin Gaudet describes as “significant,” adding he’s no stranger to parties on the hill with his 29 years on the force.

“We said enough is enough,” he said in an interview on Monday.

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At the time, UNB president Paul Mazzerolle wrote an email to students.

“According to the police reports, last weekend large gatherings were held close to campus where crowds of individuals engaged in dangerous criminal activity, lighting street fires, damaging an emergency vehicle and assaulting emergency responders,” he wrote in the email.

“This type of behaviour threatens the safety of other students, local residents and leads to emergency responders being diverted from actual emergencies to respond to senseless acts of aggression and damaging of private property,” it went on to say.

Police said a fire truck was damaged during the response.

Gaudet said he wanted to have a bylaw with increased fines.

“It’s quite unfortunate that it has to come to this,” he said. “But we, the city, the partners … sat down and said this has to change … we all agree this is an issue,” he said.

Right before the last class bash, a party designed to send students off for the summer, police and officials from the universities went door-to-door with information about the rules and what happens if they’re broken.

He said there were much fewer calls for service, but the force did catch three impaired drivers.

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Graham Ave is the place where many university off-campus parties take place. Nathalie Sturgeon / Global News

When asked what the bylaw allowed officers to do that they can’t do now, Gaudet said he hopes the higher fines, almost double the current fines, will deter party hosts from letting them get out of hand.

He said when hundreds of students pour into streets, combined with alcohol and sometimes large fires, it is easy for first responders to be outnumbered.

“It’s not safe. Should we put our officers at risk to try and break up a party? It’s a poor use of resources,” he said.

UNB vice-president academic Kathy Wilson told council it is committed to keep the community safe, which includes the off-campus areas in which students might gather.

She said it has been a challenge.

“It’s spurred by a movement on social media that is unconnected to a particular university and it is happening across the country,” she said in a short presentation to council.

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Wilson also told council this generation, and incoming generations, of students have been dealing with COVID-19 and the social isolation it brings.

“I think that impacted a lot of the quite aggressive and violent behaviour,” she said.

She said in an interview Tuesday it isn’t just students participating in these parties, and it may be easy to think it’s just students, but that’s far from the reality.

Wilson said UNB has looked at how Western University has dealt with its raucous parties and Nova Soctia’s Dalhousie University, but said no one has found the perfect solution.

“We’ve done a pan-Canada study to see what have worked at other universities and how can we adopt here, with the understanding we’re very fortunate to have this collaboration,” she said in an interview.

The University of New Brunswick says it is committed to working with the police and city to help keep everyone safe. Nathalie Sturgeon / Global News

Both she and Gaudet said this isn’t about restricting partying but rather encouraging safe behaviour during those activities. ‘

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She said students on the streets along the university were receptive, for the most part, to the walkabout the staff and police did ahead of last class bash.

“It’s really important to find ways to come at this from different perspectives,” she said. “I think increasing the fines are very important, not only financial amount, but I think it sends a strong signal that this isn’t on,” she said.

Kordell Walsh, UNB student union president, said there was a strong sense students were itching to get back to in-person parties and socialization.

He said social media promotion of raucous parties is definitely an issue. Content creators are setting expectations about what parties at university should be like, including dangerous activities which trickle down into even small communities like Fredericton.

He, too, said there were non-students involved in the party back in September. Walsh said the incident in September wasn’t appropriate behaviour.

For Walsh and the student union, and the university, it is about increasing on-campus events and better understanding how to keep everyone safe – and especially after the party leaves campus.

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