Homecoming weekend was supposed to be a virtual celebration at Acadia University this year because of COVID-19, but it appears not everyone followed the memo.
RCMP said more than 20 people were charged or issued tickets over the weekend, including eight under the Emergency Management and Health Protection acts.
Cpl. Andrew Joyce said police were called on Thursday night about a party at a home on Prospect Street in the town. They ended up charging five adults under the Emergency Management Act with failing to comply with a direction, order or requirement, with a fine amount of $697.50. Joyce didn't know what the specific allegations were, but a week earlier police laid a similar charge with the same fine against the occupant of a home that hosted another large party.
One of the five individuals charged was also given a ticket for $352.50 for a violation under the town's prevention of excessive noise bylaw.
Joyce said that on Friday and Saturday two adults were fined $582.50 under the Emergency Management Act for failing to comply with the act, and one person was charged under the Health Protection Act for failing to comply with that act. That person was fined $1,000.
“We knew there was a party on Thursday night on Prospect Street and one on Saturday night on Bay Street ... and that the RCMP went and the parties were pretty swiftly shut down.”
- Acadia University spokesman Ian Murray
Joyce didn't have the specifics of those charges either, or whether they were all related to one address.
Police also issued 14 tickets for illegal possession of alcohol on Friday and Saturday.
Joyce said that as far as he knows, the charges were laid against different people.
Acadia University spokesman Ian Murray said the university was aware there had been illegal gatherings on the weekend.
“We knew there was a party on Thursday night on Prospect Street and one on Saturday night on Bay Street ... and that the RCMP went and the parties were pretty swiftly shut down,” Murray said.
Both streets are known for having student housing, he said.
“There have conversations with the students to help them understand what the expectations are, ..."
- Acadia University spokesman Ian Murray
“We were thrilled to hear they were issuing tickets, because it helps us drive home the point that the protocols that were put in place by the health authority are serious and that we expect students to fulfill their obligation to remain vigilant and take measures to keep themselves and others safe.”
He said police don't pass on the names of people charged to the university for privacy reasons, so it's difficult for the university to know who's hosting off-campus parties and who is attending them.
The university has put public health orders around the pandemic in the student code of conduct this year, “but if we don't know who they are, it's hard for us to enforce the judicial process inside the university.”
University sanctions against students for failing to comply with the public health directives can include anything from fines to expulsion for repeat offenders.
Murray said that students services staff have been going to off-campus student houses when they do hear there have been incidents in the area.
“There have conversations with the students to help them understand what the expectations are, to make them aware that we're aware that there's been behaviour that isn't acceptable in our community and hopefully give them an extra boost of direction so that they understand what's at risk.”
He said that risk is that if there is a second outbreak of the virus in the province, the university may have to go back to virtual teaching.
He said he knows there is only a small number of students who are flouting the public health directives, but “we are disappointed in those students who continue to knowingly break the safety protocols ... we expect a higher level of conduct from these young men and women in our care.”
Another student was fined $1,000 the previous weekend for hosting a party of 75 people at a home on Bay Street, and in September a student was fined the same amount for failing to self-isolate.
Murray said the virtual homecoming weekend included a variety of online events, including broadasting the 1981 Vanier Cup championship. There were no in-person sanctioned events.
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