McMaster students in Hamilton reminded of possible $10,000 ‘nuisance party’ fine

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Published September 26, 2022 at 5:36 pm

Refuse left on the street during 'FauxCo' at McMaster in October 2021. (file photo)

The dean of students at McMaster University spent some of his Monday reminding young adults that partying too heartily can lead to five-figure fines in Hamilton.

Sean Van Koughnett, who is also Mac’s acting associate vice-president of finance and planning (academic), shared a video explaining that he was walking through the Dalewood neighbourhood to tell students about the recently passed City of Hamilton “nuisance party” bylaw. Under the bylaw, which was passed two weeks ago, and individual host, property owner or partygoer an face up to a $10,000 fine for a first offence and $25,000 for any subsequent offence related to an event deemed to be a nuisance party.

“We know the risks to health and safety that are posed by this kind of activity,” Van Koughnett says in a video. “We want students to understand what it means to be good neighbour.”

In early October of last year, about 5,000 people descended on a street during an unsanctioned homecoming event at the same time as the McMaster Marauders’ first home football game. In February, Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson, who represents the area around the university, passed a motion that led to city staff working to develop a policy about nuisance parties.

That was passed about a month before large gatherings for t. Patrick’s Day in March. It cost the City of Hamilton nearly a quarter-million dollars (about $244,000) and 482 labour hours to mitigate risks in the Dalewood and Westdale neighbourhoods during those days in mid-March.

Under the bylaw, a nuisance party is a gathering of people where any of the following activities occur:

  • public disorderly conduct
  • public drunkenness or public intoxication
  • the unlawful sale or distribution of alcohol or controlled substances;
  • the deposit of refuse on public or private property;
  • damage to or destruction of public or private property
  • obstructing pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic, or obstruction that could interfere with the provision of emergency services;
  • excessive noise, including loud music, shouting
  • unlawful open burning or fireworks;
  • public disturbances, including public brawls or public fights;
  • outdoor public urination or defecation; and
  • use of a roof not intended for such occupancy.

At a Sept. 6 meeting, Wilson confirmed that McMaster does not have a partnership with the City of Hamilton to help pay for policing, extra parademics and clean-up at so-called unsanctioned street parties.

Such financial arrangements are not unheard of in Ontario university towns. For instance, Queen’s University at Kingston pays $100,000 annually to the City of Kingston to help cover such costs.

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