By Drake Lowthers
Advocate Media Inc.
ANTIGONISH – StFX University representatives say they’re disappointed in recent incidents of student behaviour that didn’t meet community COVID-19 guidelines and resulted in charges being laid under the Health Protection Act.
“StFX is aware of tickets issued by the RCMP and reports from community members concerning social gatherings exceeding the maximum size limits,” vice-president of students Elizabeth Yeo said in a media release. “Six fines of $1,000 were issued under Nova Scotia’s Health Protection Act in addition to several fines for noise violations at the same addresses.”
An RCMP public information officer indicated members of the Antigonish RCMP received an anonymous complaint at 11:15 p.m. on Feb. 12 of a house party on Florence Circle and when officers arrived, they observed up to 25 people inside.
“Members asked all persons on the lease to present themselves outside the front door,” Cpl. Mark Skinner told The Reporter. “All six (were) issued tickets under the Health Protection Act; the party was dispersed.”
While it is technically possible to charge everyone in attendance at a house party, Skinner explained in this case, and others similar, it may not be feasible as there are only so many officers to deal with a large group of intoxicated people.
“Officers wanted to get at the root cause of the issue here; charging the individuals that allowed the party occur to hopefully prevent it in the future,” he said. “Folks who are intoxicated are often unpredictable and can present officer safety issues. Sometimes dispersing them instead of getting them all crowded together, more potential COVID exposure, to issue tickets can be a better option.”
The university is also investigating reports of on and off-campus gatherings that exceeded the maximum size limits.
Yeo suggested that in each of these cases, StFX is conducting investigations and may impose additional sanctions pursuant to the university’s Community Code, depending on the findings.
“These incidents remind us that we cannot become complacent to behaviours that increase the risk of transmission of the virus to the community,” she said. “This is especially a concern with the highly contagious new variants of the virus present in the province.”
To date, Yeo explained students have done an outstanding job complying to the behaviour standards expected to ensure everyone in the Antigonish community remains safe, resulting in the university being able to continue to offer in-person, on-campus learning and living.
“We can do this. We did it in the fall semester. Let’s continue to work together, keeping in mind what is at stake—the health and safety of each other and our community,” she added. “Let’s stay safe and stay open.”