For the second weekend in a row, Saanich Police officers attended the University of Victoria for reports of a large gathering being held in contravention of COVID-19 safety guidelines.
In a statement released Monday, police say they and Campus Security officers, came across a group of approximately 100 people gathered near the fountain in front of UVic’s McPherson Library at 10 p.m. on Friday, September 18.
Saanich Police say the group was not observing physical distancing measures and many were openly drinking alcohol.
In response, 11 violation tickets were issued to people who were found not maintaining physical distancing, and 14 tickets related to alcohol consumption, including among minors, were also meted out.
Each of those tickets include a fine of $230 under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (CRMA) and Liquor Control and Licencing Act (LCLA).
Nearly all of the tickets were issued to students registered at the university.
The next night, Saanich Police say they returned to the UVic campus to find a very different scene: small groups of six to eight people were gathered in the same area, but were maintaining appropriate distancing from each other.
“It appears that enforcement measures had the desired effect, setting the tone for Saturday’s overall compliance at the campus,” said Cst. Markus Anastasiadese in a statement.
“We hope others share this message with their peers because at the end of the day it’s doing everything we can to keep everyone safe in our community and beyond.”
Potential further consequences
This is the second weekend in a row that Saanich Police and Campus Security found large gatherings mostly comprised of first year students at the University of Victoria.
On September 11, between 50 and 80 people, mostly students, had gathered in front of McPherson Library at around 9 p.m., allegedly to drink and party. The group dispersed when police arrived, only to regroup at nearby Gyro Beach and Frank Hobbs Elementary School.
In each of those circumstances, the group either scattered or were no longer on scene when police arrived and no fines were issued under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act.
In the aftermath of those gatherings, the University of Victoria sent out an email to all students in the Greater Victoria area emphasizing the importance of following health and safety guidelines in place during the fall semester.
“For the on-campus gatherings that happened last weekend, we will be reviewing and following up with those involved. Our institutional response will be consistent with UVic policies and reflect the serious nature of these actions in creating a risk to our community,” reads the email from Jim Dunsdon, Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs, sent on September 16.
A spokesperson from the university told Victoria Buzz that consequences for students identified to be in contravention of COVID-19 guidelines can range anywhere from educational information and dialogue to suspension and even expulsion.
“It’s important to note that we expect students to follow the Public Health Officer guidelines whether they are on or off campus,” said UVic spokesperson Denise Helm in an emailed statement.
“Municipal bylaw officers have the authority to issue tickets for violations related to the public health guidelines for any gathering in the community that is exceeding the maximum numbers of people.”
The university has yet to issue a statement in response to the gathering and violation tickets issued on September 18.