Hamilton’s nuisance party bylaw is more harmful than helpful

Ayushka Tiwary
September 28, 2023
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

With fake homecoming readily approaching, the city needs to consider the consequences of implementing the nuisance party bylaw

Last year, the city of Hamilton implemented the nuisance party bylaw in response to the rather infamous and disastrous fake homecoming party that took place in 2021.  

The bylaw, which makes it illegal to promote, host, attend, permit or refuse to leave a nuisance party, leaves students facing penalties upwards of a whopping $25,000 if charged with an offence. 

Despite McMaster University’s efforts to dissuade students from attending nuisance parties and the new regulations put in place to deter gatherings, thousands gathered in the streets of Westdale and Ainslie Woods last year for yet another FOCO. Though calmer in comparison to the events of 2021, last year’s unsanctioned homecoming party resulted in nine arrests and 16 bylaw charges issued to people involved in the gathering. 

Heavy police presence and enforcement of the bylaw didn’t seem to make a significant difference in the outcome of FOCO. Instead, countless taxpayer dollars were spent policing an event that still resulted in property damage, unhappy Hamilton residents and repercussions for McMaster students.  

As potential FOCO parties approach, Hamilton and McMaster should consider the effectiveness and implications of the nuisance party bylaw.  

While the city of Hamilton has outlined several key limitations of the bylaw — this includes the hefty costs associated with policing, challenges with determining an individual’s involvement with promoting or causing a nuisance party and identifying property owners who are victims of trespassing — there are other factors that need to be taken to account.  

Other cities such as Waterloo, London, Guelph, Brampton and Kingston have also implemented similar bylaws, providing precedence to Hamilton’s circumstances. Members of these communities, however, have indicated that the bylaws are largely ineffective in preventing large gatherings from occurring and tend to compromise student safety in the process of prioritizing the needs of other residents. 

But students are also vital members of Hamilton’s diverse community. Their safety and well-being matter, bringing into question the effectiveness and benefits of the bylaw for all stakeholders involved.  

With the bylaw in effect, Hamilton’s resources continue to be thrown away for the sake of preventing gatherings that, regardless, continue to happen and wreak havoc. For students, there is fear on the streets during FOCO as incidents of wrongful ticketing and police involvement in breaking up parties put student safety at risk.  

Not to mention, a great deal of people who attended and caused property damages during previous FOCO parties weren’t McMaster students. Yet, the university and its students bear the brunt of others’ actions with the bylaw in effect.  

For the university, the events of 2021, covered by several media outlets across the country, have already stained the institution’s reputation and the bylaw only continues to stigmatize the McMaster’s community.  

It is also worthwhile to mention that because the FOCO events following the years of the pandemic were unsanctioned, they occurred in uncontrolled environments that allowed reckless behaviour and welcomed students from outside of the McMaster community.  

Students have voiced the need for sanctioned homecoming parties and events led by the university, like those hosted prior to the pandemic, to ensure McMaster students can attend and enjoy these memorable gatherings in safe and controlled spaces.  

While both the city and Hamilton seem to be following the same protocols from last year, it’s time they weighed the pros and cons.  

Hamilton’s nuisance party bylaw is simply unhelpful. Hamilton and McMaster need to look to more effective solutions that seek student and wider community input before further community resources – that could be better spent elsewhere – are squandered over their impractical approaches.  

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