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Students fill Russell Avenue on the morning of the Panda Game. Photo: Parker Townes/Fulcrum

Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury says he’s ‘not satisfied with police response’

Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury is criticizing the way the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) handled the pre-Panda Game parties that took place across Sandy Hill on the morning of Oct. 5.

“I am not satisfied with police response,” Fleury said in a statement posted to his website on Friday. 

The Fulcrum previously reported that the University of Ottawa was pushed by the city to host a tailgate party, run by the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU), under threat of not receiving a special events permit to host the annual Panda Game against the Carleton Ravens at TD Place. 

The city cited the infamous street party on Russell Avenue, which “uses a lot of city resource” and “has become a huge burden for the Sandy Hill community,” UOSU student life commissioner Jason Seguya told the Fulcrum on Oct. 4. “If no action was taken, there would be no Panda Game,” he said.

The hope was that students would opt for the tailgate with a BYOB option for those of legal age instead of the street party, but Seguya told the Fulcrum a “rotation of roughly 600-700 students” attended the tailgate in the Sandy Hill Arena parking lot while thousands flooded Russell Avenue.

“While a great deal of planning had gone into mitigating the community effects of pre-Panda celebrations, including the hosting of a tailgate party to encourage attendees to celebrate safely and off city streets, we experienced major disruptions in the community,” Fleury’s statement reads.

Fleury says in his statement that the ID check at the entrance of the tailgate led to a long line that spilled over onto Russell Avenue. He says the officers present “were focused on the wrong things,” claiming he watched “a group of six officers hovering over the tailgate lineup, forcing students to pour out drinks.”

“The validation of an illegal street party does not help our collective efforts on Panda,” Fleury’s statement reads, referring to Russell Avenue. “I see the closure of Russell (Avenue), and subsequently, police enforcement mismanagement as a failure that could have been avoided.”

Fleury says in his statement that he has reached out to the OPS deputy chief of police and plans to meet with police and organizers “to address the community’s, the university’s and (his) own concerns.”

“Our officers were focused on public safety and ensuring that laws were enforced appropriately,” OPS Acting Deputy Chief Joan McKenna wrote in an emailed statement to the Fulcrum on Friday. “They encouraged people to attend the sanctioned event and took necessary measures to ensure crowd safety.”

The OPS issued 42 charges under the Ontario Liquor Licence Act during Panda Game festivities, with no major incidents to report. Police say they also confiscated and poured out more than 1,600 alcoholic beverages in the areas of Sandy Hill, Old Ottawa South, and the Glebe. 

“As we do after every major event, we will continue to work with stakeholders — the universities, the local councillor and residents — to address their concerns and continually work to improve the response to this major event,” McKenna’s statement reads.

The U of O administration declined to comment. 

The Gee-Gees won the annual Panda Game for the second time in a row, defeating the Carleton Ravens 32-10.

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The Fulcrum has reached out to UOSU student life commissioner Jason Seguya for comment. This story will be updated as necessary.