This year’s Panda Game will take place on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Last year’s Panda Game festivities ended with at least eight official charges, several individuals hospitalized, and one car overturned in relation to a street party on Russel Avenue. An estimated 2,000 students attended, and several incidents of criminal behaviour sparked outrage amongst Sandy Hill residents and community officials soon after.
Leading up to the 53rd Panda Game, officials have warned students that a repeat of last year could put the future of the annual rivalry game in jeopardy. The University has made several social media posts urging students to #PROTECTTHEPANDA, stating, “the Panda Game is a unique rivalry that [rallies] our community together – and one we have taken for granted.”
The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has made similar warnings, stating there will be a zero-tolerance policy surrounding disruptions and disorderly conduct this weekend.
In an interview with the Fulcrum, Cst. Sébastien Lemay, Community Police Officer for the Byward Market, Lowertown and Sandy Hill, said, “We will go with a zero-tolerance policy over the weekend. We’ve done a lot of outreach, we’ve issued a news release … We’ve worked with you uOttawa for I’m sure dissemination within the student population of, again, some possible consequences.”
So, is it about stopping students from having fun?
Short answer — no. It’s just a matter of ensuring students do so safely and within the parameters of the law.
“We definitely want everybody to be safe. That goes to say the partygoers as much as the residents of the city, but more specifically, Sandy Hill,” said Lemay. “So we want to encourage anybody that’s going to engage in consuming alcohol to plan their rides and drive sober, [and] keep alcohol where it belongs.”
“Watch out for your friends, and again, encourage them to drink responsibly, … and do not hesitate to call 911 if ever a friend is feeling ill or there was a situation that somebody who’s been drinking alcohol doesn’t feel comfortable in, and they feel that a police response is required.”
“We don’t want to ruin anybody’s celebration, but unfortunately, if we do see infractions, like I said, open liquor consumption on the roadway is a ticket.”
In Ontario, it is illegal to consume open alcohol in public. Anyone caught with an open container on public property, including streets in the Sandy Hill area, could be looking at fines under the Liquor License and Control Act.
What about house parties?
While private parties are allowed within reason, OPS urges students to respect their neighbours and keep noise to a minimum.
“Residents of Sandy Hill that do not get involved with Panda celebration, are really wishing for this to be as non-disruptive as possible,” said Lemay.
Hosts of parties that cause excessive or unusual noise could be looking at fines of $1000.
“If a neighbour does ask a party host guy to turn a dial, that would that should be the first warning that perhaps your next call is going to be to police or to bylaw to issue a ticket.”
What’s at risk?
The University and community officials have warned that if students don’t “behave,” this year’s Panda Game could be one of the last.
“It has been in the discussions for the past couple of months, … but it’s always kind of been floating around. For obvious reasons, with what happened last year, it’s been kind of brought up again that, you know, maybe [cancelling future games] should be the solution.”
“I’m a fan of sports, and it would be unfortunate to see a sporting event cancelled because of unruly behaviour,” said Lemay. “But, again, to summarize it: unfortunately, that’s the risk on kind of a grander scale in regards to the game.”