It’s unclear whether Ezra Avenue in Waterloo will be filled with St. Patrick’s Day revellers this year.
The residential street that borders Wilfrid Laurier University was quiet in 2020 and 2021 as public health officials urged young people not to gather because of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Whatever happens this year, though, police Chief Bryan Larkin says officers are ready.
He wouldn’t go into specifics of what his officers plan to do on March 17 during a police services board meeting this past week, but emphasized that a plan is in place.
“I want to assure you and the community that we will have high visibility, ample staff and unique approaches to ensure people celebrate responsibly and manage unsanctioned events,” he said.
Larkin added his staff have collaborated with the universities, City of Waterloo staff, bylaw, paramedic and fire services to prepare for Thursday’s celebrations.
He applauded students for their role in keeping the community safe during the past two years and hopes students will celebrate respectfully and responsibly this year.
Universities, city prepared
University of Waterloo officials echoed that message. A statement from a university spokesperson said they are confident students will abide by the school’s code of conduct.
As well, school officials said they will be letting students know about the risks associated with unsanctioned gatherings over the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.
Both the City of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University said they “won’t be commenting in advance of any potential activity,” but are prepared should anything occur.
In an interview on Feb. 23 on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo’s The Morning Edition, Mayor Dave Jaworsky said planning for St. Patrick’s Day happens year round.
“We’re ready to act as a collaborative team with Waterloo Regional Police, Waterloo Fire, Region of Waterloo Paramedics,” he said.
“We’ve learned a lot more respect in these past two years,” he said. “I’m hoping for respectful, collegial, maybe some celebrations with friends or in some of our beautiful bars in uptown Waterloo. We’re hoping for the best but we always have all the plans in place.”
Socialize responsibly: Redman
Regional Chair Karen Redman said the past two years have shown students, people living around the university and the student unions “have taken a very responsible attitude” toward St. Patrick’s Day.
“We’re hoping that they continue that responsible attitude going forward,” she said Friday during a COVID-19 media briefing. “We understand that people will want to socialize, but we hope they do it responsibly.”
Dr. Rabia Bana, associate medical officer of health for the region, said she would like to see people take a cautious approach as they return to large events and bigger gatherings.
“There are tools available to us still in terms of mitigation and safety measures, including masking and in some of those more crowded and enclosed spaces for situations where people will be in close contact with other people,” Bana said, adding she would “encourage people to use those tools and use those layers of protection based on their comfort levels.”
Guelph to close downtown streets
Meanwhile in Guelph, Macdonell and Wyndham streets in the downtown core will be closed on March 17 from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
“Similar to Guelph’s yearly Safe Semester closures in September, the closure supports a safe and enjoyable environment downtown for businesses, residents and students,” the city said in a statement.
Macdonell Street will be closed between the Macdonell parking lot and the West Parkade. Wyndham Street will be closed between Carden Street and Cork Street.
No on-street parking will be allowed within the closed streets.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism