The bush party.
For generations, it has been a rite of passage for many teenagers. It has also been a perennial nuisance to police and owners of the land where many of these events take place.
“We’re obviously looking at ensuring that young people aren’t having parties at those locations, which then typically there’s the drinking and driving aspect,” explained Cpl Tim Schwartz of the rural Yorkton RCMP detachment. “There’s a lot of minors typically that are drinking and consuming alcohol; we’re just wanting to have some controls in place, just making people aware that there’s consequences for those actions and just wanting people to be safe.”
Local RCMP started to crack down on bush parties four years ago when Const. Jillian Boutilier joined the detachment and started a program called Clients Acquire and Analyze Partnerships Response Assessment (CAPRA) in response to rising substance abuse and sexual assault complaints involving minors.
Despite their public awareness campaign and proactive enforcement, Boutilier said the detachment still gets two or three complaints every week about parties on private land and is called on to break up boisterous gatherings at the York Lake campground virtually every weekend.
“We assure that the fire is put out, the alcohol is seized and people are charged accordingly and ensure that anyone that’s driving has not consumed alcohol or drugs,” Schwartz said. “Because of the new rules any novice drivers are subject to zero tolerance so not only can they lose their licence, but their vehicle for up to 30 days.”
The fines can be costly. For minors, possessing or consuming alcohol carries a fine of $360. Having or consuming alcohol in a vehicle for anyone is also $360. Providing alcohol to a minor will cost the provider $1,050.
But that is nothing compared to some of the other potential consequences. Impaired driving is a minimum of $1,000 plus victim surcharge of 30 per cent and results in a criminal record, which can impede international travel and employment prospects.
Also on the criminal side, Schwartz said that all too often alcohol consumption often leads to assault, sexual assault and other types of criminal code infractions.
“I think they need to realize the consequences, there’s more emphasis being placed on young people not drinking and driving, not consuming alcohol if you’re in a vehicle those sorts of things,” Schwartz said.
And Boutilier pointed out that it is not just the kids that can find themselves in hot water. She references the case of Munier v. Fulton. The plaintiff in the case attended a party hosted by a youth on his father’s farm during which he was left a quadriplegic following a alcohol-induced fight.
“The kid had the party and the kid’s dad was sued and they actually won a settlement of $700,000,” Boutilier said.
Neither the defendant nor his son had provided alcohol to the plaintiff, but were still held liable.
It is not all bad, though. Schwartz said overall crimes against the person, such as assault, are down and many of the participants are being sensible.
“I think we’re finding in some respects there are designated drivers, we are finding that there are some kids who are assuming that role,” he said.
“I would like to say they’re a group that are becoming more responsible, however, there is still a group that have total disregard for the law or they just figure they’re entitled to do what they want and those are the kids that usually will end up in an accident or some other form of assault or other criminal code charges.”
The RCMP is calling on everybody to be part of the solution by being aware of the risks and act responsibly.