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Trinity Bellwoods Booze Meeting Produces Plenty of Ideas, Few Firm Answers

Councillor Mike Layton says the community meeting was meant to be about park safety, not alcohol.

Trinity Bellwoods Park has become one of Toronto’s favourite warm-weather drinking spots. Photo by Sue Holland from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

“It’s sort of taken on a life of its own.”

That was Ward 19 Councillor Mike Layton’s explanation of how Thursday night’s community meeting at Trinity Bellwoods Community Centre came to be an open forum for discussing alcohol use in Trinity Bellwoods Park. Layton’s office had originally scheduled the meeting with the expectation that it would be a discussion about how to reconcile the various ways people use the space, as well as about park safety. Layton said he was expecting “maybe a dozen or 15 people.”

Instead over 100 people showed up after the meeting was billed as “A Meeting to Discuss Alcohol Consumption in Trinity Bellwoods Park” on both social media and posters that popped up around the neighbourhood. Several media outlets then ran with the story, and within a couple days, the meeting really had become a discussion that was largely about park drinking.

“It’s good to have these big discussions about things, and it’s good that people are interested in their community,” said Layton.

Part of the story leading up to the meeting had been a police initiative called Project Green Glasses, which was described as an upcoming crackdown on park drinking in the western half of downtown, particularly in Trinity Bellwoods, Christie Pits, Bellevue Square, Dufferin Grove, and Alexandra parks. Superintendent Mario Di Tommaso, who was at the meeting representing Toronto Police Services’ 14 Division, said much of that was hyperbole.

“Project Green Glasses is a project we started a number of years ago,” he said. “We’re continuing it this year. We started it on April 30, and it will continue through ’til September 30…It’s all about public safety. It’s about making sure we suppress crime and disorder, so that everybody in the community can enjoy the parks…There’s a perception that this is a crackdown about drinking in this particular park, and that is not the case.”

After representatives from the police and parks department explained their role in maintaining order in the park, meeting attendees were split into groups and asked to come up with ways the park could be made safer.

Only a few seemed to be in favour of tougher enforcement. Most said they wanted the police to focus more on stopping problem behaviour, rather than simply ticketing park goers for having an open beer.

“When the odd person gets out of control, the police should be there to deal with that,” said local resident Rob Davidson. “If the odd person is selling drugs, the police should be there to deal with that. But for the most part, we want to use it as our backyard. A lot of us don’t have backyards, and we want to have a bottle of wine or a couple beers on a Saturday afternoon, and we don’t want to be harassed.”

More washrooms and litter receptacles were also popular suggestions. Some people wanted to see change on a larger scale, and suggested amendments to both provincial liquor laws and City bylaws.

“Since the liquor laws and bylaws were passed, the way we use our public spaces has changed,” said Mike Hook, who also lives near the park. “The city has changed a great deal…The laws should reflect the way the park is used, rather than dictating the way people use the park.”

While some of the suggestions seemed difficult to act on—many people just wanted a Hamsterdam-style zone of tolerance, while others were pushing for “personal drinking licences”—Layton said that there were still a lot of good ideas brought forward. He added that he hopes Trinity Bellwoods can be a model for the rest of the city in how it deals with these issues.

“No one said this was going to be easy,” he said. “If we want to talk about a longer term solution where we bring change across the city, we’ve got to make it work here. And if anyone can make it work, it’s this community.”


  • OgtheDim

    You know, if Hudak or Horvath wanted to really get some votes, either would say we need to have a discussion about parks and alcohol. I suspect though that this is too urban an issue for both of them.(Horvath is rally mining the rural and suburban mom vote)

    Personally, I’d like to see the province give municipalities the opportunity to designate certain parks places where drinking is allowed.

    But then many of our liquor laws are not all that far removed from the days when you had to hand a chit to a guy behind a wicket at the LCBO and they handed your bottle of Spumante Bambino back to you in a paper bag.

    • CaligulaJones

      “many of our liquor laws are not all that far removed from the days when
      you had to hand a chit to a guy behind a wicket at the LCBO”

      Bingo. As Fred Eaglesmith would have it, Ontario’s liquor mafia is still run by Presbyterians.

      We can’t have a casino because some people have gambling problems.

      We can’t get booze at a corner store (or even have “offs” like bars in Alberta (at least they used to)) because, Presbyterians.

      Amazing that in the same city where a useful thing like a safe injection site is hopefully coming soon, we have the school marms and internet scolds still getting a voice in things. One step forward, one back.

      Just deal with the drunken boors, littering assholes and jerks with the laws we have now and let the rest of us adults act like adults.

      • Testu

        Just deal with the drunken boors, littering assholes and jerks with the laws we have now and let the rest of us adults act like adults.

        I agree with this sentiment.

        However, if you had made the same comment but replaced “Presbyterians” with “Muslims” or “Jews” you would have been down voted like mad and your comment would probably have been removed by now. It wasn’t just Presbyterians behind the temperance movement. Religious intolerance is still religious intolerance regardless of who it’s directed at.

        • CaligulaJones

          1) take it up with Eaglesmith, its his quote. A damn funny one, and accurate.

          2) yes, you can insult Christians all you want and get away with it. This is not news.

          3) I am agnostic. Parsing idiocy is a waste of my time. But yes, the Roman Catholics and other Protestant denominations share equally in prohibiting things. Luckily, their pews are emptying now, and the only religion with any growing demographic power that likes to ban things is Islam.

          Feel better now?

          • Testu

            Yes, thanks. It’s important to be inclusive.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    If drinking in parks is a “safey” issue, why isn’t drinking anywhere a safety issue? Every day we expose countless minors to people drinking alcohol in restaurants. I say we haven’t sucked the fun out of things enough! Stop treating us like adults some of the time, just stop treating us like adults entirely! We can’t be trusted with booze!

  • OgtheDim


    The Star has an agenda?!?!

    Look at the age of their news columnists. Is there one under 45? (And, no Cathal Kelly and Ben Rayner do not count – Cathal is a troll and Rayner is channelling Strombo).

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    I wasn’t aware parks were classist.

    • OgtheDim

      Edwards Gardens just oozes class issues. Dog Park & lounging underhoused people & Tree Lovers & pigeon feeders & Tropical Garden visitors & Tropical Garden photographers

  • OgtheDim

    Craig, are you saying the people who want to drink in parks are middle class while the complaining home owners (and possibly renters) are lower class? Or the other way around.

    Its an interesting arguement either way….but which is it?

    • John Duncan

      I assumed he was talking about the people wanting to treat the park as their backyard and have some drinks with friends as being middle-class, as compared to the people who sleep in the park and drink there because they have no other home at all. (i.e. hipsters vs homeless)

  • HotDang

    You have no rights unless you are a tax payer, and you’re only a tax payer if Rob Ford says so. (He says you aren’t.)

  • OgtheDim

    We don’t do “the law “Full Stop”” in this country. Unless you want to pay FAR more in taxes, the cops will continue to selectively enforce the laws.

    Blind eyes are turned on public drinking all the time.

  • wklis

    FordFest will be held in Thompson Park, in Scarborough. Along with free food, there will be free beer and wine. If FordFest was held in Trinity Bellwoods Park, would there be the same complaints about the alcohol? Wonder if the neighbours around Thompson Park will complain to their Councillor?

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      Doing X without a permit: X is a safety issue, we must stamp it out.

      Doing X with a permit: Carry on.

      • wklis

        Wonder how they do it in Europe? Everyone get a permit to drink in a park?

        Can I get a permit for a family of four or two or just one?

        • Paul Kishimoto

          There’s a solution: zero-friction permitting. Next to the doggie-bag dispenser, slips of paper saying “I recognize by bringing alcohol into the park I am responsible for blah blah etc. etc.”

          Sign one, tear it off, stick it on the little, provided wooden stake by your picnic blanket. If you don’t, or don’t abide by the terms, it’s your ticket when the police book you.

          I’m mostly joking, but there are probably all kinds of ways forward, even with constraints like a bureaucracy’s instinctive attachment to permitting.

      • dsmithhfx

        I think the permit holders are responsible for site security, and hiring off-duty cops to look the other way when the pipe comes out.

  • Jason Kucherawy

    I think it’s a matter of liability on the part of the city. If a bar or bartender can be held responsible for damages when a patron gets intoxicated and kills someone or hurts themselves, wouldn’t the city be on the hook for an alcohol related injury or damages in a park where drinking is officially tolerated?

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      The city isn’t distributing the alcohol in this scenario, so no.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    If the city punched a baby in the face, it could be arrested for child abuse. What’s your point?