drinking in parks toronto

Why police let you drink in Toronto parks even though the rules say you can't

There's a chance you may not get hassled as much for crackin' open a cold one and lazin' in a Toronto park this summer.

The rules around drinking in Toronto parks has been a contentious issue for some time, but last year the Ontario government let cities decide how to handle drinking in parks and public areas.

Since then, there's been no official change in policy, which still includes bylaws under the Toronto Municipal Code that largely prohibit alcohol consumption in parks. Loosening the rules, however, is something Mayor John Tory has always been in favour of.

Under the Code's liquor section, it outlines that while in a park, no person should have "an open container of any liquor, unless in a designated area" or with a permit, should provide minors with liquor, or "consume, serve or sell liquor unless in a designated area" or with a permit.

According to the City's website, fines range from $100 to $300 for breaking the bylaws by drinking, selling or serving alcohol in a park without a permit.

But Toronto Police officers have used their discretion when deciding whether to fine someone for drinking, long before people took a break from isolation and returned to the parks.

An example of this happened at Trinity Bellwoods Park over the weekend, when thousands of people showed up to hang out — many of whom were openly drinking alcohol.

"Officers are taught to use their discretion under the circumstances and make a determination on what type of engagement is most appropriate under those circumstances," said Toronto Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray.

"In some cases, like with very large crowds, it is our responsibility to consider the safety of everyone involved first. Engaging a crowd at any time has the potential to put the public, our officers and others, at risk."

This in no way gives anyone permission to get schammered in the park. Depending on the circumstances, there's still the potential to get fined for drinking anyplace, anytime.

If it seems like we're getting a little wiggle room to enjoy ourselves while we go through this stressful and challenging time together, let's not screw it up.

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