In 2021, Steve Higham was prepared for some partying on his street after the annual Panda Game, but when people started climbing onto his porch, urinating on his lawn and flipping a car in front of his home, he knew things had gone too far. 

“It was a full-blown riot happening in front of my house where my baby was sleeping,” he said.  

This year, Higham hopes things will be different as the Ottawa Police Service vows a “significant and sustained” presence in Sandy Hill, the Byward Market and Old Ottawa South to prevent the partying from getting out of hand after this Sunday’s Panda Game.

Ottawa Police have distributed statements by mail to Sandy Hill’s residents. [Photo © Heiwot Aklilu]

“We will have a significant and sustained presence in the Byward Market, Sandy Hill and Old Ottawa South areas for pre and post-Panda Game activities,” the Ottawa Police Service told Capital Current. 

“People in [problem areas] will see increased and strict enforcement with limited discretion and no tolerance for law-breaking. Failure to adhere to municipal regulations, including the noise bylaw, can result in a fine of up to $1,000.” 

“As much as that sucks if you want to party, I think that is what needs to happen to prevent things from getting out of hand,” Steve Higham, who lives on the block between Somerset Street East and Templeton Avenue — the hub of the 2021 post-game riot. 

The annual football match between uOttawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens will be at TD Place in Lansdowne Park. 

In recent years many Panda partygoers have gotten out of hand, harassing Sandy Hill residents, trespassing, urinating on their lawns and climbing telephone poles. The 2021 post-Panda disturbance was one of the worst. Higham said police were more proactive in 2022.

Like many other Sandy Hill residents, Higham says he won’t leave his home unsupervised on Panda weekend even with the increased police presence. Instead, he plans to sit on his porch to steer students away from his property.

He also plans to use caution tape to mark the boundary of his backyard and close the front gate on his porch to block access. “Without our little barricade, our backyard kind of becomes a bathroom for people,” he said.

“I just don’t want people peeing where my daughter plays,” he said.

Ottawa Police say that property owners can grant police Agent Status in advance — which gives officers permission to enter property to remove unwanted partygoers.  

“When you live in Sandy Hill, you expect a party on Canada Day, Labour Day, and Panda,” said Paul Northcott, a Russell Avenue resident for the last 17 years.

Crowd of students on Russel Street. Students standing on balcony in the background
Students gathered in 2021 on Russell Avenue in Sandy Hill for Panda Game festivities that got out of hand as the night wore on. [Photo ⓒ Aimee Veiner]

“I’m not angry at the students. I’m more upset with the police and the universit[ies]. The night of the car flip, they just abandoned the neighbourhood,” he said.

In 2021, police closed down Russell Avenue, blockading each side to contain an out-of-control street party. Residents Inside the area felt that the police had “abandoned” them because the party was contained directly in front of their homes instead of being dispersed.

This year, Northcott said he is glad that uOttawa has “grown up” and is hosting a Panda party on its property instead of in Sandy Hill community centres. In 2022, the university hosted a pre-game tailgate at the Sandy Hill Arena.

“I’m really sick and tired of the university using public municipal facilities when they’ve got a square of their own,” Northcott said.

This year, a pre-game tailgate and post-game party will be held on the uOttawa campus in collaboration with Carleton University on Oct. 1 at the 90U Residence parking lot. 

The university-hosted Panda party was initially planned for the Sandy Hill Arena, but was moved to campus following a petition by the community organization Action Sandy Hill asking for the event move.

“Sure, you can party. But only in designated areas. Not in residential areas,” the University of Ottawa’s website which announces the party says.

This year, the universities have also moved the game to Sunday, departing from the usual Saturday schedule. Residents hope the change will curb excessive parties, given that most students have classes on Monday.

“I’m all for having it on a Sunday night, I think thats a cool idea” Northcott said.

Carleton University is working with the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA), Ottawa Police and other City of Ottawa service partners to ensure students understand the importance of being good neighbours and community members.

“Carleton recognizes and understands the importance of being a good and responsible neighbour,” said Steven Reid, Carleton’s media relations officer.

The Carleton University Student Association (CUSA) and The University of Ottawa Students’ Union are working together to promote safe and respectful partying during Panda, said Mohamed Faris Riazudden, CUSA president.

TD Place claims it will have a zero-tolerance policy for intoxication or harmful behaviour. It will limit alcohol purchases to one drink per purchase per person, and reserves the right to stop alcohol sales if the audience gets too rowdy.