The price of noise is on the rise: Sherbrooke doubles fines

By Gordon Lambie

The City of Sherbrooke has opted to double the fine it can levy against people who make too much noise within the city limits. The change comes among a list of modifications to city bylaws that relate to a broad range of subjects both specific and quite general.

According to the newly modified laws, any individual or organization found to be shouting, screaming, singing, banging on objects or using any sound amplifying device to a degree deemed excessive on public or private property in the city of Sherbrooke can be fined for their offence. The fines applicable will now start at $100 and range up to $1,000 for individuals or $2,000 for businesses or organizations that are first-time offenders. Second offences double that maximum to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for businesses or organizations.

“It will help us in our work,” said Robert Pednault, Director of the Sherbrooke Police Service. “We don’t give a fine every time, but when we do intervene at a party or festival and the fine is only $50, people say, ah, well, it is only $50”

Though the Police Chief admitted that people could shrug off $100 as easily as they can $50, he argued that the act of doubling the minimum fine was a significant gesture on the part of the city and that anything more might have been perceived as extreme in a single stroke. Pedneault explained that police are charged with assigning the fines on a discretionary basis and suggested that having a more significant fine as a baseline puts a greater weight behind the decision to fine or not. Asked about the conditions under which someone might receive a penalty for a noise infraction, the Police Chief took a moment to make an important clarification.

“There is this idea in the city that it is okay to make noise as long as it is not between 11pm and 7am,” Pednault said. “Yes there is a specific article with regard to noises between those hours, but excessive noise that bothers neighbours can be made at any time.”

Stating that excessive noise is excessive no matter what time it is, Pednault said that a fine could be handed out regardless of the hour if a disruption found by the responding officer to be an offence. He said that the understanding that noise laws only apply between the hours of 11pm and 7am is a misunderstanding on the part of public that needs to be corrected.

Pednault added that the changes do not necessarily come as a result of issues with noise in the university sectors, but added that those issues were a contributing factor.

Illustrating the diversity of the noise issue in the city Marc Paré, a resident of St-Michel Street in Fleurimont, presented himself at the council’s question period to criticise the noise levels at the neighbouring Sylvie-Daigle Park. Playing a recording of boisterous ambient noise he can hear from his house while the sports fields in the park are in use, Paré asked what the city is ready to do to save local residents from the plight of noise inflicted upon them during the summer sports season.

The resident drew support from Fleurimont councillor Helene Dauphinais who said that she has heard a number of such concerns over her time in office, but also light criticism from councillors like Jean-Francois Rouleau who argued that the point of the city’s noise bylaws is not to create a cone of silence over the city, but to invite balance between noisy activities and the peace of residents.

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