Ottawa considers allowing consumption of alcohol in parks in bylaw review

The City of Ottawa is undertaking a review of the Parks and Facilities By-law that prohibits the possession of alcoholic beverages in municipal parks without a permit.

A report is anticipated to come out this fall, and Ottawa is encouraging residents to participate in the ongoing public engagement survey — open until Aug. 2. To complete the survey, click here.

“This review is essential to ensure our indoor and outdoor recreational spaces continue to foster community engagement and provide opportunities for recreational and cultural activities that are inclusive, safe and accessible to all,” wrote the City of Ottawa on its website.

While City Council has directed staff to undertake a full review, Ottawa is asking residents to participate and provide their input.

According to the municipality, the review is intended to consider significant changes to the bylaw that will reflect an evolving community and accommodate residents’ needs.

“It’s an opportunity for residents to provide their input on various aspects of the bylaw review, including the discussion on alcohol in parks,” said the city.

For more details about the Parks and Facilities By-law Review Survey and how to participate, click here.

Despite the bylaw, consumption of alcohol in Ottawa parks seems to be relatively common, a city councillor wrote in a Council Member Inquiry Form.

“Longstanding concerns regarding the prohibitions of alcohol in public parks include that it disproportionately impacts poor and working-class residents, and that it penalizes responsible consumption.”

According to the city councillor, several municipalities have changed their approach to alcohol in parks.

The City of Toronto established a pilot program in August of last year, that allows for alcohol to be consumed in select city parks, wrote the councillor.

This pilot program follows certain parameters, such as:

  • Washroom access
  • No adjoining schools
  • Drinking water access
  • High visibility and acessible to first responders
  • Public transportation access
  • Minimal impact to natural and programmable areas

“Here in Ottawa, we have yet to take such steps, or to implement such a pilot program,” they wrote.

It is unknown whether the City of Ottawa is considering a pilot program, similar to the program implemented in Toronto.

The Parks and Facilities By-law was developed in 2004, with minor changes implemented in a 2021 update.

Changes were made in efforts to better meet community needs, accommodate technological advancements and ensure alignment with other updated bylaws, wrote Ottawa.

“Your responses will be considered as part of the City’s review of the Parks and Facilities By-law, which is anticipated to be implemented in the summer of 2025,” wrote the City.

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