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Neighbour wants students to butt out

Published on

Troy Shantz

A Sarnia homeowner is frustrated that his front lawn has become the new smoking area for Northern Collegiate students.

Chris Courtis lives across the street from the Sarnia high school and for two weeks has observed as many as 40 students at a time taking their smoke breaks on his front lawn and driveway, leaving trash and cigarette butts behind.

“I have two dogs that are freaking out all the time,” he said. “Some of the kids have been ballsy enough to even walk up our driveway across the front of our porch, so if we get packages or mail, they could easily grab them.”

Courtis said he’s spoken to the school, Lambton Public Health and even the police.

The police have responded at least once to warn students but the problem persists, he said.

“We have to keep asking them over and over again.”

This became an issue about two weeks ago, Courtis said, around the same time schools began enforcing updates to the new Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

The act includes updates concerning cannabis, vaping and tobacco use, prohibiting consumption within 20 metres of school property, sports fields or parks.

If anyone – not just students – is caught using these products within the boundaries, they are subject to a $305 fine, said Paul Buttery, health promoter at Lambton Public Health.

Lambton Kent District School Board Superintendent Gary Girardi attributes the students smoking on Courtis’ property to the new legislation.

“If students are outside school board property, than certainly that’s something for the public health to address,” he said. “But… we’re trying to ask students to make good choices not just for themselves but also in terms of our relationship with our neighbours.”

Girardi said students have been spoken to about the issue, but couldn’t provide specifics on guidelines or punishments. He said he hopes students are polite and responsive when neighbours ask them to move from their properties. But Courtis said when he or his wife have tried to reason with students, the response has been hostile.

“We’re waiting for some vandalism to our house now,” he said. “We have to keep asking them over and over again.”

According to Sarnia Police, there isn’t much that can be done when the incident happens on public sidewalks and boulevards.

Courtis believes a case could be made for trespassing but it’s difficult given the short span of time students spend having a cigarette.

He admits he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, and he doesn’t know who to talk to.

“Heaven forbid I try to sell the house… eight months of the year you get a bunch of kids out front.”

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