Citing “widespread consumption of drugs” and “public safety issues,” City of Edmonton administration is recommending city council impose an “immediate moratorium” on raves.
In a report posted on the city’s website, administration suggests the city amend business licence bylaw 13138 to ban “electronic music and dance parties referred to as ‘raves’ until such time as a thorough review of these events, including licensing and permit regulations, can be conducted.”
Scroll down to read the full Raves in Edmonton report.
It explained the events — and incidents associated with them — are putting pressure on police, EMS and Alberta Health Services staff.
The most recent event in February with 5,500 in attendance saw 18 patients treated on the scene for drug-related illnesses and 11 transported to hospital emergency rooms.
“As a consequence, police officers and paramedics were tied up at hospitals for several hours, and EMS service to the rest of the city was significantly reduced,” the report said.
The report says past experience with previous events shows there’s “widespread consumption of drugs to enhance users’ sensory perceptions and to increase their energy levels so they can dance for extended periods of time.”
Events are usually held in licensed venues — including West Edmonton Mall and the Shaw Conference Centre — and attract guests in their mid-20s (40 per cent female and 60 per cent male), the city report said.
“Based on the number of attendees requiring medical attention or transport due to drug overdoses or other medical attention, the Edmonton Police Service proposes that a moratorium on raves be implemented” while a working group considers these concerns and any potential licensing and permitting changes.
City police often work alongside private security companies hired to work these events.
“The main concern… is the prevalent drug use, drug-facilitated sexual assaults, and resulting public safety issues,” the report said, adding the medical emergencies at events “are now having a significant and negative impact upon all emergency services across the city.”
Mary Jane James with the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) said the number of calls to its crisis line spike after a weekend in which a rave occurs in the city.
“We do have clients reporting that something happened at the rave, in and around the time the rave was taking place, and certainly we do have clients who do, and continue to, access our services because of experiences of sexual violence that have occurred at raves.
“Whenever there are drugs and or alcohol involved in partying with young adults, the instances of drug- or alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults spikes. These situations would be no exception.”
The report said alcohol exacerbates the effects of drugs. The ones most commonly consumed are ecstasy, ketamine, cocaine and the “date rape drug” GHB.
“The trouble is that it’s very difficult for the person who has experienced this violence to remember what’s taken place,” James said. “They just know something’s happened to them by the dishevelment of their clothes or where they end up and therefore it’s very difficult for the police to investigate that sort of thing.”
A working group has been created to look at these issues.
“A review of event planning and execution should focus on safety and address liability issues proximal to hosting these events,” the report said.
A review looked at raves held at the Shaw Conference Centre between 2016 and 2018 and examined EMS and police interactions. When compared to other major events at venues like Commonwealth Stadium and Rogers Place (with at least three times the attendees), it found “raves consume much more EMS and police resources per attendee.”
A local DJ and Music Academy owner is surprised and frustrated by the news.
“A much more logical and a much more nuanced approach would be to focus and work with promoters directly,” Andrew Williams said.
“If there’s a spike in incidents, that deserves a public response. What I don’t think it deserves is a sweeping statement that covers all sections of the industry, an entire genre of music and an entire part of our culture.”
Williams feels like the language used in the city’s report is too general.
“The problem with categorizing everything — dance, club events, daytime parties, small parties, all-night parties — all as one style of event and putting a moratorium on all of them is ridiculous.”
“We never do this with any other type of music, any other type of event that has challenges,” he added. “We don’t do this with Whyte Ave. where there’s plenty of EPS events every single weekend.
“So I don’t really buy that you have to put a full moratorium on an entire genre of music.”
He calls the recommendation in its current form “tone deaf.”
“If you cancel all rave events or electronic dance music events, you’re not going to get rid of the problem of drug incidents and sexual assault; you’re just going to push it underground.”
Watch below: On June 1, 2018, Fletcher Kent filed this report about how a proposal to temporarily ban raves in Edmonton over public safety concerns is being described as tone deaf by some.
The city’s community and public services committee is scheduled to debate the recommendation and report on Wednesday.