Edmonton preparing new rules for raves

A photo taken at an Edmonton City Council meeting on Jan. 22, 2019. Global News

New rules are being put in place to make raves safer events in Edmonton’s nightlife scene.

At one point, police were able to point to 14 events in 2016 that saw 180 patients treated with 54 taken to hospital, while 468 were ejected from venues hosting the dance parties.

The Edmonton Police Service compared that to 17 similarly sized events at Commonwealth Stadium or Rogers Place that did not feature electronic dance music (EDM) or the culture that goes with that, and only eight people were sent to hospital, while 145 were escorted out.

“When we first saw the data from the police and the number of transfers to hospital, I was ticked off,” said Councillor Scott McKeen, who asked for the study.

READ MORE: ‘Immediate moratorium’ on raves recommended to Edmonton City Council

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Watch below: Some Global News videos about raves in Edmonton.

Since then, a city-run advisory group called the Electronic Dance Music Events Administrative Advisory Committee brought together event and venue operators, police, Alberta Health Services, and even the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, and through their brainstorming, came up with new ways to run events.

“They’ve started to implement some of the best practices that we’re looking at,” said Nicole Poirier, the city’s director of civic events and festivals. “We have seen that there has been a marked improvement in the number of medical transports.

“They’re better able to respond to incidents at the events directly, and so that is having less impact on the number of people that need to be taken to hospital.”

That’s because medical doctors are on site and other health professionals are roaming around and observing how rave-goers are coping with the sound, the high energy, and in many cases, the heat in the venue.

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“[There are] nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, as well as some of the things we already have in place, such as access to water, access to chill spaces — so places where people can get away from stimulus,” Poirier said. “[There is] lots of education around drugs and sexual assault, sexual harassment, and just in general, making participants aware of what is happening at these events and how they can ensure their own safety.”

READ MORE: 3 people hospitalized, 8 arrested on drug charges at electronic dance music party in Edmonton

The report that will be looked at by council’s community and public services committee next Wednesday also points out that those who go to raves feel safe, at a rate of almost two to one compared to other nighttime venues where that ratio is 88 percent to 48 per cent.

“The data is showing us that people do feel safer at these events than they might in some of the other bars and nightclubs across the city,” Poirier said.

McKeen took in his first-ever rave over the new year and liked how people were treated.

“I just came away feeling a little more comfortable that there was good organization, at least at the Edmonton Convention Centre. People were being looked after in a real professional way.”

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READ MORE: 6 taken to hospital from electronic dance music party at Edmonton mall

After councillors review the report, staff will craft a bylaw to regulate raves. McKeen said he wants to see specific attention paid to drugs, security checks and searches going into the venue. He said he also wants to see dedicated medical staff paid for by the event promoters, and education.

“This would be really controversial, I know, but in some jurisdictions, I gather you can have your drugs tested, to make sure that the ecstasy that you think you’re taking doesn’t have fentanyl in it,” he told reporters. “I would go that far.”

Councillor Sarah Hamilton weighed in on that idea.

“That is a very complicated question because it forces the government and police to acknowledge a harm-reduction strategy for something that is fundamentally illegal,” she said. “So I don’t necessarily think that’s our role.”

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