Report urges 'immediate moratorium' on raves in Edmonton

A city report says the Edmonton Police Service is proposing a temporary ban on raves while a civic working group reviews potential changes to permits and licensing, as well as safety and liability issues.

Drug overdoses, sexual assault and burden on health-care system highlighted in city report

Raves are dance parties that typically feature light shows and performances by DJs.

A new report says Edmonton should impose an "immediate moratorium" on raves because of concerns about drug use.

A recommendation going to city council's community and public services committee next week highlights the demand for medical intervention at raves — large dance parties that feature light shows and performances by DJs.

"The main concern at these events is the prevalent drug use, drug-facilitated sexual assaults, and resulting public safety issues," the report reads, noting that the need to treat overdose patients puts additional stress on first responders and emergency room staff.

The Royal Alexandra and University of Alberta hospitals have struggled with capacity issues due to the need to treat and transport rave patients, the report says.

It says the Edmonton Police Service proposes a temporary ban on raves while a civic working group that has already been formed reviews potential changes to permits and licensing, as well as safety and liability issues.

There's young women being sexually assaulted — perhaps being drugged and then sexually assaulted. That is so far beyond the pale that I don't know how we would not step in.- Coun. Scott McKeen

Ecstasy, ketamine, cocaine and the date-rape drug GHB are the predominant drugs consumed at raves, the report says.

Coun. Scott McKeen said he's particularly troubled that people use date-rape drugs at raves.

"As a police commissioner and as a councillor, I see that and I think there's no way we cannot pause and see if there's a better way to handle this," he said Thursday.

"There's lives at risk. There's young women being sexually assaulted — perhaps being drugged and then sexually assaulted. That is so far beyond the pale that I don't know how we would not step in."

Report compares raves to arena concerts

Eighteen people received medical treatment on scene for drug-related illness at the Frequency rave at the Shaw Conference Centre on Feb. 18.

Eleven others were transported to hospital from the event, which was attended by about 5,500 people, according to the report.

"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 reads.

The report draws comparisons between local raves and concerts at large venues, like Rogers Place.

One person was taken to hospital from a sold-out Drake concert in September 2016, for example. A 2015 Taylor Swift concert attended by about 14,000 people saw zero patients treated or transported to hospital.

Public safety is top priority

McKeen said he hopes a team of experts and rave organizers can come up with solutions to keep people safe.

He said the goal isn't to negatively affect Edmonton's music scene.

"The last thing I think we want to be … portrayed as is the town council in Footloose, or as party poopers or as old fogies who don't understand that creating a vibrant nighttime economy for people of all ages is important. We get that," he said.

"But when it comes to public safety and the safety of vulnerable people, then all bets are off and we have to stop and say, 'Hold on, let's have a look at how we could do this better.' "

The recommendation is scheduled to be reviewed by the community and public services committee on Wednesday.

An Edmonton Police Service spokesperson said police won't comment on the proposal until it has been presented to the committee.