Edmonton electronic music community frustrated by proposed rave ban

Members of Edmonton's electronic music community are frustrated by a proposed ban on raves. DJ and producer Andrew Williams said it doesn't appear that industry professionals were consulted for the report.

'They weren't given the option to be a part of the conversation,' Edmonton DJ says

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

Members of Edmonton's electronic music community are frustrated by a proposed ban on raves.

A new report says the city should impose an "immediate moratorium" on the all-night dance parties due to concerns about drug use and sexual assault at the events.

Edmonton DJ and producer Andrew Williams said it doesn't appear that industry professionals were consulted for the report.

"The reason why people are up in arms around it is because they weren't given the option to be a part of the conversation," said Williams, who co-founded the Alberta Electronic Music Conference.

The report defines raves as "after hour club parties, electronic music shows and electronic dance parties that feature fast-paced electronic music and light shows."

Williams said that language is problematic.

"The wording that they use is so vague that it allows them to go after every single type of event — big or small — that contains electronic music," he said. "So it's a sloppiness that seems to be painting an entire artistic genre and entire type of music with a very broad brush."

Drug use "absolutely" a problem

The recommendation going to city council's community and public services committee next week highlights the demand for medical intervention at raves, as well as the burden patients from such events put on emergency services.

Concerns about overdoses and drug-related illnesses are "absolutely" legitimate, Williams said, highlighting a spike in incidents at the last two raves at the Shaw Conference Centre as particularly problematic.

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

Data from the report shows that 28 people were taken to hospital from six Edmonton raves in 2017, which were attended by about 29,000 people.

There were seven transports to hospital from 14 select arena events in 2017, which were attended by about 286,000 people, according to the report.

Williams said the report compares radically different events, but notes that harm reduction strategies should be implemented at all large-scale events. He also said it's crucial that community stakeholders be part of conversations about safety.

"This is not the industry of 20 years ago," he said. "We're more concerned and more focused on creating a safe, positive and great environment for patrons than ever before."

Concerns about sexual violence

Sexual assault fuelled by drug consumption is a safety concern that's particularly troubling to Mary Jane James, the executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

"When it comes to raves, there's no doubt that when parties that are being attended by young people between the ages of 18 and 24 — give or take — where there's alcohol and drugs involved, incidences of sexual assault definitely increase," she said.

Calls to SACE's crisis line often spike after such events, James said, but noted those spikes aren't exclusive to raves.

"When there's as much alcohol and drug-related activities going on … our community services systems, including our EPS and our ambulances and first responders, are burdened way beyond what they would be at a normal event," she said, noting that a significant amount of people taken to hospital are individuals impacted by sexual violence.

Harm reduction strategies

Indigo Harm Reduction founder Shelby Young said strategies can be implemented at raves to mitigate problems associated with drug use and sexual assault.

Young suggest have trained volunteers roam around rave grounds to ensure people are practicing safe drug-use practices. She also said raves should have education booths about safety issues, as well as a "chill space" where people can collect themselves.

Imposing an immediate ban on these events isn't going to achieve what they want.- Shelby Young, Indigo Harm Reduction founder

Young said imposing a rave prohibition isn't the answer.

"Imposing an immediate ban on these events isn't going to achieve what they want. And I think it's going to drive more stigma related to harm reduction services," she said.

"In reality, people are going to use substances, and we need to meet them where they're at and give them the tools and support they need in order to keep themselves safe."

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

About the Author

Anna McMillan

Journalist

Anna McMillan is a reporter, web writer and associate TV producer at CBC Edmonton. anna.mcmillan@cbc.ca