Ottawa

Capital Pride testing ground for safety campaign

In a move to make sure the festival experience is a memorable one for all the right reasons, Ottawa Festivals has joined Ottawa Public Health to raise awareness about the risks of drug use and sexual violence at large gatherings. 

Messages aimed at keeping festivalgoers safe tackle drug abuse, sexual violence

A new social media campaign aimed at keeping Ottawa festivalgoers safe is being launched during this week's Pride festivities. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

In a move to make sure the festival experience is a memorable one for all the right reasons, Ottawa Festivals has joined Ottawa Public Health to raise awareness about the risks of drug use and sexual violence at large gatherings. 

Capital Pride, which kicked off on the weekend, is the testing ground for the new social media campaign aimed at keeping revellers safe.

Capital Pride director Toby Whitfield said festivalgoers can help themselves by being informed, but organizers have a role, too.

We have a responsibility to create safe spaces for our participants.- Toby Whitfield, Capital Pride

"We have a responsibility to create safe spaces for our participants," Whitfield said. "We'll be keeping festivalgoers safe by making sure they have access to information that will help them to prepare for partying safely while they're at festivals."

The messages, which cover a range of topics including reporting a sexual assault, recognizing and responding to a drug overdose, and seeking out safe spaces, will be posted both on social media and throughout the festival site. 

One example, posted to the festival network's Facebook page:

"Have plans to party at Capital Pride? There's a higher risk of sexual assaults at group events and mass gatherings. Make sure to stay connected to and check in with your friends regularly." 

Toby Whitfield, director of Capital Pride, and Carole Anne Piccinin, executive director of the Ottawa Festivals Network, say the new campaign will help attendees recognize overdoses and respond to harassment. 0:45

Opioids, sexual assaults

Carole Anne Piccinin, the festival network's executive director, said visitor safety has become a primary concern for festival organizers

"When you look at the statistics on opioid abuse in Canada, when you look at the the number of women who are reporting sexual assault at events, it makes absolute sense for us to be tackling this now." Piccinin said.

Piccinin said Ottawa Public Health has played a major role in training volunteers to react to emergencies and intervene in situations involving harassment or abuse.

She's hoping the social media campaign will give festivalgoers the tools to  keep themselves out of harm's way.

The results of the pilot project will be discussed at a summit of local festivals that will take place this winter.