‘All bets are off’ if raves lead to deaths, Edmonton councillor says

City council may face some tough decisions if injuries at electronic dance parties, or raves, become more serious. 

Last Friday, six people were taken to hospital from a Soundwave electronic dance party at West Edmonton Mall.

Initially, four were in serious and potentially life-threatening condition and two were in stable condition, Alberta Health Services spokesperson Kerry Williamson confirmed Thursday.

Coun. Scott McKeen believes the six people had taken hard drugs.

“If somebody dies at one of these things, all bets are off,” McKeen said of rave parties in the city

“City council would have no choice at that point but to turn Footloose on those guys. Shut ’em down.”

McKeen said rave operators have to step up and make the venues safer, citing the proliferation of dangerous drugs like fentanyl. 

Moratorium is a very blunt instrument– Mayor Don Iveson

“I want people to have fun and enjoy the night-time economy in Edmonton,” he said. “But nobody should be in critical condition because of that party.”

A recent city report said there is a need for “a comprehensive security, medical, and safety plan for events.”

The city’s electronic dance music events advisory committee met with venue operators, event producers, police and emergency medical services in July to explore ways to make the industry safer.

Mayor Don Iveson recognized the ongoing safety issues in the rave industry but said an extreme move like banning the parties wouldn’t work.

“Moratorium is a very blunt instrument for dealing with any kind of policy challenge,” Iveson said Thursday. “I think we’ve learned that we need to use finesse, not blunt instruments, to solve challenges here.”

The city got some backlash in June when a different report recommended an immediate ban. After hearing from promoters and disc jockeys, council instead asked for the report that was presented Wednesday at a meeting of the community and public services committee.

Although ready to shut down specific operators, McKeen agreed an industry-wide ban is not appropriate.

“The danger at any of these things is if you get too heavy-handed and [don’t] work with the industry, you drive it underground and that could actually be worse,” McKeen said.

“You could have people then who are in real danger from a drug overdose or something and nobody knows where that event is going on.” 

Mayor Don Iveson said if council tried to impose a ban on raves, they would be sure to hear from the public. (CBC)

Recognized electronic dance party producers in Edmonton include Boodang, Live Nation and Blueprint. WEM self-produces Soundwave.

The report made no clear recommendations but the committee will continue to discuss options to increase safety.

Options include a bylaw to regulate large-scale electronic dance music events on both public and private property, such as having operators submit applications for review before putting on the parties.

A final report, with recommendations, is expected early in 2019.


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