Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jul 2001
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: The Hamilton Spectator 2001
Author: Lee Prokaska, Municipal Affairs Reporter
Bookmark: (Raves)


Four high-profile organizations have come together to warn Halton parents 
and teens about the risks of raves and all-night dance parties. "Our 
starting point is that young people should not be going to all-night dance 
parties because they are unsafe events," said Dr. Bob Nosal, Halton's 
medical officer of health. "But if they do go, they -- and their parents -- 
should be aware of the risks involved."

It's a sentiment shared by the Halton Regional Police Service and the 
region's public and Catholic school boards, and it will be expressed in an 
open letter to parents that will appear as ads in community newspapers 
across the region.

Nosal, whose department has spearheaded the public awareness campaign with 
the other three partners, says warning against the risks involved in raves 
is part of a larger strategy aimed at dealing with drug, tobacco and 
alcohol use among young people.

The joint effort at public education has been in the works for several 
months, but the recent death of a teenager at a Toronto rave has added an 
element of urgency.

"We have just seen the result of one of the risks of raves -- the 
availability of drugs," said Halton police Superintendent Dan Okuloski, 
referring to the death last Sunday of Daniel Engson, 16, after he took what 
he believed was the popular rave drug ecstacy at a Toronto rave.

"You just don't know what you're taking when you take drugs at these events.

"We're not trying to make it an issue of you can't have fun," he said. "But 
there are dangerous things going on at these events and young people need 
to have the information so they can make reasonable decisions."

Among the all-night, dance-party issues the agencies want to raise for 
parents and young people are:

* drugs are too easy to access;

* fire safety issues are common;

* there is a higher risk of sexual assault;

* lighting is poor;

* crowds are too big;

* criminal activity is often attracted to all night dances or raves;

* and there are also other health issues such as excessive heat and 
potential dehydration.

"I don't know if parents realize the safety risks involved," said Lou 
Piovesan, superintendent with the Halton Catholic District School Board.

The joint initiative also aims to make local councils in Halton aware of 
the risks, in case any of those councils face regulating issues surrounding 
raves in the future.

Bush parties are common in the region, but raves and all-night dance 
parties have not yet been an issue. Mobile young people do leave their home 
region, though, to attend such events in other communities.

Toronto is a popular venue for the events, which usually feature 
techno-music and do not sell alcohol. That lack of alcohol makes them 
attractive to under-age young people and, says Okuloski, gives parents a 
false sense of security.

"That's one of the biggest misconceptions among parents," he said. "They 
think there's no alcohol, so it's OK. And when they drop their kids off, 
they see eight police officers outside so they think it must be safe. But 
the police are there because it's not safe."

Some large cities, such as Calgary and Vancouver, have bylaws to regulate 
raves, while in Toronto, there are guidelines for people planning all-night 
dance events.

In Hamilton, where raves have occurred in the past, a task group on 
all-night dance events expects to present a progress report to city council 
in the next few months, after spending this past spring on public 
consultation and research.

That task group was formed more than a year ago by the former regional 
council in response to safety concerns raised by the medical officer of health.
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