Pubdate: Fri, 02 Nov 2012
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2012 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Gordon Kent


Council to Look at Proposals on Licensing, Fines

Problems with drug abuse were so bad at last spring's huge Elements 
Music Festival doctors ran out of Valium to deal with it, says a 
police report released Thursday.

Of 16,566 people who attended the electronic music event April 27-28 
in Northlands Expo Centre, 41 were treated by Alberta Health 
Services, wrote Sgt. Nicole Chapdelaine, head of the Public Safety 
Compliance Team.

"If AHS did not plan as they did, the likelihood of someone dying at 
the event from a drug overdose would have been extremely high, if not 
imminent," her report says.

"The doctors on-site gave immediate life-saving injections of Valium 
to numerous patrons. In fact, the doctors were required to give so 
many Valium injections the second night that they ran out of Valium 
and had to make a request for more."

Six people were admitted to hospital in serious or critical 
condition. By July, one was still in intensive care and likely to 
need acute medical care for life.

The main drug seized was ecstasy. Four people were charged with 
criminal offences, all related to drugs.

The mood of the Boodang Canada event, billed as the country's largest 
electronic music festival, turned from excited on the first night to 
"rowdy and boisterous" the second night, Chapdelaine wrote.

One possible factor in the unexpected change was pre-drinking by 
customers after they'd had to line up for more than an hour to buy 
alcohol the first night.

Another reason could have been that, despite sniffer dogs and a heavy 
police presence, people still took drugs into the venue, including 
through entrances dedicated to DJs and the promoter that security 
didn't cover, the report says.

"Planning for the (festival) was rushed. There was not enough time to 
get a good understanding of the event and to create an effective plan 
for (it)." A Boodang spokesman declined to comment.

The $205,000 bill for police, emergency medical services overtime, 
extended LRT hours, a fire command centre and other costs was given 
to Northlands or Boodang, which claimed it lost $200,000 on the festival.

The experience of regulatory agencies such as police and AHS is that 
drug and alcohol overdoses are more common at electronic music events 
than on Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue, the report says.

While it admits there are no hard statistics to support this claim, 
Chapdelaine has indicated officers on those entertainment streets 
typically see one ambulance a night for assaults, and none for drugs 
or alcohol. She called for better co-ordination between city 
organizations planning for big music shows, looking at increasing 
fines for unsanctioned events, creating a new "promoter" licence and 
other changes.

A separate report on the bylaw governing licences for after-hours 
dances suggested promoters might be required to tighten security in 
future, such as giving a list of acts or allowing an advance search 
of the venue.

While the report, to be discussed Monday by council's executive 
committee, proposes doubling the lead time for licence applications 
to 60 days from 30 days, it doesn't advocate outlawing alcohol sales.

Coun. Dave Loken said Chapdelaine's findings make him question 
whether such so called raves should be allowed in Edmonton.

"We're dealing with a much deeper issue than what police and fire and 
health services can manage, and that's the illegal drugs that are 
still getting into these events. I'm at a loss at this point as to 
how we can prevent them," he said.

"Is it better to ban these events and not have them happen, or scale 
them down somehow? I don't want to take away people's fun. The vast 
majority of the people who went to that event had a good time."

But Coun. Kerry Diotte, who attended as an observer on the first 
night, said he doesn't want to risk driving these shows underground.

That would put participants in greater danger because there wouldn't 
be immediate medical help if they overdose or suffer other medical 
trouble, he said.

"Unfortunately, kids will be kids. If they're going to do drugs, I 
would much rather see them in a safer environment," he said.

"When I went there on Friday night ... I was quite impressed. People 
were just having fun. That shows that they can work."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom