Pubdate: Tue, 06 Nov 2012
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2012 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Gordon Kent


EDMONTON - The city backed away from banning raves Monday as the 
organizer of last April's big Elements Music Festival said drug 
problems are dropping at his company's events.

While 29 of the 16,600 people who attended Elements were treated in 
hospital for drug or alcohol problems, only four of 10,200 
participants in two October shows went to hospital due to drugs, said 
Viet Nguyen of Boodang Canada.

"Things are getting better and the scene is improving," he told city 
council's executive committee. "We're educating people more about the 
dangers of drug use. We have a (nurse-run) harm-reduction booth that 
we set up at all our events now."

They also give dancers water to avoid dehydration at the late-night 
shows and send advance text messages urging responsible behaviour, Nguyen said.

A police report indicated that without the work of medical staff, 
there was an "extremely high" chance of someone dying at Elements 
from overdosing drugs, mostly ecstasy.

As it was, six people were admitted to hospital, two in critical 
condition. One of them is likely to require lifetime acute medical care.

Despite large numbers of police and the use of drug-sniffing dogs, 
drugs still made it into the Northlands Expo Centre venue, including 
through an unsecured door for DJs and thrown over a fence to the smoking pit.

But Nguyen said his company did the best it could at Elements. 
Boodang Canada paid a $202,000 bill to cover the cost of police, 
overtime for Alberta Health Services' staff, late-night transit and 
other government costs.

"It was a safe event. There was more security and police at the event 
than you would see at an airport," Nguyen said. "You got searched 
more at our event than at the airport."

While Nguyen admitted high expenses could put promoters out of 
business, he said they will just have to adjust ticket prices and the 
cost of talent.

He supports the city's push to improve planning for all big, future 
events at city-owned venues, including better notification, higher 
fines for unlicensed shows, and possibly recovering costs from 
illegal show organizers.

"Edmonton is known for electronic music now. ... We get some of the 
biggest DJs in the world."

But some councillors worry such festivals put the city at risk from a 
lawsuit if something goes wrong.

"How do you control these things? I just can't understand," Coun. 
Amarjeet Sohi said. "There has to be a way of sometimes saying 'No, 
you can't have it. Public safety is going to overrule your choice on this.' "

However, other councillors worry too much regulation would push the 
shows underground, where there wouldn't be doctors and police on hand 
to deal with emergencies.

In the end, the committee didn't take any steps to prevent future 
electronic music events.

Although deputy police chief Danielle Campbell said councillors will 
have to decide for themselves how much risk is acceptable, she 
admitted her officers can't keep everyone at these shows safe.

"We can put in as many measures as we can," Campbell said. "But every 
once in a while, you're going to have some human beings who are going 
to choose the inappropriate path."
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