The safety dance
City sets rules for raves
Rave promoters, politicians and emergency services staff
gathered Dec. 10 at the Queen West Community Health Centre to agree on voluntary
regulations for rave parties. The protocol says promoters should provide
free water, adequate ventilation and ample medical and security personnel
at dance parties. The document also says promoters should notify city staff
of upcoming parties, and adhere to building and fire codes, and occupancy
"The idea for guidelines, for self-regulation, started in the rave
community itself months and months ago," said Kim Stanford, acting
chair of the Dance Safety Committee, which put together the protocol.
Stanford, who also serves as coordinator of the Toronto Raver Info Project
(TRIP), a drug awareness organization, said the committee has been meeting
since August to discuss rave regulations.
Last summer, Toronto's decade-old scene experienced its first reported
death after a young raver overdosed at a party at the Warehouse. Two other
rave-related deaths have been reported in Ontario this year and a backlash
has been brewing against noise, crowds and drugs at rave parties.
A high-volume rave at the Docks this fall woke up residents across the
east end, infuriating area councillor Tom Jakobek, who vowed to put restrictions
on raves. Ontario Consumer Affairs Minister Bob Runciman, meanwhile, threatened
to stamp them out altogether.
York Humber city councillor Frances Nunziata doesn't want to go that
far. "We don't want to spoil your fun. We just want to make raves safe,"
said the councillor at the Health Centre meeting.
In late November, Nunziata put forward a motion at city council aimed
at "regulating dance/rave parties." The motion was in response
to a Thanksgiving Hullabaloo party, at which a Ryerson University student
died. An amendment to the motion also directed the city to set up a task
force on raves.
Not that a task force was really necessary -- the Dance Safety Committee
has spent months preparing its "Protocol for the Operation of Safe
Dance Events" with party promoters, cops and city staff.
Final drafts of the protocol were approved at the Community Health Centre
meeting, which was attended by Nunziata and fellow councillor Olivia Chow.
While the protocol doesn't have the force of law, party promoters were strongly
encouraged to obey its contents. "If you choose not to follow it, we
will pay close attention to you," said James Ridge, acting commissioner
for the Urban Planning department.
Promoters promised to assist city staff in closing raves that don't follow
the protocol. "We will help you find these parties beforehand,"
vowed Sean Scanlan, of the promotional company EmaiL.
In case anyone didn't get the message, Detective Court Booth of the Central
Drug Information Unit said police are setting up an "enforcement program"
aimed at cracking down on illicit raves. "We will be coordinating the
efforts of all the enforcement areas of the city, as well as the fire department,
to bring about the closure of what's termed illegal, or undesirable, events,"
said the detective.
The initiative, which is being chaired by 14 Division Superintendent
Keith Cowling, is designed to provide a "made-in-Toronto solution"
to the issue of local raves, said Det. Booth. His desire for a local solution
was reflected by everyone at the meeting except Nunziata, who suggested
getting the Tory government involved in regulating Toronto raves.
This suggestion was shot down by Chow. "I'm not interested in provincial
legislation," she said. "The city of Toronto can handle this without
getting the province involved."
Nunziata will present the protocol to council this week. If it passes,
the city will likely check in on the rave scene in six months or so to see
how the protocol is working out. It'll be a tough half-year, as protocol
backers find out if self-regulation alone can restore the image of the local