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eye - 12.16.99

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 rules.

"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 rave scene.


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