After a string of drug-related deaths at dance music festivals in 2014, the issue hit home in Toronto when news broke of the tragic deaths of a 20-year-old woman and 22-year-old man at this year's VELD Music Festival. Efforts to get to the root of the problem have now gained more steam with politicians, the media and the public all voicing their opinions. When it came to the question of cause, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti released a strongly-worded statement on August 5assigning blame to Councillors Gord Perks and Mike Layton as well as VELD's promoter, INK Entertainment.
"These Councilors are telling you it is acceptable for your children to go to EDM events and even encouraging it knowing that illicit drug use is rampant and possibly fatal," Mammoliti explains in the release.
Mammoliti has attacked both Layton and Perks before, most recently this past spring when a ban of electronic shows at Exhibition Place was enacted, but later reversed; Perks was one of 29 councillors that voted in favour of the reversal and has been a known supporter of electronic dance music events.
Seeking to shed light on the illicit substances themselves, homicide Detective Sargent Peter Trimble identified two pills in connection to the deaths at a press conference held on Tuesday-one small brown pill and the other a clear capsule filled with a white substance.
"Unfortunately some of these people didn't even know what they were taking," stated Trimble. "Some people took an upwards of 10 pills. Some people were picking up pills off the ground."
While closer to the point than blaming city councillors, this still doesn't explain why people are dying. The very notion that people won't overdose unless they're at a large-scale event on government land where they know what drugs they're taking is laughable. Drug overdoses have been a social issue for decades, the only difference now is that it's not only impacting heroin junkies; it's hitting home for Yorkville moms of teenagers.
Instead of penalizing people who actually understand music culture, it could be time for government leaders to put their money where their mouth is and invest in awareness strategies. Instead of condemning drug users, they could do something useful and offer harm reduction strategies. The fact that organizations like Electric Zoo and Shambhala have taken steps to address these problems on their own before our government steps up to do something is a sign of how far we have to go before this problem can be solved.
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