Toronto
2 min

MEMO TO: MAYOR MEL LASTMAN

Shame on you!



Shame on you, Mayor Mel Lastman, and the politicians who voted to ban raves from city facilities, for allowing yourself to be bullied by the misinformation of Police Chief Julian Fantino.



Shame on you for acting out of fear and hysteria.



Shame on you for dumping on a powerless group of youth.



But most of all – shame on you for endangering the lives of ravers.



The inquest into the death last year of 21-year-old Ryerson student Allan Ho is in full swing this week – and city officials are running scared that they might end up with some of the blame.



Before all the hysteria, a more serious process to guard the safety of ravers had already made a lot of progress at City Hall with the Toronto Safe Dance Committee. That was before Chief Fantino began stirring the media waters with his outlandish statements full of generalities – and, I would contend, with intentional misinformation.



We in the gay community have seen this before – in London, where Fantino was chief a few years ago. In what observers saw as a homophobia-based media circus, Fantino created a phantom kiddie porn ring that never existed. He alarmed the community, made large sweeps of homosxuals and received inflated budgets for his cops.



In London, Fantino held an infamous press conference complete with stacks upon stacks of seized videocassettes, claiming that he had broken a kiddie porn ring with international connections. It didn’t seem to matter when weeks later it was uncovered that the vast majority of those tapes were mainstream movies, with some commercially available porn. No kiddie porn charges were laid as a result of the tapes.



A week ago, Fantino held a similar press conference here in Toronto, displaying a wide array of seized weapons. Fantino blamed afterhours clubs and raves – claiming that Toronto’s nightlife scene had gone gun crazy. Like the video stacks – the guns and knives made for good media photos. But when pressed, police spokespeople had to admit that not a single one of the weapons was seized at a rave.



Just like during the London hysteria, all we can do is to keep repeating the facts:



• The majority of ecstasy in Toronto, as with most drugs, is consumed at home, not at raves



• The majority of the nine ecstasy-related deaths last year did not involve raves



• Most ecstasy-related deaths do not result from a bad reaction to the drug but from from heat exhaustion and dehydration, problems that can be best overcome through harm reduction education



• Allan Ho died at an underground rave in a parking garage without proper ventilation or drinking water provided – conditions that would not be allowed under the Toronto Safe Dance Committee’s recommended guidelines



• City locations such as the CNE provide some of the largest and safest environments to keep ravers partying safely; to take these away is to endanger the lives of ravers



• Raving has been going on in Toronto for more than 15 years pretty much incident-free



• The common effect of ecstasy and most other party drugs on users is to make them passive, accepting and loving and not “uncontrollable,” as Chief Fantino suggests



• During the same period when the nine ecstasy-related deaths occurred in Toronto, alcohol took hundreds of lives.



City councillors, the mayor and many of us don’t understand ravers and the culture that they have created. They dress funny, have their own language and they’re very young. Those of us outside the scene feel left out – and it’s unfortunately human nature to fear what we don’t know. But it endangers the lives of young partygoers to act out of that fear.



The city was not responsible for the unfortunate death of Allan Ho – but if the scene is forced back into abandoned warehouses and parking garages, city councillors may be directly responsible for any future deaths.



Shame on you.


David Collins, steering committee member of the Toronto Harm Reduction Task Force, is a witness at the inquest into the ecstasy related death of Allan Ho.